Founded in 2011 by Chiew Farn Chung (CEO), Edward Middleton (CTO), and Yee Whye Teh (CSO), ClassDo is an online education marketplace powered by a virtual classroom where anyone can teach and learn.
Before you say “meh” and click away, give this demo link a try. ClassDo’s virtual classroom doesn’t require any software installation. Everything runs seamlessly in the browser, which is neat. It has a collaborative whiteboard that allows teachers and students to view and take notes in real time. Even the page flips are synced between student and teachers.
From video conferencing, messaging, to virtual whiteboard, everything is hosted within ClassDo. You need not exit the site to log on to Google Hangout or Skype to conduct or attend lessons. That means, everything on ClassDo is trackable, and users feel safer. Since everything — from credit payment to video conferencing — is done within the service, fraud monitoring is made easy. For example, if the teacher didn’t turn up for a lesson, ClassDo’s mouse click data could detect that and refund the credits back to the student.
A lot of online education sites rely mainly on videos rather than on video conferencing. Videos, in a way are more scalable since teachers just need to record lessons once and distribute them. The problem is, these videos aren’t tailored-made for the students. ClassDo, however, uses video conferencing to conduct lessons, which means teachers are able to cater to student needs just like in a physical classroom. Chiew says:
ClassDo believes that technology cannot replace teachers, technology has to empower teachers instead. We try very hard to make teachers and students feel like they are physically sitting next to one another, despite being miles apart. The more invisible our technology, the closer we can make the human presence felt.
While the solution looks simple, the technology behind it isn’t. It requires two scholars and one professor to develop over the years. Chiew used to work in Barclays where he helped to develop its trading, analytics, and transaction settlement system. Edward, who is also a scholar, used to work in Nikon where he developed a newspaper photo system and is currently now the President of Tokyo Linux Users Group. Yee Whye, the chief scientific officer is an expert in artificial intelligence and is currently now a Professor in Oxford University. The team has about 10 people.
“Our technology isn’t ‘in your face’, rather it’s carefully hidden and gets out of the way. The resulting process is simple, straightforward, and hassle-free,” says Chiew.
Chiew declined to share ClassDo’s user figures but says that his online learning platform is used by people across 90 countries. When asked why he decided to work on ClassDo, Chiew explains, “Basically it is the right time. Laptops have webcams installed and internet access is fast enough.”
ClassDo monetizes by selling credits to users who in turn use them to pay for their lessons. This makes payment seamless across countries with different currencies. Teachers are free to set their own rates and there’s no term contracts involved. You pay as you go.
ClassDo is currently self-funded and is based in Tokyo, Japan.
“Tokyo has a lot of good engineers and since our CTO is the president of the Linux group in Japan, we get to know a lot of good engineers here,” says Chiew.