Monday, July 22, 2013

The MassiveU Brand

What is a brand?
Sounds like a very simple question with a quick and easy answer, right? As an adjunct professor of Marketing, I am repeatedly asked this question by very smart people who inherently know there is more to a brand than just a smart logo and a killer mix of ultramarine and emerald green. Some would say a brand is a company's image or identifier... a company mark. Others suggest a brand clearly represents the traits, value/s, and intent of a company and the people, products, and services that make it up. There are those who simply state that a brand is a promise. Well, kind readers, as we're sure you can surmise: A brand is the collective of all of these answers.

And where a good brand is unique, timeless, and clearly recognizable, a great brand is all of this and more. A great brand includes a pinch of that little something extra that allows it to rise to the top, ensuring to its present and soon-to-be devotees the importance of keeping its promise and fulfilling their dreams. Those who come in contact with a great brand can identify with it and get a good, positive vibe from it. Great brands evoke a specific, targeted feeling, all the while suggesting an urgent, and yet passive, call-to-action. Great brands try really hard and great brands don't lie.

When it came to developing the MassiveU brand, the thought process was painstaking. You see, our core task of changing and improving the future of education is by all means not an easy undertaking. Our educational missive is a promise that comes with double heaps of passion and stick-to-itiveness. (Thank you, Merriam-Webster, for giving your stamp of approval on that word!) For that, the MassiveU brand -- our image, identifier, mark, value/s, passion, history, makeup, and promise -- is personal. We believe MassiveU will change the future of education for the better, allowing for bigger learning and massive, exponential gains for learners.

In a nutshell, the MassiveU brand, from our logo to our missive, is:
  • Global, spanning green continents and blue seas. 
  • Content-focused. Who and where content comes from is of extreme importance to us. Whether from a book, leading subject matter expert or thought leader, "Content is King" and it rings truer today than ever!
  • Student-centric. Providing open doors to one's future through massive learning opportunity is the centerpiece of our existence. All at the student's own pace, on his/her own time, on any device...
  • Big. We have yet to scratch the surface of what the future of education will look like. However, one thing we do know is that it's big, no it's huge Massive and that our mobile-first learning solutions can and will be applied to just about every subject you can think of! (Science, Healthcare, Business, Music, History, Art, Engineering, Writing, Languages, Car Mechanics, Sports...)
  • Credible. We hold University and subject matter expert content to the highest regard. Just as favorite teachers are never forgotten, high-quality learning content and experiences are most certainly always retained, remembered, and called upon again and again, and again...
(See what we did right there in bold?)

MassiveU saw a need for bigger learning and planted a seed for growth. We imagine a positively changing educational landscape -- one that is more open and available for learners to find the expert content they need, when and where they want it -- and we promise to be a massive part of this exciting educational journey. And that, folks, is a whole lot more than just a (pretty cool) mix of blue and green.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well ~ Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Song AND the Whole Album -- Education Served up at YOUR Convenience

Content is King
Let's rephrase that: Content that is high-quality, concise, and accessible is King. We live in a world of immediate, efficient information access. We expect content that is easily searchable/findable and that can satisfy a healthy information appetite within a moment's notice. We want it when we want it, where we want it, and on the exact device we want it.

We are the "140-character-or-less" society. The demand for condensed, quality content from leading subject matter experts, recognized thought leaders, and/or trusted friends & family is the new norm. And we're not afraid to immediately re-post and promote what we've learned, proving that the content provider is greatly valued.

But what happens when we don't get what we want when we want it? What if the information we're looking for is obstructed or not easily found or (gasp!) too difficult to consume quickly? We move on.  If ads or marketing get in the way, we exit. If the experience of gathering the content we want is too lengthy, we abort the session. Time is our commerce and our commodity and we have ultimately learned how to spend it, or not spend it, how we wish.

A New Model for Learning
In designing and teaching Mobile Marketing for the SMB, the first-ever NYU course taught online and over mobile phones, I quickly learned how content that is served up over mobile devices could:
  • Enhance the value of the learning experience,
  • Support the learning outcome of participating students, and
  • Extend reach to other interested content consumers (learners).
Simply put, I have been using apps in my classroom to deliver bonus and supplemental content. I design those apps around specific course topics, the topics becoming the 'songs' (lessons) that make up my 'album' (course). The content is easily ingested by the learners I serve, primarily adult learners who are the most self-directed, discerning, and starved for time.

