Education Trends in 2013: 4Cs – Communities, Content, Context and Curation


In last week’s post, I wrote about adaptiveness being one of the trends I see for 2013. The second one is a group of four topics which are all related to adaptiveness in one way or the other: communities, content, context and curation.


In a recent interview Andrew Ng, co-founder of Coursera, stated that one of the drivers in their MOOCs’ growth is that they focused on communities around their content early on, an aspect that he thinks was not taken into consideration in earlier attempts by universities that basically just uploaded their content and had hoped for the best.

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a startup called OpenStudy, which back then partnered with MIT to add a community and discussion layer to the OpenCourseWare. It found quite some success, with learners and teachers from across the globe engaging in discussions and working together.

Communities (or the sense of community) are a crucial piece of the puzzle when we talk about online learning. There are only very few students who really have the mental strength to work all alone. The vast majority needs motivation from peers and support from educators in one form or the other.

But everyone who tried to create an online community — in the form of an engaged followership on Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or even a good old bulletin board — knows how hard it is to foster a growing and lively community. Which brings us to the second C…


Communities grow around content. If there is no content, or if the quality stinks, it is basically impossible to grow a community. And the stakes in the content game are growing every day. If you take a look at the production quality of YouTube videos created by teens these days, you know that what the standard viewer expects is nearly equal to what we were used to seeing on TV a decade ago.

HD videos are standard, so is sound and lighting, animated pre-rolls, a theme song, and much more. Most of the popular shows follow a script or overarching storyline and there is generally a lot of work going on behind the scenes. This means that if you want to grab the attention of today’s student, you need to be as well-produced as the 14-year-old girl who makes videos about makeup.

I can (and probably will) write lots more about the “YouTubification” of content, but for now, take a look at Minute Physics and Sci-Show. Moving along to the third C…


Context is as important as content; they are basically inseparable. As the size of content gets shorter due to the often stated shortening in attention spans, we need to have the context for those 5 to 10 minute snippets.

But context also means that the content needs to fit into the new patterns of how and where it is consumed. It needs to be easily shareable and relevant to students and their “friends” and followers. How does this information affect student behavior, how does it fit into a student’s political or environmental believes, etc. As you can tell, not an easy task and pretty complex.

Therefore, the fourth C is becoming increasingly important…


Curation is a topic I have been writing about for years now. A couple of years ago, Gary Vaynerchuk stated that content DJs will be as important, if not more important, than content creators. You can also read my article “Does Adding More Knowledge to the Internet Really Improve It?” as it discusses the same topic.

Curating content that is already out there in a meaningful way is a huge and important task. So important that Discovery Communications invested $20 million in Farbood Nivi’s new startup, Learnist, which is often referred to as a Pinterest for education. But it is much more than that.

Having all four Cs at its core, Learnist could easily become one of the major learning networks in a couple of years. Imagine communities around the most favorite documentaries, adding the possibility to chat and comment while watching the latest episode. Getting additional information on their second screen (tablet, smartphone) about the background of historic figures and events. Receiving links to related programming, videos on demand, online courses, related exhibitions, events, and so on.

I invite you to watch my interview with Farbood over at EDUKWEST, in which we talk about social learning, how Learnist came about, why he and his team chose to move on from Grockit, his first and very successful startup in the ed space.

Next week, I am going to take a closer look at personal health education and its impact on society and the workplace.


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