August 17, 2011
Critics of online education complain that it’s impersonal, but mailVU is helping to change that. Its mail platform can bring students and teachers together to exchange lectures and homework assignments by video, rather than text.
“So many educators use us and blog about us and talk about us,” says Alan Fitzpatrick, cofounder and CEO of the Charlotte-based company. “The education market kind of took us by surprise. That wasn’t really our target.”
Witnessing the dominance of Internet video and mobile devices, Fitzpatrick and his cofounder Addy Kapur began crafting the app in 2010. Now, mailVU is available as an iOS app or Chrome plug-in and has transmitted videos from users in over 200 countries—including many teachers.
For universities concerned about privacy, mailVU is a promising choice. Students can submit video assignments without public humiliation on YouTube (I recall shamelessly posting about a college video project just to up the page views), and professors can distribute lectures without giving away their intellectual property. Senders can set their videos to “self-destruct” after a certain number of days or views—made possible because videos are hosted on mailVU’s servers, so they don’t take up inbox space. These were the reasons that Iowa’s Buena Vista University purchased a customized mailVU platform to integrate with its existing education software.
While mailVU videos already play on most smartphones, an Android app is nearing completion. Future versions of the service will feature detailed, real-time analytics to satisfy their data-hungry business customers who use mailVU for sales and marketing, training, and contests and testimonials. Their “freemium” model lets individuals send messages to friends and family for free, and text-free messages are also a boon to the deaf community, including Toronto’s Centre for the Deaf.
Clearly, they have a whole range of customers to choose (or not choose) from. But if the rise of online education is near, mailVU and other video mail platforms would be smart to listen to this expanding market.
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