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How ‘Class For Zoom’ plans to change distance learning

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Many teachers and parents are still struggling to learn the best ways to help their children with their educational needs as schools grapple with spreading coronavirus. Michael Chasen, ClassEDU CEO, joins The Final Round to discuss his latest initiative ‘Class for Zoom’ and how it helping to re-structure remote and distanced learning for younger students.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Welcome back to "The Final Round." Ed tech company ClassEDU launching last month, securing $16 million in seed funding, to help teachers and students with remote learning. So joining us now to tell us a little bit more about this, we have Michael Chasen. He's the CEO of ClassEDU.

And Michael, great to have you on this show. I understand you're bringing a new product to the market. It's called Class for Zoom. And we hear from teachers and students and parents about all the challenges that go into remote learning. So how is your product going to help address some of those challenges and some of the biggest, I guess, hurdles that face online learning?

MICHAEL CHASEN: Well, I have three kids of my own. And when the pandemic hit, I had a daughter who was in second grade, a son who was in eighth grade, and another daughter in 11th grade. And they're all in public schools, and they were all home, using Zoom to connect with their teachers and their fellow students.

And I just felt like it wasn't the same experience they were getting in the classroom. And I felt it was such actually a different experience that we were really, in fact, leaving an entire generation of kids behind. Not that online learning can't be successful, but to suddenly throw all these kids into it almost overnight without complete preparation, having the right technology, I think can really be detrimental to one's educational progress.

So I came up with the idea with a couple of people that I had worked with previously at Blackboard to develop a bunch of teaching and learning tools that can add on top of Zoom.

So teachers were all using Zoom to teach in their class, but believe it or not, if I told you now that most of the classes happened online, but teachers couldn't take attendance, hand out an assignment, give a test or a quiz, grade any work or even talk one-on-one with students, you say, how is teaching and learning even happening? So we went and added all of that functionality into Zoom to allow teachers to replicate their physical class online.


AKIKO FUJITA: So Michael, you know, you could talk to a lot of parents and teachers right now who are involved in remote learning, who are saying, I hope this is a short-term fix. But it sounds like you're making a long-term bet on this space.

So I'm curious what you see, particularly in K through 12. How significant is remote learning going to be in the future, moving forward? Are we going to continue with the kind of remote learning we see today, even if they've got the tools on your platform, or is it going to be a hybrid?

MICHAEL CHASEN: Well, I think that this is certainly a cause and be a revolution in online learning. So certainly, I want us to be through this COVID pandemic as soon as possible, although I think, in some way, it's still going to be another year or two, affecting the education process.

But even beyond that, I think that suddenly teaching hundreds of thousands of instructors how to engage in online learning and having all these students now familiar with it means that we've really sped up the adoption of online learning by easily five to 10 years.

So I believe even once we're through this pandemic, almost every school, K through 12, colleges, universities, and graduate schools are going to be doing more with online learning. And the reason I think that this is actually a positive is because when you have online learning, what you do is you actually increase access for education and you lower cost.

So even though, right now, we're using online learning to address this big pandemic that's taking place, what's going to happen long is I think it's going to be very beneficial as more people will be able to get into the educational process at a lower cost.

ANDY SERWER: Yes, speaking of costs, Michael, you've got little kids, medium kids. When they're bigger, they're going to college. How do you feel about paying $75,000 a year for each kid to go to college remotely?

MICHAEL CHASEN: Look, I actually think any kind of investment into education is worthwhile. But I think that when you have a free market, education has to have different price points. So obviously, maybe a $75,000 education isn't what's right for everybody. But what that means is you need to have cheaper options, and I believe cheaper options that are just as good.

But what actually can deliver that is having classes on systems like Class for Zoom where you can get high quality teachers that can actually teach a more broad range of students from a more diverse base who are distributed in different geographies, and really lower the costs and improve access to education.

SEANA SMITH: Michael, talking about improving access to education, I mean, we talk about all the time that these states and local governments that are strapped for money right now, they don't have any extra money left in the budget to really deploy, in most cases. So how are you making this product affordable? Is this something that you're marketing to public schools, as well as private schools?

MICHAEL CHASEN: We're making sure that the number one vision and mission of the company is to get this technology in the hands of as many schools as possible. So a lot of the schools are already using Zoom, and they might even be using Zoom for free. And we're just selling it at very cheap institutional licenses that would allow all of their faculty and student leverage the technologies that we're bringing to market.

And I actually believe that longer term, schools will be able to use this technology to actually increase revenue. So just as I'm saying that they'll be able to increase the reach of the students that are utilizing the technology, they'll also be able to use it to have additional programs to put online, you know, whether it's a different additional college or graduate programs, or even advanced K through 12 programs. So I think those can be a revenue generator for the schools in the long run, even though, right now, we're using it to address a crisis.

SEANA SMITH: And Michael, before doing this, you were the co-founder and former CEO of Blackboard for 15 years. And now I used Blackboard in college. It's very efficient. Many universities use that at this point. I'm curious just what you learned from that experience and what you tied that to just in terms of the online learning.

Because I think one thing that really separated Blackboard from a lot of the other products that were out there was that it really made it easy. It was a one-stop-shop destination where you could go in college. You could find your coursework. You could find your grades. And it really kept everything just in one place.

MICHAEL CHASEN: Well, Blackboard is really about delivering asynchronous learning. Maybe you still go to class twice a week, but you get your homework online. You might take a test and quiz online. Or later in the day, you might do an assignment online.

What we're doing with Class for Zoom is bringing that same technology, but making it synchronous, meaning that the teacher is live interacting with the students, and then they can go and say, OK, we're all going to do an assignment together now in class. We're all going to take a test right now live. And I'm here as an instructor. As a teacher, I can help you through this.

So it's more than just about providing lecturing online, which is how a lot of teachers are teaching today in Zoom. It lets them bring that full classroom experience online with assignments, tests, quizzes, grades, attendance, talking one-on-one with students, group presentations. Everything you can do in the classroom, you can now do online live. So it's really about bringing synchronous learning technologies to the classroom.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Michael Chasen, CEO of ClassEDU, thanks for taking the time to join us today.

MICHAEL CHASEN: Great. Thank you very much for having me.