I've been watching TeachStreet because I'm obviously interested in the education market, but they also participated in my Blogger's Challenge review thing, so their kind donation has bubbled my opinions up to the surface of my blog.
Right now, TeachStreet has a little bit of a chicken and egg issue--not enough classes listed in every area and therefore not enough of a critical mass of students I'd imagine. Part of the reason? This is covered in their note to teachers who discover themselves on the site.
"Please know however that we searched for your information the "old-fashioned" way, with people-power, not with bots, spiders or by paying for your information off of a list."
Hmm... I don't know about that. I mean, I understand the intention there--quality control--but that's just the hurdle that being an aggregator entails. At least with something like Indeed.com, you have a high confidence that if there's a job out there to be found, it's on Indeed. That's a very powerful marketing message and it drives site traffic. Just being "all the classes we found so far" isn't going to be enough to drive people away from industry specific sites, like Media Bistro, or people who have established reputations around online learning, like the Learning Annex or University of Phoenix.
This got me thinking... Is the current set of existing classes really all there is to the learning market? For example, I currently teach entrerpreneurship for Fordham University as well as for ITAC's FastTrac. I often meet up with other entreprenuers to go over their ideas, pitches, etc. I don't currently do this for money, but I might do this for charity. Either way, whether the money goes in my pocket or in someone else's, the point is that, under the right circumstances, everyone is an educational resource. The question is how do you pull this people into the market and organize them?
My point is, to set up a class in TeachStreet, I needed an established class. That might seem obvious, but I also think it might be a missed opportunity. What if I could just put myself in as an expert in some topic areas (maybe it could suck in my LinkedIn profile and provide some suggestions) and then have students indicate what they might like to learn from me. (And what they might pay) With an easy plugin to a webinar or free conference call number, I might get roped into sharing my expertice at a regular time--i.e. teaching a class!
This could really expand the market size, and create a much more fluid market for community learning.
Otherwise, I think Dave and company are going to have to turn on those bots and spiders, because if you're not the place to find every single last class, and you're not where the classes are actually taking place (doesn't seem like they're hosting the content) then you're a marketplace... and marketplaces need lots of liquidity. By helping knowledgeable people create classes, you'd be "securitizing" previously illiquid assets.
The other thing I think TeachStreet needs to focus on is who their customer is. At Path 101, unlike Monster, we think of the job seeker as our main priority--although after a dozen or so years, apparently Monster is now thinking about them as well. We're building our site on the idea that if we're a place for seekers to go, and we can learn about them, the recruiters will follow.
How does that work in the education market? Something tells me its all about the teacher here--that these education sites need to be a no-brainer for every teacher to list on immediately. Plus, it can't just be about traffic at first, because a new site won't have any. I don't know exactly what it is--perhaps they should build some kind of a survey tool, where teachers--even ones who teach at the Learning Annex--can send their students to in order to give more in depth feedback. If I kept my reputation here as an instructor, I might as well list all my classes here. I, for one, would definitely send my students and my ITAC class to the site to look me up and rate me--if it was a lot more instructor-friendly than rate my prof sites.
Anyway... TeachStreet is certainly a good start--very cleanly designed and easy to navigate, but I really want to see what direction they're going to take this, because there's so much to be done here, but it is really going to take some disruptive ideas.