My TMF reply:
An earlier thread discussed Zoom’s potential for education both in the near future and after a Covid vaccine reduces or eliminates large scale on-line schooling:
The new company’s product Class for Zoom increases the potential discussed in the earlier thread and shows an awareness of the many potential applications and the needs of teachers, students, and parents to reach those potentials.
Teachers are struggling with on-line classes, especially using effective instructional strategies (such as shifting quickly from large group to small groups or paired discussions, providing time for one-on-one talks, and guided practice). Being able to synch materials from their Classroom Management Systems (CMS) is also a struggle. School systems have small budgets for training and educating teachers in how to use technology.
Parents are also struggling with helping their kids navigate on-line systems, especially in younger grades, but even high schoolers and first year college students are having trouble adjusting to new CMS and submitting work.
Any system that can improve teachers’ ability to teach on-line with Zoom (and make it more intuitive for students and parents) should be popular.
The sample display screen shown in the article looks like something that teachers and students could use easily, with important commands shown as icons in a convenient location.
The ability to post an assignment and have students complete it during class without switching to another system is significant. The sample shows a writing assignment, which students complete in a text box. This allows the teacher to see if students are actually writing, and teachers can have private conversations with any students who are struggling or misinterpreting the assignment. In many current setups, teachers have to wait for students to submit the work and either email students or set up individual appointments for one-on-one Zoom conferences. That means that weak or shy students often don’t get the help/instruction they need until too late. The new system addresses that issue.
The screenshot shows that the teacher can have the private conversation but still see the whole class (which helps with monitoring). This is unlike the current Zoom chat rooms.
The company is headed by former Blackboard CEO Michael Chasen who understands the education market. As a teacher, when Blackboard first came out, I found it effective and easy to use to develop on-line lessons and used it frequently with students and for teacher in-service education. I see strong potential with the new product.
They are doing this through Zoom’s SDK (which I had to lookup and means Software Development Kit). Zoom currently doesn’t charge for this according to the above article. Though it sounds like while they pass up potential revenue on the SDK they make plenty on the growing usage of all these apps.
No company can do everything well; there is always someone who will develop a better product in some facet of what your company does. Letting others build apps that integrate with your product allows your company to focus on what it does best and increases the switching costs. As more Zoom integrated apps are developed, then anyone switching from Zoom would also have to switch apps or develop their own.
Zoom doesn’t appear likely to change its SDK charging policy soon. As the article states:
Instead, the founder [Chasen] thinks that Zoom is focused more on scale than in-depth specialization. In other words, Zoom isn’t going to pull a Twitter, but instead likens the platform’s developer friendliness to that of Salesforce, which has tons of tools built atop of it.
I’d rather own a company that’s compared to Salesforce than to Twitter.
Also, the company is building software that is usable on low-cost computers such as Chromebooks, as well as Windows, Android or iPhones which is important for teachers and students who don’t have high speed internet.
One major downside for the new company is that many school systems switched or upgraded their Classroom Management Systems this year, and with state and local tax revenues taking a hit, budgets for new software/Saas subscriptions may be tight in 2021.
Still, overall this bodes well for Zoom’s future. The new company is taking on the downside, and any upside for the new company creates more business and revenue for Zoom.
All the best,