The business of online education is getting bigger, and although there are many online colleges from which one can earn a degree, several startups are using the Internet as a free online tutoring center. LearnHub, eduFire, and Grockit all offer online education for free or extremely inexpensive through user interaction that combines traditional learning with social networking enabled through Web 2.0. LearnHub combines the dry, straightforward classroom approach with the liveliness of social networking in order to entice more users as well as more
Broken up into different categories, including SAT preparation, Study Abroad, Hobbies and Recreation, and Technology and Computers, the site offers students a place to learn as well as teach.
Forums under each category give users a place to discuss the lessons openly, and with accompanying profile pictures, LearnHub creates more of a social networking atmosphere than that of a classroom.
The lessons are run by the users themselves most of the time, so the social interaction extends beyond just
the students to the teachers also. And one could argue such social networking on a Web site like LearnHub is preferred to Facebook or Myspace.
LearnHub purports a combination of education and fun by displaying an educational layout, then displaying its social networking forums after the user clicks on the lessons.
Although most of the lessons are free, teachers can opt to charge a fee to use the lessons, though most do not.
eduFire uses a different approach, adopting video chat to encourage real voice language learning.
The goal of eduFire is "to create a platform to allow live learning to take place over the Internet anytime from anywhere."
The language-learning Web site uses video much like Seesmic-a video conversation Web site that is much like a video blog between many different users.
Through video postings, both users and teachers communicate and experience online education vastly different from traditional online colleges or Web sites like LearnHub.
As long as the user has a webcam, he/she can learn or teach any language on the site, combining Web 2.0 with learning a new language.
Contrary to LearnHub, eduFire is not free. Unlike traditional tutoring services, though, the fees are set by the tutors themselves. The site collects a small servicing fee, but for many it is preferred to the fees collected by "real life" tutoring services.
Users engage in video tutoring, and after the session they pay either with a credit card or PayPal, as desired by the tutor.
eduFire offers more than 11 languages to learn from a variety of tutors for each language, giving the user the option to find his/her favorite.
Grockit is another education Web site, though it is still in development. It has secured over $10 million in investments, and it expects to roll out later this year.
The different Web sites show the variety in online education, and with investors pouring money into them, they will only continue to grow.