Announcing Bitcoin for online education

We’re excited to announce that instructors using the Skilljar course platform are now accepting payments in Bitcoin.

Skilljar enables instructors to deliver online courses directly from their own websites. Instructors using our platform are teaching video-based lifelong learning courses, from yoga to leadership to computer programming. If you are a consumer looking to spend Bitcoin, here are a few ideas on what to learn:

Bitcoin Screenshot

Why we believe in Bitcoin

Because our platform enables instructors to deliver online courses, an entirely digital product, we’ve seen high international demand from both instructors and students.

We’ve long accepted international payments through standard payment methods (credit, debit, and PayPal). But there are several currency conversion steps involved, often with 2% fees taken out each time. These fees are inefficient, yet difficult to avoid without resorting to international wire transfers or setting up local bank accounts in each country.

Bitcoin, on the other hand, is a virtual currency that moves easily around the world with the click of a button.

The tipping point

Ultimately our decision to enable Bitcoin for online courses was driven by 3 factors:

  1. Our instructors wanted it: We received several requests from our instructors to accept Bitcoin for student payments.
  2. Integration was easy and secure: We already use Stripe for payment processing. Their beta program for Bitcoin enabled us to launch quickly without having to integrate a new service throughout our e-commerce platform. Stripe also handles security and currency conversion, so our instructors do not bear additional risk. By going through Stripe, we do not have to hold Bitcoins nor build any Bitcoin-specific infrastructure.
  3. Our business is international: As a digital platform, our business is inherently international. We feel the pain of currency conversion fees on a daily basis.

We’re excited that instructors using Skilljar’s course platform are now accepting Bitcoin across hundreds of online courses. For more information, check out our press release here.

New Feature: Zapier Integration

We have launched an exciting new feature that we are happy to announce!

Seamless automation with Zapier integration

If you spend a lot of time using different web services to: maintain your contact list, enter data for tracking, communicate with your customers, and other tasks, life just got easier. With our new Zapier integration, instructors can automate these tasks. And you don’t need a developer to do it.

zapier-integration

You can now connect Skilljar course signups with hundreds of platforms through our Zapier integration. Popular platforms include:

  • Salesforce.com
  • Gmail
  • Google Docs
  • SurveyMonkey
  • and many more

Once connected, you can automate numerous tasks based on your Skilljar course signups. A couple of examples include:

  • Adding new customers to your email marketing list with a custom welcome message
  • Adding new customers as opportunities in Salesforce.com

How do I get started?

First, you’ll need a Zapier account (it’s free for up to 100 events per month). Next, follow these simple instructions to connect Zapier to your Skilljar account. Finally, set up your Zaps!

Meet Keegan Wincewicz, PM Intern at Skilljar

For the second segment of our intern introductions…get to know Keegan, product management intern at Skilljar! He most recently gave the Skilljar website a welcomed refresh, and is planning some great new features for the platform (more details to come later on these!).

Keegan grew up in Redmond and earned his BS in Chemical Engineering from the University of Washington. After UW he joined the United States Peace Corps and taught high school math in a small Tanzanian village for 2 years. Keegan then worked for Intel Corporation in Arizona and China as a semiconductor plant facilities engineer. Currently he is an MBA/MPP joint degree candidate at Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and is very excited to be back in Seattle this summer.

keegan-skilljar

Q and A with Keegan

Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
A: Introspective, focused, curious

Q: What’s your favorite place to visit in Seattle?
A: Gasworks Park on Lake Union. I like walking up to the hill where you can look over the lake and have a great view of downtown.

Q: What’s your favorite lunch spot in Seattle?
A: Ooh, that’s a tough one between Thai Tom’s in the U-District and Dicks Drive-In. I’d have to say Thai Tom’s; it’s where I discovered tofu could be good.

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
A: Diversity of thought. I enjoy understanding how and why other people think the way they do.

