We spoke with Glean co-founder and CEO Artia Moghbel about his latest venture and how technology will shape the future of education.
Artia is the co-founder and CEO of Glean, a personalized learning platform for online educational videos. Glean features over 1,200 teachers and 15,000 video lessons in subjects ranging from Algebra to Organic Chemistry, and matches students with the best teacher based on their learning style and abilities. Prior to starting Glean, Artia was an investor at Greycroft Partners, a digital media venture capital fund investing in Internet startups. Before Greycroft, Artia worked for L.E.K. Consulting as a management consultant, where he served clients in the media & entertainment, technology, and consumer products industries. Additionally, Artia is a two-time entrepreneur, having built and sold SchoolRack, a learning management system for K-12, and Trezr, an online social shopping platform. Follow @teamglean and @artia.
Tell us about Glean and what inspired the idea.
Hundreds of amazing teachers post video lessons online every day. At Glean, we’ve organized these videos, tagged them by educational standard, and wrapped them in interactive tools (like Q&A). We’ve also built technology to pick the ideal teacher for the student based on his/her learning style and ability (personalized learning). We’re big believers in the power of online video as it relates to education.
Prior to starting Glean in 2013, I spent a few months in the developing world and was intrigued by how many students turned to online video for learning. Sometimes it was a teenager sitting next to me at an Internet cafe brushing up on English grammar, or the hotel clerk learning Algebra late at night for class the next day. Noticing that students were using online video to solve real educational needs helped inspire the idea for Glean.
Who curates the videos and ensures they conform to the education standards?
We currently have 6 credentialed teachers go through the videos in our queue to make sure a video adheres to educational standards before it’s published on Glean. They also tag videos with additional metadata to help power our personalized learning platform. I think this is an important distinction in our model.
Currently all our videos come from YouTube but there are other content partners we plan to work with in the future.
Are you currently focusing on particular subjects and education levels?
We’re focused on middle school, high school, and college subjects at the moment. We’ve launched with 8 core subjects on our roadmap (Algebra through Organic Chemistry) but plan to expand more into humanities, foreign languages, and eventually will internationalize our content.
How does Glean adapt to the learning of the student?
At a high level, our technology works by pairing students with the best lessons for them. We feature over 1,400 teachers and 15,000 video lessons to choose from. We’ve watched each lesson on Glean, studying and collecting a number of details on every lesson – setting, pace, teaching style, grade level, and more. As a student browses Glean, we will quickly scan and analyze all the teachers within a given topic to find a teacher whose videos would fit best with a student’s learning profile closest. Also, the more a student uses Glean, the more we understand about their preferences so our tech gets better with time.
Why are you bullish on online video as it relates to education?
Over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube each month — that’s almost an hour for every person on Earth — and this number is growing. Online video also plays a key role in many of the major trends affecting education today, namely: MOOCs, blended classrooms, flipped classrooms, and bring-your-own-device classrooms. Michal Tsur sums up our thesis very nicely in her recent article on VentureBeat.
At Glean we believe everyone, everywhere deserves a free world-class education. I think online video is the best solution we have to accomplish this.
How do you think educational technologies will advance in the future and what will be the role of teachers?
There have been real advancements in educational technologies, and more importantly, teachers’ willingness to use these technologies in class. There are two shifts that get me excited about the future of ed-tech in the classroom: personalized learning and product specialization. Education companies now make better use of student data to personalize their curricula for a student. Ed-tech companies, also, are now focusing on solving one problem and doing it incredibly well. In the past, ed-tech companies would build all-in-one solutions for a school but that meant each product they offered was mediocre. Now companies are more focused on solving 1 or 2 problems, and rely on APIs to offer their technology to others. Our specialty is online video.
The teacher will always be an integral part of the classroom, but I think classroom dynamics will change. In the future, teachers will use technology in the classroom (some more than others), which means they will spend less time on lectures each day and more on managing a students learning trajectory using various technology products.
In an ideal world we’d have one teacher for every student on the planet. Until then, personalized learning technologies will help fill this gap.