Nixty Offers Open Source Higher Ed
Last week saw the launch of a new eLearning site named Nixty. The site’s concept is simple: educators can upload course materials to the website, to be accessed by users. The site provides a way for unconnected students and educators to reach each other, as well as some helpful tools (including an online gradebook). Public courses, accessible to all users, can be uploaded and managed for free. Private courses, in which teachers can manage enrollment, will cost teachers $4.99 per month for three courses, or $9.99 a month for nine courses. Teachers will be able to charge students whatever additional money they want, of which Nixty will get a 20% cut.
The site currently offers free courses from Ivy League schools and college-prep videos from the Khan Academy, licensed under the Creative Commons. For students interested in taking courses, the site’s format makes it easier to access material from multiple schools and teachers in a central location with a consistent user interface. TechCrunch predicts that this (or a site like it) will have a massive impact on higher education outside of the US–and if the site takes off, they’re probably correct. Even for students who are in the US, Nixty could be benificial–kids who are home schooled or unchallenged by their high school curriculum can take self-directed courses to prepare themselves for college. If courses are taken on Nixty through an accredited professor, there is the possibility of students earning course credit.
However, the site opens up another possibility for students: rather than simply learning on the site, students have gained the ability to teach courses themselves. College students or recent graduates with experience in something useful or interesting can share that knowledge with others–perhaps a cheap LSAT tutoring prep course, or a class on home brewing or cross stitch or (if subsidized by the college) easy-to-access courses on school policy (for instance, the honor code or alcohol policy) for students.
In addition, the site also offers users the ability to create wiki courses, which could potentially be used by entire classes as pools of knowledge. Though students have the option to create their own wikis now, this site removes the hassle of looking for a web host and finding a student who knows what they’re doing to set the wiki up.
The service, if it is successful, could provide an easy bridge between providers of information that is too valuable or time-consuming for an unpaid web tutorial and those who would willingly pay a fee to learn the information. It could also be used as a handy way for information that is too niche for wider distribution to make it to its intended audience in an easier-to-read (and manage) format than that in which it would otherwise be presented. Students who act as in-person tutors to peers or high school students could take on more clients and have all of their information managed and presented through an outside entity, rather than having to handle it themselves.
Whether the service will catch on, and whether it will be taken up with any gusto by educators remains to be seen. But for those who are either looking for easily-accessible, open continuing education or for an easy way to pass on their own accumulated knowledge, the site looks like it might be a fascinating option.