Thanks to our new partnership with iHeed and Mobento, you can now search for content inside our educational videos, as well as store them on your Android phone for offline use.

Earlier this month, we were excited to announce that our content would be included in the Mobento Global Health Channel as part of a mobile partnership aiming to tackle health in developing countries. While we have made our animated videos and course content available in our own Media Library, we’re grateful for this opportunity to contribute to this new and powerful online video learning platform.

While we’re passionate about creating original video content in our courses, this information-rich format is not easily searchable, meaning that content locked inside has to be manually extracted for use. We’ve tried to get around this by limiting animations to 5-7 minute single-subject clips and then permitting event archives to go considerably longer (and when possible, accompanied by an agenda), but ultimately, video is video.

Well, until now. Thanks to Mobento search, our videos will have search terms identified in spoken words and metadata, and then will show visitors where the search words were spoken in a given video. This will help visitors jump right to the parts that are relevant to their needs, instead of having (for example) to watch an entire two-hour video for the relevant five-minute segment.

Image: Mobento search

But perhaps one of the most exciting things for us here is that Mobento is moving beyond YouTube and other platforms in enabling downloading of the videos through their Android app. So the next time we run our mHealth class and a student asks us how they’re supposed to use the relevant point-of-care video content while out in the field without an internet connection, we’ll have an answer ready.

If you’re interested in searching inside our content, head on over to Mobento and check out TechChange on the Global Health Channel.

Are you interested in learning with TechChange? Check out our next class on Mobile Phones for Public Health. Class starts June 3. Apply now!

Reports of the demise of the American educational system have been greatly exaggerated.

According to the New York Times, 2012 was the Year of the MOOC with the emergence of edX, Udacity, and Coursera as education providers, tearing down the walls for top-tier universities and providing free access to Ivy League professors and curriculum to a global audience. In another piece, NYT Columnist Tom Friedman breathlessly predicts:

“[A] day soon where you’ll create your own college degree by taking the best online courses from the best professors from around the world — some computing from Stanford, some entrepreneurship from Wharton, some ethics from Brandeis, some literature from Edinburgh — paying only the nominal fee for the certificates of completion.”

But there are fundamental limits on what a MOOC can accomplish at scale when introducing student interactivity. As we covered in a recent post (What Can We Learn from Coursera’s “MOOC Mess”), online education requires tradeoffs. You can broadcast a video or self-paced module to 41,000 students without difficulty, but things get tricky quickly if you start introducing group exercises without planning ahead.

However, there is a growing consensus that these massive courses are simply the future wherein top-tier universities will claim a global audience for rock-star professors while mid-range universities will be squeezed out of the picture. If we assume that the future of online education looks like a MOOC, then that is a reasonable assumption: You and your children will sit at home and watch videos, click through quizzes, and call it an education when you receive your degree. Mid-range universities won’t compete to pay $50,000 per course (the average cost of setting up a MOOC) without a globally known faculty, so why try to compete with the big players?

As currently designed, MOOCs fundamentally privilege existing brands. Universities want to establish multi-year partnerships with large tech firms to leverage their globally recognized name. However, edutech startups are starting to provide another answer for mid-range universities. A recent Guardian article (Are edutech startups plugging an innovation gap in our universities?) revealed a different path forwards for education during an interview with Victor Henning of Mendeley:

The recent boom in edutech startups, says Henning, reflects the fact that universities no longer need either to buy in bulk or build everything from scratch. Instead they should use their time and resources more wisely by collaborating with smaller companies already working on new software solutions, many of which have their roots in the higher education sector.

If true, then this provides another way forward for non-Ivy League universities: Don’t compete as institutions; compete as classrooms. Rather than multi-year deals for hundreds of thousands of dollars to compete for a global market you can’t possibly win, look to empower your teachers with the ability to teach online classes with video conferencing, social networking, and group projects by embracing a host of different tools provided by a variety of edutech startups.

The consensus is right on one thing: The Ivy League universities are going to win on name recognition. They will provide engaging videos to millions around the world that share the one-way “sage on a stage” lectures of their top-tier talent to lock in an unproven MOOC business model. But that’s no guarantee that their professors will be able to provide the most engaging course format. Universities that embrace this current tech chaos by empowering their professors to work with a wide range of startups may just find themselves ahead of the pack.

As we explored in a blog post last July (Three Questions to Ask As Universities Incorporate Hybrid Classroom Pedagogies), professors like Dr. John Boyer of Virginia Tech have managed to push the boundaries of the classroom using widely available tech like Twitter and Skype. While educational tools are advancing at an ever-increasing rate, the pedagogical challenges for incorporating their possibilities have hardly changed. Universities should embrace those challenges, rather than looking for a tool to solve them.