Q: What was your last experience with online learning?
A: Harvard Business School actually has a few online cases made almost entirely from video. The last one I studied was about the business development of Lululemon and a critical expansion decision facing the company. This was one of my first experiences with video-medium online learning. It was interesting watching the CEO discuss what was going on in her mind during that challenge. In this instance the video format was much more engaging than reading a few written quotes in a case would have been.

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned while at Skilljar?
A: Being a start-up, Skilljar doesn’t have formal departments or strictly delineated personnel responsibilities. If I find something is wrong, I’ll try to solve it myself first. There’s no such thing as saying, “oh, this is an IT problem, I better take it to the IT department.”

Q: Were you surprised at any time during your internship with Skilljar?
A: I think I underestimated how important design, wording, and aesthetics are to customer-facing products. The team puts just as much effort into creating a well-designed and intuitive product as they do into building features. It makes sense, but I came from an engineering/manufacturing background and hadn’t anticipated this aspect.

Q: If you were going to offer a course online, what would it be about?
A: An amateur guide to brewing beer. I’ve been doing it for about 10 years and it’s a fun hobby. I especially like brewing stouts; they taste great and the heaviness can mask any brewing imperfections.

Welcome, Keegan!

A Guide to Video Production

In this article, we have compiled information about four different types of video techniques. Use this article to help determine which technique is best for your content, what software and tools you need, and find resources to consult when you begin video production.

iphone-video-production
Photo by Goran Paunovic / CC BY

A refresher on the four video production techniques

  1. Narrated Slide Presentation - slide presentation with audio narration that is converted into video format
  2. Screencast - recording of a computer screen which can also contain audio narration
  3. Animated Video - video presentation created by using animated images
  4. Talking Head - presenter speaks directly into the camera, usually displaying their head and shoulders

What do I need to create my video?

This table summarizes the software and/or equipment recommended for the four video techniques discussed above.

Technique Software/Equipment
Narrated Slide Presentation PowerPoint
Keynote
USB style microphone – Blue Microphones Snowball
Screencast Jing (PC)
CamStudio (PC)
Camtasia for MAC (MAC)
USB style microphone – Blue Microphones Snowball
Talking Head Clip-on microphone – Audio-Technica ATR-3350 Lavalier Omnidirectional Condenser
a camera that shoots at least 720p
Case Star iPhone Tripod for shooting with an iPhone
Animated Video VideoScribe
Go! Animate
Adobe Voice
Powtoon

What resources can I consult when creating my video?

Below are some helpful resources whenever you have questions about any of these four video techniques.

TECHNIQUE Resources
Narrated Slide Presentation Skilljar blog article
Microsoft support
Apple support
Screencast Skilljar blog article
Talking Head Skilljar blog article
Wistia learning center
Animated Video Skilljar blog article
VideoScribe help
Go! Animate tutorials
Adobe Voice support
PowToon resources

There are many factors that will affect your video production strategy. Budget, timeline, subject matter for example all play a part in your decision-making process when deciding on a technique. Especially if you are new to video production, then research is a key first step to creating your production strategy. Find the technique that’s right for you and your content!

Meet Samy Lanka, Software Development Intern at Skilljar

We are very excited to have Samy join the Skilljar team this summer as a software development intern. She recently helped bring special use promo codes to our instructors!

Samy just completed her sophomore year as a Computer Science undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. She grew up in the Seattle area where she attended Mercer Island High School. At UPenn, she is a TA for an introductory Computer Science course and enjoys being part of the South Asian dance team called PENNaach.

samy-lanka

 

Getting to know Samy

Q: What three words would you use to describe yourself?
A: Relaxed, goofy and hardworking

Q: What’s your favorite place to visit in Seattle?
A: I have always had a soft spot for Pike Place Market. I love getting a meal there or just wandering the stalls.

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without?
A: Blankets. I am always cold!

