Interview originally published on Siftery. Kevin William David interviewed Samuel Thompson, Product & Sales GM at newrow_
newrow_ is a browser-based, video collaboration platform built for education. It empowers organizations to extend their reach online by providing a reliable, high performance and easy-to-use platform to help deliver an engaging, full cycle learning experience. By focusing on live video, developing features based on the latest technologies and encouraging in-class participation through interactive features, newrow_ increases student retention.
Hi Samuel, Let’s get started!
So tell us about newrow_?
newrow_ is a web based training platform for business and education. With a click of a link instructors are able to connect with their learners face-to-face online in a way that replicates the physical classroom. Up to 25 webcams can be streamed at one time with many more participating in text chat, collaborative whiteboard, polls and more. No downloads or separate installations are required to host or participate in the virtual class.
The live, virtual classes can be recorded with newrow_ smart cloud recording then added to the self-paced course section that enables learners to review course material such as presentations, videos, and recordings on their own time. newrow_ smart supports the LTI standard and can be seamlessly integrated in the most popular LMS’s.
Tell me more about the problem you are trying to solve?
Our mission is to provide a browser-based platform for online teaching and learning as dynamic and inspiring as the physical classroom. To do this, we build products that enable teachers and students to connect face-to-face in an interactive, browser-based online classroom as if they are in the same room, no matter where they are or what device they are using.
Too often virtual classroom platforms either require client installations, depend on outdated technology like Flash, look and feel like they were made for past eras, or simply don’t work. All of this detracts from the reason they exist which is to enable instructors to teach and learners to learn effectively online.
How is newrow_ different from what already exists in the market?
The global E-Learning industry is poised to grow to $325 billion dollars in under a decade. A large part of that is a focus on distance learning platforms like Newrow. The virtual teaching/training platform space does have its fair share of competitors like Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEX and a slew of others.
Beyond delivering a high-performing, reliable, scalable experience, we focused on delivering a product built with the latest technologies (WebRTC, HTML5) specifically designed for online instruction. This means newrow_ smart courses are completely browser-based, the whole class can be online with webcam and the online toolset enables effective online learning.
Who uses newrow_? What types of roles do your customers have at their companies?
newrow_ customers are universities, government departments, non-profits, international companies, television networks and individual instructors.
With larger organizations, we typically speak to those in charge of on-boarding new technologies to enhance online learning initiatives such as Online Program Coordinators, Instructional Designers, Digital Partnership Managers, etc. That being said, we speak to people with varied roles across the spectrum.
How are your customers using newrow? Could you share a few different use cases?
The majority of newrow_ customers utilize newrow_ for virtual classrooms or something similar, but many newrow_ customers use newrow_ for highly scalable webinars.
- Remote summer sessions — Provide online courses during the summer session when instructors are abroad and students are all over.
- Remote office hours — Enable students to meet with instructors for online office hours.
- Distance learning — Offer courses online for remote students integrated seamlessly in a school’s LMS.
- Blended learning — Enable students that are unable to travel to the university to attend class online.
Government and Non-Profits
- Large scale, secure webinars — Few to many
- Global interactive programming
- Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT)
- Hybrid Instructor-Led Training (HILT)
- Management & Leadership training
- Career coaching services
- Sales training
- Online consulting
- Product/service knowledge
- Staff orientation
Our customers get creative 🙂
Have there been unique use cases for newrow that you hadn’t thought of or expected?
As I mentioned above, newrow_ is built for online instruction. That being said, the ease-of-use and a number of unique features had us working with a number of television networks producing second screen experiences for their online audience.
One series we helped run, embedded the newrow_ platform on the customer’s website. They then ran an in studio interview with the show’s stars. Online audience members were able to activate their webcams and if added to stage were able to directly interact with the interviewees. The final episode logged over 20,000 participants!
Were there any early ‘growth hacks’ or tactics that have contributed to your current success?
We listen to our customers and are avid followers of everything edtech. We don’t keep many secrets and encourage customer feedback through direct correspondence. Though it’s not entirely true to say, “If you build it, they will come,” I do believe that the first requirement of growth is to build a product that people need and love to use. The rest is a lot of work, but it’s easier to do and prove your case when you believe in what you’re doing.
What were some of the biggest challenges while building the product early on and how did you solve them?
Our first product to market was based on Flash. We never considered building a downloadable client. We always wanted to be browser based. Flash enabled us to do some pretty cool things early on, but the technology was limited and problematic especially when considering mobile use. When WebRTC became accepted as the new standard for collaboration through a browser, we knew we needed to rebuild from scratch and we did.
Maintaining a legacy platform with active customers while simultaneously building a new platform from scratch with a small team is a challenge to say the least. We tackled this by speaking to our customers and understanding what our MVP should be. We shared designs and made beta versions available to gain feedback. Baby steps.
What have been some of the most interesting integrations you’ve added?
We do have some integration’s with YouTube to share YouTube videos in the class. Additional integration’s are currently on our roadmap for some pretty exciting functionality. We’ll have to talk about that later 🙂