The content is delivered in various in-app formats with the goal being to satisfy the student who may have just five minutes now for a quick topic-blast, with perhaps an hour later for a deep-dive. In both instances, I aim to provide a quality learning experience geared toward the student's own pace and time, on virtually any mobile device, tablet or online screen. All of the course/lesson content can be accessed conveniently and is priced efficiently (or free!) through one centralized and device-inclusive mobile learning hub/marketplace:

Yes, I'm taking a play from Apple's playbook here with regard to their brilliant model supporting the digital music revolution (although one might argue that 45's/singles were around way in advance of the digital music revolution). With MassiveU, it's the song AND the whole album, just now it's applied to distance education and learning. 

Mobile Learning Content as a Reference
Many of my students have either gone on to further their careers with their existing companies as mobile marketing specialists or to start their own agencies. In both cases, I've noticed they've been keeping their MassiveU mobile learning apps on their phones long after completing my course. The apps have become a reference piece from which they can access the dynamic content easily and often in their new appointments. The mobile content becomes their digestible content library on their device.

As a subject matter expert (SME), I have very enthusiastically become their ongoing facilitator, accessible via click-to-call, email or tweet. I'm witnessing an inherent content provider-learner relationship--and even Lifetime Engagement Value (LEV)--extending beyond semesters in terms of frequency of access, response, interactivity, and other behavioral metrics. With this experience apparently comes an increased appetite for even more content. So additional apps are consumed, more courses taken, and the learning process moves forward seamlessly and with great purpose.  Pretty cool stuff.

Where's It All Going?
Just as bookcases and album shelves line our libraries and living areas, hard drives and clouds house our one-click quick access to the content that's most important to us. Videos, pictures, articles, and eventually learning apps will all exponentially line those digital shelves. And, just as a library of books would presumably indicate a well-read individual, certifications and other digital tags will eventually show further proof of learning accomplishment and information-consumption distinction in this growing digital age.

As an instructor, facilitator, and a "musician", of sorts, in this exciting new world of distance mobile learning, I couldn't be more excited. So I welcome you to turn on, tune in, and turn it up. Loud! The song is just beginning...

~ Above image courtesy of Suat Eman/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It's Personal

What does the future of education look like?
This is a question I explore on a regular basis. It's usually accompanied by a series of additional questions: Will students who progress through the 'educational system' of the future be more intelligent? Will they be more adept at problem solving and cognitive skills? More prepared for the workforce? More creative? More philanthropic? More socially engaged? Some, all, or none of the above? (Answer: We have no idea, but we should be proactive about striving for the affirmative!)

One thing is certain: We have reached a tipping point in education. Change is no longer on the horizon. Change is happening right now. Educational standards are being redrawn and accepted by a majority of the States. The Common Core State Standards Initiative is one example of this. Common Core, for those who don't know, is a State-led effort set to establish a single set of clear educational standards for Kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that States voluntarily adopt. The standards are designed to ensure that students graduating from high school are prepared to enter credit bearing entry level courses in two- or four-year college programs or to enter the workforce. These new standards are clear and concise to ensure that parents, teachers, and students have a clear understanding of the expectations in reading, writing, speaking and listening, language, and mathematics in school.1

In addition to a revision of standards, new learning solutions, models, and technologies are rapidly shaping the how, where, and when students learn and consume information. Access to high quality content from the world's leading subject matter experts is being provided through means we never dreamed possible. This includes games, mobile apps, and of course, online/distance learning. Some call this change and movement education disruption. Others deem it a revolution. I call it progress.

Why is it important?
Like most changing ecosystems, it is important to look at the various stakeholders impacted by change to understand the value of such progress.
  • For learners, there can be several motivations to embracing education with greater speed, quality, agility, and efficiency: Job placement, social advancement, professional competency, and, well... learning
  • For educators, learning outcomes and value that drive change progress. 
  • For parents, it is about consistently providing the very best alternatives for their children and preparing them for good choices that will impact their soon-to-be independent lives. 
  • For all of the movers and shakers out there who are creating and executing this education progress, the drive is opportunity -- opportunity to apply, improve, enhance. It's the legacy delta that inspires us all to move the needle. 
  • For me, someone who is all of the above, it's personal. How we teach and learn, today and in the future, will have a dramatic impact on all of our output, well being, and social happiness. For that, it's important. Pretty damn important.
Massive Learning MOOCs for everyone
Little Learners
Massive Learning MOOCs for everyone
NYU SCPS Learners
Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire ~ William Butler Yeats

Friday, March 1, 2013

Learning Just Got Bigger!

