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Edtech leans into the creator economy with cohort-based classes – TechCrunch

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Revitalized by the pandemic, entrepreneurs are on the hunt to refresh some of education’s most traditional tenets, from flashcards to tutors to after-school programs. And those aren’t just bets: They’re unicorn-valued businesses looking to capitalize on consumers’ newfound digital adoption.

The edtech sector’s boom is rivaled by that of the creator economy, which promises to help creators monetize and democratize their passions, all while maintaining their identity. The creator economy has grown over the past year due to an increased appetite for digital content from at-home eyeballs and a wave of new creators eager to meet demand.

Edtech and the creator economy certainly differ in the problems they try to solve: Finding a VR solution to make online STEM classes more realistic is a different nut to crack than streamlining all of a creator’s different monetization strategies into one platform. Still, the two sectors have found common ground in the past year — as encapsulated by the rise of cohort-based class platforms.

At large, cohort-based platforms help experts launch classes for their communities, no previous teaching experience required. Students move through the class together — ergo “cohort” — with the expert on-demand as a sounding board. It’s a bet on education, but it also allows an individual to showcase their passion by pushing all their chips to the center of the table rather than working for an institution. While the idea of experts teaching a group of people isn’t exactly new, it’s being refreshed by a wave of new startups.

It’s not a simple overlap, entrepreneurs and investors say. Some fear that turning creators into educators could bring in a rush of unqualified teachers with no understanding of true pedagogy, while others think that the true democratization of education requires a disruption of who is traditionally given the right to educate.

Anyone’s a teacher!

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) and traditional institutions are built around the belief that students want to learn from accredited teachers, while many cohort-based platforms are forming around a more controversial, yet compelling, ethos: Anyone can be a teacher. The idea of empowering people to monetize their talents is a page directly out of the creator economy rulebook.

In other words, instead of convincing a college professor to teach in their spare time, what if you convinced the star product manager at a tech startup to launch a class sharing their tips and trade secrets? It’s not a theory; it’s a venture-backed business. Mighty Networks raised a $50 million Series B to help its creators launch classes. Last month, Nas Academy raised $11 million to help creators launch their own MasterClass-type series. Then there’s Maven, an early-stage edtech company that raised millions before it even had a name — and led the charge on popularizing cohort-based classes as a branding move to begin with.

These companies sit at the intersection of edtech — and its evolving views on how education should look — and the creator economy, with its empowering premise of “individuals as a business.”

Mark Tan has taken part in a dozen fellowships and received years of coaching through his years in tech. For Tan, who moved from the Philippines to the United States, the allure of virtual classes has always been the network of students also participating in the program. That virtual networking led him to stints at Amazon and Twitch, and, most recently, he spent the last three years working as a director of product at Wyze.

The realization that “you don’t need to be an expert teacher, just an expert” is what eventually gave Tan the confidence to launch a course of his own on Maven. It will begin in a few weeks and is about community-driven product development.

“I’ve been in fellowships with people who are really well known, and sometimes it’s hard to connect with them because they’ve been in my shoes five or 10 years ago,” he said. “I think there’s an overreliance on the expert being the teacher.

light bulb flickering on and off

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

“Over time, what I realized is that there’s way more stuff to learn from other people, so I spent more time connecting to [my peers] rather than spending time listening to the lecture.”

His four-week class was originally priced at $799 but now costs $599 and requires a commitment of five to 10 hours per week. Programming will range from live weekly workshops and open Q&As to guest speakers and peer-to-peer networking.

In many ways, Tan is the quintessential example that cohort-based platform founders look for when trying to bring creators onto their service. He has experience at big, well-known companies, has spent years experiencing the product he is now selling and has a passion for education after seeing the benefit of peer-to-peer learning firsthand.

“The best teachers are the ones who haven’t been teachers before,” said Ana Fabrega, who spent years as a primary school teacher before joining Synthesis, an online enrichment school inspired by Elon Musk’s Ad Astra model. “I think that the instinct of a teacher is to jump in and try to control, over-engineer and plan everything so kids don’t struggle … but I think the approach that works the best is [by doing] the opposite.”

Synthesis focuses more on creating good facilitators that can sense engagement and create intimacy with students than educators who focus on a specific curriculum to hit certain metrics, Fabrega explained.

“We really want to make sure that the kids are the ones in charge and doing all the heavy lifting, not the teachers,” she said.

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Province Invests in Wellington County Businesses to Boost Local Economy – Government of Ontario News

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Province Invests in Wellington County Businesses to Boost Local Economy  Government of Ontario News



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Powell meets a changed economy: Fewer workers, higher prices – 95.7 News

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Restaurant and hotel owners struggling to fill jobs. Supply-chain delays forcing up prices for small businesses. Unemployed Americans unable to find work even with job openings at a record high.

Those and other disruptions to the U.S. economy — consequences of the viral pandemic that erupted 18 months ago — appear likely to endure, a group of business owners and nonprofit executives told Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Friday.

The business challenges, described during a “Fed Listens” virtual roundtable, underscore the ways that the COVID-19 outbreak and its delta variant are continuing to transform the U.S. economy. Some participants in the event said their business plans were still evolving. Others complained of sluggish sales and fluctuating fortunes after the pandemic eased this summer and then intensified in the past two months.

