Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Meet the edtech entrepreneurs - An interview with Pierre Dubuc

Before the phrase “Massive Open Online Courses” had been coined, France’s Le Site du Zéro was a successful open education platform offering tutorials. Now renamed OpenClassrooms, its co-founders are ready to take on the big MOOC platforms.
The Good MOOC interviews Pierre Dubuc, OpenClassrooms Co-Founder.

  • Can you introduce yourself?
I am co-founder of OpenClassrooms, a Paris-based startup publishing an open education platform since 1999. My partner Mathieu Nebra and I started this long adventure when we were 13!
OpenClassrooms now has 2,5 millions unique visitors a month, +600 000 members, +800 courses...
For 14 years, we've built a strong community that crowdsources creation and curation of courses. Now we are currently building partnerships with universities, schools, and companies to help them create MOOCs on our platform.

  • Can you describe how you first heard about MOOCs?

I discovered the term MOOC 18 months ago, through press releases about Stanford. In a flash, I realized that this new word described perfectly what we were doing and aiming for years! The fact that top universities were moving toward open education was an exciting news.

  • There's a fair bit of MOOC skepticism out there (particularly when it comes to retention rates)... Do you have anything to say about that?

I think that the fact retention rates is lower than the brick-and-mortar courses is quite normal. Subscribing online takes only 30 seconds and a few clicks, there is no real engagement in this action. The conversion funnel is quite typical on the Internet.
However there are some poor quality MOOCs where the conversion is lower than the average. Those have to be rejected or improved. Fortunately those MOOCs are easy to spot...

On every course, we develop several business models, depending on the topic:

We think that the first two points will have the most traction in the next years.

  • Will you seek to co-create courses with institutions of higher education or are you happy to completely bypass the current system?

Yes, we are currently creating courses with institutions and will soon start to announce many partnerships with universities, schools, and companies.

  • When do you see MOOCs and higher education going in the future?

I am one of those that think MOOCs will deeply transform higher education and vocation training. The market is going to be consolidated around a few global platforms. Innovative and top universities will attract a lot of more students whereas other universities will start having troubles recruiting new students.
MOOCs make courses open and public, and that forces teachers and universities to provide only the best. In the coming years, we will manage to provide high-quality courses to large audiences and that's pretty exciting!

That's good news! The French government and universities will be investing money and resources in e-Education. I think that we will be part of this initiative in the next months, since only a partnership between private and public stakeholders could end up having great impact on education.

  • You recently re-branded your site... Is it your ambition to become a global player?

Yes but our first goal is to work on the French-speaking countries (France, Canada, Belgium, different countries in Africa...). Then we will quickly expand on the European market.

  • Which are you favourite MOOCs and why?

My favourite MOOC is CS50 from Harvard.

This is one of the most complete one I've seen, with even a dedicated website. You will find videos, exercices, quizzes, homework, seminars, references... Teachers and assistants are especially brilliant at engaging students over weeks and months. It is renowned as a hard-working course but an excellent overall experience.

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