Welcome to MassiveU's first blog post. (Oh the pressure to make it compelling, engaging, informative, and entertaining...) I've decided to use this real estate, and graciously accept your time investment, to set the stage for mobile distance learning, and to explain my commitment to improving distance learning, as a whole, greatly with MassiveU.

Learning Just Got Bigger
Did it really? Online/distance learning has been around for awhile now, so how did it just get bigger? It is more than safe to say that learning didn't just get bigger, it's actually been getting exponentially HUGE! According to GSV Estimates (April 13, 2012), the global E-Learning market is expected to grow from $91B to $166B from 2012-2015. And it doesn't stop there, as this market is projected to reach $256B by 2017. That's nuts, in my opinion, as an already huge market will be nearly 3x what it is today. Due to new technologies, models, and learning solutions, the opportunities for growth of such an incredibly important market are endless. There has, therefore, never been a more exciting time for distance education. However, as a Subject Matter Expert and Continuing Education Adjunct Professor for over ten years at New York University, I know first-hand how this growth and these changes can come across as a bit daunting and perhaps even downright threatening to many educators.

The New EDU Imperative
There is no mistaking that MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses, have had a tremendous impact on the distance education landscape in the past 12 months, and will continue to do so. While the notion of 'educating the world for free' sounds great on the surface (something I would be entirely behind!), the truth is that MOOCS are not entirely free -- to the universities and subject matter experts (SMEs), that is. Along with costs involved to produce, market, and deliver the courses come severe scrutiny and accountability... a sad, but true reality of any business, no matter how altruistic or philanthropic the mission.  In order to create, grow, and sustain quality educational systems and models that can accomplish this goal, content providers of all kinds -- not just educational institutions, but book/magazine publishers, CE Associations, etc. -- need a proactive approach now. We need to use technologies and develop solutions that accomplish all of the following, without any exception:
  1. Enhance the learning outcome of paying students, members, subscribers or customers
  2. Expand competitive global reach, revenues and brand/reputation
  3. Foster the value of content and associated Subject Matter Experts
I call this tenet the New EDU Imperative. It's quite simple and clear through my windshield to see that not far behind growth and change, risk looms. The consequences for content providers who do not subscribe to the New EDU Imperative are quite obvious when one takes a moment to reflect on similar happenings in the past. History has a strange way of repeating itself and, in turn, providing great wisdom to those willing to pay attention. For example, we need not look much further than the music industry to learn that a digital revolution can disrupt an entire ecosystem, with great significance and speed. We can learn from studying the answers to:
  • What happened to record companies? And, why?
  • How were artists/musicians (the SMEs) impacted? 
  • How did the disruption impact consumption of said content, and the trajectory of that business? [Side Note/Prediction: Digital music/subscriptions sales will eclipse hard good music sales within the next ten years.]
  • What new models emerged, stabilizing the ecosystem and ultimately changing it forever?
  • Who were the innovators? The leaders? The stabilizers? What did they do right? Where did they fail? What did they have in common? How were they different?
Focus on Execution: Taking On and Improving Upon Distance Learning's Exponential Growth
Accomplishing the objectives of the New EDU Imperative is entirely doable, and was, in fact, what inspired the foundation of MassiveU. Extreme Resourcefulness (Sounds like an event in a learning-inspired X Games!) and necessity were harnessed in order to surgically dissect the current model, making make it bigger and better for all stakeholders involved, including, but not limited to, the Educator/Content Provider, the Subject Matter Expert, the Student/Learner, and/or the savvy Sponsor/Marketer.

Are we building a better mousetrap? I suppose you could say so. New technologies, models, and learning solutions are great, as long as they can be sustained and improved upon. They work when everyone benefits to some degree and when change is embraced as an opportunity. Apple did as much in the music ecosystem. At the heart of it all is quality content. Thank you, Bill Gates, for your foresight in your 1994 essay on "Content is King." This emphasis on dire need for exceptional content has never been more evident or noteworthy than in the field of education. This will never change. 

A Tall Order?
Is changing education for the better a tall order? Considering what is at stake, It is an important order would be my answer. As a father of twin 5-year-olds, the future of how our children learn and the ways we can educate them is of the utmost importance to me. As a Subject Matter Expert and Educator for over a decade now, the delivery methods, efficiencies, and solutions for learning/teaching are as significant to me as they are personal. And as a marketing specialist and entrepreneur, I couldn't be more excited about growing and improving this ecosystem!

Meet Stella, MassiveU's official Learning Lab
Learning did just get bigger, with MassiveU. Hop aboard this rocket ship and join the evolution, my friends. We're just getting started!