In focus What if you could learn anything, anywhere from anyone?Find out about the community built on skill-sharing

Richard Feynman said, “Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” It is this idea and a desire to disrupt the education system as it stands today that led Micheal Karjanapakorm to start Skillshare, which has become a learning hub for students all over the globe.

“Right now, education is merely doing what someone tells you to do. At Skillshare, the teacher acts as a facilitator. There are very few lectures and more actual doing and communicating with fellow learners,” says Karjanapakorm in his TED ‘Fellows on the Field’ video.

Skillshare started in April 2011 as an online hub for offline courses. The site offered a platform for people with skills to announce their classes, a payment gateway to ensure easy transfer of funds and discussion forums. The site offers a great opportunity to all those with extra time on their hands who have the desire to learn something new whether for work or leisure. With a unique philosophy of education designed around passion, real-world skills, community, collaboration and creativity these online teachers started something of a revolution in learning.

It was only natural that they should then take some of their classes online, to be accessible to a global audience. Last August, the site opened a line of hybrid courses. Here is how a hybrid class typically works: The website allows prospective teachers to create profiles and list their classes along with a course overview and syllabus.

Students can then browse through these classes on the website and choose to enrol. Payment for paid classes can be made using Paypal. While the technical, intensive, in-person classes can go up to Rs.20,000, online classes start at Rs.600. The teacher records classes or lectures and uploads them as Youtube videos which can then be accessed by every student. The course homepage, apart from having the syllabus, has tabs for discussions, projects and groups.

You could ask what makes Skillshare different from other sites that offer a collection of online tutorials and how-to videos. Skillshare stands apart for making use of Web 2.0’s most ubiquitous feature: social networking. Collaboration is encouraged and students and teachers communicate in a language best described as ‘Facebook lingo’. Relevant videos and articles can be posted, commented on and ‘Liked’. Projects can be uploaded for all to see and review and students can also choose to rate or recommend teachers with a simple click.

Tara Mathew, who is currently taking a writing class on Skillshare, says, “While the class itself teaches you things that you could get online with little bit of digging, the best part about the course is that I get to meet people living halfway across the world who are interested in the same things and have them review and comment on my work.”

Another feature that has drawn thousands of students to the website is the sheer variety of courses on offer. Enjoy classical music but don’t fully understand it? Take Javor Bracic’s music appreciation classes. Need to make a short video for work or leisure? Nathan Heleine will teach you how in two weeks. Don’t know how to make time for all these classes you’re taking? Let Ari Meseil tell you how to ‘work smarter, not harder’. Don’t know how to teach a Skillshare class? Enrol in Danya-Cheskis Golde’s class on how to be a good Skillshare teacher. Skillshare is only one of many learning websites that have gained popularity in the last year. Sites like Courseera, Udacity and edX too are changing the face of higher education through their free online courses. Next time you find yourself longing to pick up a new skill to get ahead at work, to satiate your curiosity or to simply have something to do in the evenings, remember that it is just a few clicks away.

ZEENAB ANEEZ

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