Are you interested in learning with TechChange? Check out our next class: Digital Organizing and Open Government. Class starts April 15. Apply now.

This is a guest post by Matt McNabb, Principal of Caerus Associates. If you are interested in using mapping for digital organizing, consider taking our course Digital Organizing and Open Government. 


Today, my colleagues at Caerus Associates and I are able to announce the BETA launch of a new tool that helps businesses, NGOs, and governments collect, visualize, and share geospatial data in less developed emerging markets. We call it, CaerusGEO.

Geospatial in the Last Mile

The premise is simple. How can we leverage the cloud to deliver geospatial analysis to non-GIS users most familiar with basic, paper based workflows?

In our experience, most businesses, government institutions, and organizations in frontier markets rarely use technology across the enterprise. In some cases it’s a cost issue, in others it’s social stigma related.  But whatever the reason, ICTs are often used simply to support manual, tabular processes that already exist.

Want to run a survey? Use Word, Excel, and printer.

When it comes to spatial data, this challenge is only magnified. Collecting geospatial information can be hard enough, visualizing and sharing it can be even harder. As a result, geospatial information is often relegated to the expert user.  Of course, the GIS industry as a whole is trending towards accessibility, but rarely is it truly meaningful for most enterprises in less developed markets that simply want to know where things happen.

This is what got me interested in a tool widely used within the humanitarian response community called Walking Papers. The value proposition of Walking Papers has been that it extends geospatial data collection to pen and paper. Print off a map, mark it up, then convert what’s written into geospatial data. No magic. No optical character recognition. Just a simple paper insert that allows people without GIS units to collect spatial information in a way that could be easily geo-rectified.

The problem with Walking Papers is that it offers little back to the data collector. There is no visualization or data management. In fact, it’s really only a lightweight tool that lets the user print off a map and, through some gymnastics, let’s her then use it to edit a basemap on Open Street Map. It offers nothing for the non-technical user simply interested in using paper to collect information about events, or perceptions, or whatever other kinds of information one might be interested in seeing over the basemap.

For the past year, we’ve been wondering what it would take to create a tool that filled this gap. Let normal users capture geospatial data in paper formats and return analytical value once collected.

How It Works

This BETA of CaerusGEO is our first answer to this need. A user is able to create her own survey, find a place in the world where it will be centered, create an atlas and data collection sheets through a standard schema they created, and then manage, visualize, and share the data once uploaded. By bridging cloud analytics to paper workflows, we are able to drive value at enterprise level.

If you’re an NGO and want to integrate mapping into your polling, you can create a survey, manage the data, and facilitate sharing from start to finish. If you’re a business looking to understand your market, you can integrate it into your customer registration process and benefit from basic market intelligence. Although basic in form, the value is derived from a more reality-based understanding of workflows in these markets. Paper matters.

Smarter Public Safety

The very first place we thought to experiment was in the domain of public safety. What could be more obvious than the need for taking those antiquated paper and pushpin constructions used for crude crime mapping and making it more dynamic, analytical, and transparent?

As the Deputy Minister of Justice in Monrovia told me, ‘we send the police where the people are, not where the crimes are… this could help us see how to use our resources in a smart way.’ We can address this challenge by finding minimally intrusive places to insert paper maps into the pre-existing workflows of policing institutions and fusing them together for digital analytics by a single node with connectivity to the cloud.

In parallel, NGOs and violence observatories have the capacity to collect and share their own data, creating a basic framework opportunity for enhancing social accountability within the security sector domain. Perhaps most interestingly, by integrating paper-based mapping that connects to real geospatial data, the longstanding art of Participatory GIS in conflict management and of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can be used in so many more ways.

Driving Value For The Private Sector

Public safety institutions are not the only ones we have learned can find value here. It’s also a pull for private sector development, particularly in the bottom of the pyramid. Microfinance institutions and others engaged in understanding their customer base face similar challenges.

By extending geospatial data capabilities to private sector development institutions and retail organizations, we have the prospect of significantly improving the precision and reach of private sector particularly to underserved areas.

So Much To Learn

Bending ICTs to the real-world challenges and workflows found in the last mile holds tremendous value to public and private sector institutions alike. For us, this experiment with geospatial information is only the beginning. We hope you’ll join us and give us feedback as our experiment moves on.

Matt McNabb is a member of the Board of Advisors for TechChange, and a Principal with Caerus Associates. For more, you can follow Matt and CaerusGEO on Twitter:  @mattrmcnabb  @caerusgeo