“We are really living in unique times,” Powell said at the end of the discussion. “I’ve never seen these kinds of supply-chain issues, never seen an economy that combines drastic labor shortages with lots of unemployed people. … So, it’s a very fast changing economy. It’s going to be quite different from the one (before).”

The Fed chair asked Cheetie Kumar, a restaurant owner in Raleigh, North Carolina, why she has had such trouble finding workers. Powell’s question goes to the heart of the Fed’s mandate of maximizing employment, because many people who were working before the pandemic lost jobs and are no longer looking for one. When — or whether — these people resume their job hunts will help determine when the Fed can conclude that the economy has achieved maximum employment.

Kumar told Powell that many of her former employees have decided to permanently leave the restaurant industry.

“I think a lot of people wanted to make life changes, and we lost a lot of people to different industries,” she said. “I think half of our folks decided to go back to school.”

Kumar said her restaurant now pays a minimum of $18 an hour, and she added that higher wages are likely a long-term change for the restaurant industry.

“We cannot get by and pay people $13 an hour and expect them to stay with us for years and years,” Kumar said. “It’s just not going to happen.”

Loren Nalewanski, a vice president at Marriott Select Brands, said his company is losing housekeepers to other jobs that have recently raised pay. Even the recent cutoff of a $300-a-week federal unemployment supplement, he said, hasn’t led to an increase in job applicants.

“People have left the industry and unfortunately they’re finding other things to do,” Nalewanski said. “Other industries that didn’t pay as much perhaps … are (now) paying a lot more.”

Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press

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Dialogue NB Seeks To Rebuild An Inclusive Economy Through Conversation – Huddle – Huddle Today

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MONCTON – Dialogue NB CEO Nadine Duguay-Lemay says the business community has an integral place in a conversation about building a more equal and just New Brunswick.

That very conversation will take place on September 27 in Moncton with Dialogue Day 2021.

“When we talk about anti-racism, notions of equality, diversity, acceptance and inclusion and all those notions we celebrate, it’s not something we can do on our own,” said Duguay-Lemay.

“The business community actively needs to participate, if anything, because those topics concern them. That’s why you see so many business support the event.”

The volunteer-led non-profit organization plans to host an inclusive conversation on Monday at Moncton’s Crowne Plaza and virtually, online.

Dedicated to building social cohesion in New Brunswick, the sold-out event will feature discussions about racial justice in the workplace, rethinking the economy as it recovers from the pandemic and how to be a better ally to Indigenous people.

The event, which has sold out of in-person seats, will feature Jeremy Dutcher, a Wolastoq singer, songwriter, composer, musicologist and activist from Tobique First Nation, as its keynote speaker.

The mandate of the discussions is to ensure everyone feels heard, valued and that they belong, making diversity an asset – something Duguay-Lemay considers imperative to a functional economy.

“What I’ve found is that people don’t like to go into uncomfortable discussions. Some people want to embrace social cohesion but don’t know where to start, or are afraid of saying the wrong thing. This is our expertise – we’re good at the art of dialogue and multiple viewpoints at one table,” she said.

“We need a lot of different voices and perspectives at the table to rethink the system for the wellbeing of all. These discussions shouldn’t be happening in isolation.”

Duguay-Lemay said New Brunswick faces many economic challenges, noting a diverse workforce will help recover from those challenges.

She stressed that the business community needs to work toward a goal of truth and reconciliation, and in a call with Huddle, rebutted the metaphor of everyone being on the same boat during the pandemic.

“I’d argue we’re all facing the same storm, but not in the same boat. Some people are in yachts and some are in little boats about to capsize,” she said.

Other voices are emerging – female and Indigenous, for example – looking to address poverty and wage inequality and unfairness, employment access, systemic racism and environmental degradation, noted Duguay-Lemay, adding that the province’s 4,418 non-profits need more recognition as an economic partner.

“Inclusion is embedded in our DNA as Canadians. We’re already a country and province that abides by those laws, so it’s important to look at inclusion,” she said.

The conversations will also focus on racial justice in the workplace, how the pandemic hurt Indigenous and black Canadian employment, versus non-minorities, access to employment – and the social barriers that exist for racialized workers.

“I invite all organizations, employers, public and non-profits to look at their practices in place and ask if they walk the talk for truth and reconciliation. We’re all treaty people – how do we uphold this?” said Duguay-Lemay.

“We want to at least demonstrate to Indigenous people in New Brunswick that we hear their plight and are serious about truth and reconciliation.”

Greater social cohesion is the best step forward, Duguay-Lemay noted, adding that real dialogue can build an economy that works for everyone.

She said matters of racial justice in the workplace – and specific matters, such as owners objecting to the declaration of September 30 as a statutory holiday, contending that they can’t afford it – will be among the economic issues for which solutions will be sought.

The conversation will also focus on how the province’s recovery from the pandemic has exposed inequalities in the economy.

Duguay-Lemay stressed the need to learn from the way the pandemic exposed inequalities, and rethink a system that works for everyone.

“We need to think differently and it really shouldn’t be based on the interests of the privileged,” said Duguay-Lemay.

“As employers are looking to attract and retain talent, we hear about skill shortages all the time. This becomes a matter of attracting talent, whether from newcomers or tapping into Indigenous communities, how can we make our workplaces more equitable and inclusive?

The event will feature an “eclectic” round table of specialists, artists, activists and experts from numerous sectors, and identities in New Brunswick, with opportunities for networking, inspiration for change with concrete examples and skills to help become a social leader.

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