Q: What was your last experience with online learning?
A: Learning python and html on Codecademy. It was an interactive tutorial where they would teach a concept or type of syntax and then provide an exercise for students to complete that demonstrated that concept. I really liked it; it was a very simple course but I think they did a good job of going through a lot of the basics at a reasonable pace.

Q: What is the most important thing you’ve learned while at Skilljar?
A: How to approach problems. The process of planning out your next project with other people to guide you is not something that you get to do often while in school. It has been really helpful to watch the team talk through their own projects and see how they develop and improve their ideas together. I can’t believe how helpful everyone has been. I knew there was a lot to teach me when I got here, but I never expected the team to put in so much time and effort to go over all of my questions and give me advice.

Q: If you were going to offer a course online, what would it be about?
A: How to take a nap in moving vehicles. I’ve had a ton of experience, in a variety of vehicles – cars, buses, trains, boats and planes.

Welcome, Samy!

Four Ways Special Use Promo Codes Can Improve Sales

Yet another feature release this week: special use promo codes! In this article we identify four ways you can incorporate special use promo codes into your marketing plan.

special use promo codes
Photo by Rod Singleton / CC BY

Four methods for using special use promo codes

  1. Half off for the first 10 people with the code first10 – Run promotions where the first number of people that you define receive a discounted price. By creating a sense of urgency, you can improve conversion.
  2. 25% off online course – Run deals with daily deal sites like Groupon, Amazon Local and LivingSocial to optimize marketing efforts to reach a large amount of new customers. With special use promo codes, you are able to create unique codes for each individual purchase
  3. Free code for gathering feedback – Create free promo codes to entice individuals to review the content. They can access the course for free, and there’s no need to worry that the code getting posted publicly.
  4. Sell a fixed number of registrations to a private training portal – Use special use promo codes to limit the number of users that can can enter the portal.

Promo code usage can be tracked through emailed purchase notifications as well as the Skilljar order reports in the instructor dashboard. Start thinking about how you can add special use promo codes into your marketing strategy today!

New Features: Private Courses, Custom Theme and More

The feature releases continue… We are excited to announce four new features that launched on Skilljar this week.

  1. Private courses – Instructors can now offer private courses! Now you can designate a course as private so that it is only available via an access code. Use private courses to create tiers of courses, group by customer, and more.
    private course
  2. Custom theme – customize your course theming easily with this new feature. Upload your logo, choose your colors, even define where your logo links. Branding your course is easier than ever now.
    custom theme
  3. Bulk promo codes – promo code creation has been simplified. Now instructors can create one promo code and apply it to any or all of their courses in one step.
    bulk promo code
  4. Multiple currencies – we now support multiple currencies! In addition to USD, we also support: Australian Dollars (AUD), Canadian Dollars (CAD), British Pounds (GBP), Euros (EUR), and many others.
    multiple currencies

Keep your feedback coming. We’ll keep the features coming.

Skilljar Launches Course Analytics

It’s been a busy month! And we are happy to announce the launch of Skilljar’s course analytics in addition to three other highly requested new features.

  1. Course analytics – With this feature instructors can track engagement at both the student and lesson level. Learn about your students and your content as you review total lesson views, views per student, and more.
    course-analytics
  2. Video thumbnail generator – For video lessons, you can now select any frame in the video using the video thumbnail generator, or you can set the course promo image as the thumbnail for a video.
    video-thumbnail-generator
  3. Lesson preview – Enhance marketing and sales by making any video lesson available for potential customers to preview.
    lesson-preview
  4. Text editor for lessons – Now text lessons can be easily formatted just like lesson summaries and the course description. If you have a text lesson, simply choose “Text” and use the text editor feature to quickly and easily create your lesson.
    lesson-text-editor

 

Thank you to all of our instructors for your continued feedback. You help make these features happen!

