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Schooled in Streaming

Named "Community College Teacher of the Year" by the American Society of Engineering Educators in 2004 for his work at Cuesta College, YourOtherTeacher.com founder and CEO Jeffrey Jones created the site in 2002 to provide supplemental instruction for traditional K-12 and university students.

"I’ve been involved in education since 1990 and can say that the last three years have seen a marked uptick in the use of streaming for homeschooling," said Jones. "We currently have 12,000 users but expect to grow dramatically within the next year based on several key relationships we formed."

Prices range from $10 per month for unlimited access to pre-recorded streams to $40 per hour for one-on-one online tutoring via streaming audio and shared whiteboards.

"Many of our classes are taught by instructors that teach at a high school or college, so the material is constantly being updated to suit questions that arise in their classes," said Jones.

When asked about the benefits of online supplemental learning, Jones explained his belief that he can provide 2-3 times more information in an online class as he can in a traditional classroom.

"As teachers we are always watching the clock and trying to get as much material into that period as possible," Jones said. "That means we have to go faster, skip steps, and not present as many examples as we would like. On the Web we don’t have those constraints, we can take our time, explain every step, and do as many problems as we want. I tell my students to keep watching the lessons one after another until they get it."

Since its inception, YourOtherTeacher.com has used Real’s SMIL technology to deliver synchronized content to its users, but is currently developing its own delivery tools.

"We are in the process of converting over most of our classes from Real Player format to our own Flash-based format called LectureMate," said Jones. "Since the new lessons are vector-based, the lessons are perfectly clear and require less bandwidth. In the new version, to be released next month, teachers will also be able to conduct live office hours."

"We just did a survey of 400 homeschoolers and they loved the site," Jones said. "We hope that eventually—as we increase our library of courses and introduce these new tools for instructor-pupil interaction—we can become their main source of learning."

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