Online Educational Classes Help Families who are on the Road
By Callum McLaughlin
Outschool is perhaps the only education program in the world to offer classes on dungeons and dragons. And Pokemon. And My Little Pony.
A quick scroll through the website’s most popular classes reveals courses on the mythology of Harry Potter, Trinidadian music and the architecture of Minecraft. Founded in San Francisco in 2015, Outschool is an international online learning program that seeks to make direct connections with their students and seeks to do so in a way that truly engages with them.
“I had a very standard education in England,” says CEO and co-founder Amir Nathoo. “But a lot of my learning experiences were outside of school.”
After seeing the success of other sharing economy businesses like Airbnb and Uber, Nathoo and his co-founders came up with Outschool as a way to apply the same connected-but-independent brand of business used by those companies to education.
Connecting like Airbnb
In the same way that businesses like Airbnb connect renters with people with spaces to rent, Outschool connects teachers with parents looking for an alternative education program for their children, often parents who travel with their children or are homeschooling them.
In this way, Outschool allows families to get a good something that until recently was impossible unless the parents were education for their children while traveling the world, also able to homeschool their child.
Though Outschool’s devotion to unconventional education has led to some strange class titles in Our School’s roster, beyond their flashy titles lies very real learning experiences. Kids can learn critical thinking through dungeons and dragons and Minecraft can be used to create imaginary cities and thus help children learn about different systems of government.
“I’m able to express the things I’m passionate about, says Astrid Turner, a teacher for Outschool who also uses the program to homeschool her own children.
Traveling in an RV
Before starting her current job Turner was a dance teacher in her local community, but when her son started taking classes with Outschool and she saw that the program offered teaching positions she thought she’d “give it a try.”
Now Turner teaches dance and painting classes and is able to set her own schedule and have steady work while traveling the country with her family in a converted RV.
“I’ve grown in my skills as a teacher,” she says. “I have students on six continents, though I haven’t hit Antartica yet.” Despite this freedom, teachers for Outschool are still held to standards as just as high as those who teach in public and private schools are, being subject to background checks and having each class manually reviewed before becoming available on the site.
The teachers are connected to their students via a video chat, where classes are held mostly in English, which is something Nathoo wishes to see a change soon.
“Right now we have around a thousand teachers and ten thousand classes,” says Nathoo, “But we’re hoping to add a variety of more classes in different languages. We’d like to reach a million kids and have them excited to learn.”
This hope towards future expansion, and the fact that Outschool is currently the only business of its kind paint a good future for the program, and one where it is a vital tool for any parent looking to educate a traveling child.
According to Common Sense Media, Outschool has been rated four stars.
“The site offers links to some online safety tips but also notes that parents should monitor kids’ participation in classes, which can involve interacting with the instructor and other students over a group video chat or posting comments in an online classroom. While courses are offered on sex education or the consequences of drugs, neither class is presented in a way that endorses or promotes these subjects; they’re designed for information only.”
Callum McLaughlin is a writer based in Western Massachusetts who has a passion for experiencing new places and cultures.