The 4 Methods of Customer Training and How They Impact Your Business

At Skilljar, we work with many companies that use online course delivery to improve their customer training. Your company’s success is based on your customers’ success and satisfaction. Whether you’re a software company, a fitness brand, or any industry in between, there are methods of customer training that can benefit your customer, and your company’s long-term sustainability. For companies that are still developing their strategy, it can be overwhelming to sift through all the different options being used today.

In this article, we take a look at the four methods of customer training. A customer training program is comprised of at least one of these methods, and most common is using a combination. Different methods are more relevant to certain industries or to specific stages of a company – which ones are right for you?

1. Help Center
Many companies that we work with have a basic help center, resource library, or knowledge bank in place. The more extensive help centers serve as both marketing and customer support functions. The resources are typically freely available (no registration required) and include:

  • Help articles
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • User forums

Help centers are relatively easy to produce and maintain. However, the materials are passive (without feedback in either direction) and can become difficult to use as more content is added.

2. On-Demand Training
On-demand (or ‘self-paced’) training is increasingly popular, due to a globally distributed workforce, 24/7 access, and improvements in streaming video technology. Typical segments are short (less than 15 minutes) and targeted to customers with specific questions. By requiring registration, the structured course format gives the customer the convenience of both tracking their progress and following a specific learning path.

While you do need to invest time in creating content, the ongoing maintenance is relatively low. Another advantage of requiring customer registration is seeing the analytics of how they are using and engaging with your content. We’ve seen Skilljar clients implement both free and paid training classes with great effectiveness.

3. Virtual Live Training
To get live feedback from potential and existing customers, consider offering live webinars using technologies like WebEx, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, and Livestream. These sessions typically require registration, so you have a record of who attended for CRM purposes. Live events can be effective for generating special interest, and for those customers who prefer scheduled sessions. These programs often offer features which enable remote classrooms and screen sharing.

However, instructor-led online events don’t address customers who need the information right away, or cannot make the webinars due to timezone or scheduling conflicts. You also need to staff a live instructor for each event. This carries a personnel cost, but is still more affordable than in-person training. You can also decide whether to charge for the sessions as part of a premium support offering.

4. In-Person Training
In-person (or ‘on-site’) training is the most traditional form of education. In-person classes are more customizable to your customers’ needs and often include customer-specific scenarios and hands-on exercises to reinforce learning. It is also the least scalable. This is the most costly of the four elements described above, but customers also have a higher willingness to pay.

The 4 Methods of Customer Training

Building your Customer Training Strategy

Ultimately, your customer training program will include one or more of the methods above. Some companies may incorporate all four elements, and even offer certification programs. Two great examples of companies utilizing all four methods are Tableau Software and Workday.

Should you include all four elements in your customer training strategy? Consider how your customers prefer to learn, and what your capabilities are in terms of technology, staffing and budget. As your business grows, you will likely add and modify components to address different needs.

Which methods have worked best for your company? Share your experience by leaving a comment.

How to Create Great Video Content: Animated Video

In earlier installments in this series, we covered 3 methods for creating videos. Today we look at a fourth technique:
1. narrated powerpoint
2. screencasting
3. talking head
4. animated video

animated video

The fourth method in our series is animated videos. There is great software available for instructors to use now that is accessible both in terms of cost and the time it takes to learn how to use it. In an article featured on elearningindustry.com, Christopher Pappas notes how a rise in software options has made animated videos a new popular way to create content for e-learning.

Animated Video Software

1. PowToon is a presentation software that features different themes of animated images, and an easy-to-use creation process. They offer different plans for businesses vs. educators and students. You can check out the video I created about creating great video content here. I created this video (1:23 in length) in less than an hour, using the free plan, and by editing one of the provided themes, without ever having used PowToons before.

2. VideoScribe by Sparkol is another animation software. They provide thousands of images, music and font options to choose from. You can also upload your own for a fully customized video.

Animated video is a great compromise if you want your content to be more dynamic than a powerpoint presentation, but aren’t ready to jump in front of the camera yourself.

Have experience with creating animated videos? Share your story by leaving a comment.