EdWeb, a distributor of online educational materials for teachers, has moved to a larger space in Montgomery Commons and is launching a streaming video service that allows teachers to watch continuing education training videos to their hearts’ contents.
Lisa Schmucki, owner and CEO of EdWeb, says her online community has grown to about 120,000 teachers since it launched in 2007. Since the company’s founding, it has also built up an archive of 500 or more educational programs that it now intends to share over streaming video. Users will pay a monthly fee, and schools can buy accounts for their teachers at a discount.
Initially, the programs were live webinars that were sponsored by companies, and free for the teachers watching them. Some of the seminars are about using a particular app or technology product in the classrooms. Others are by nonprofit groups that want to share their expertise with educators. For example, Eden Institute created a program about teaching autistic students. Dorothy Mullen, founder of the Suppers Programs, hosted a seminar about starting gardens in schools to grow healthy food. Crayola sponsored a program about teaching art skills to kids. (For-profit companies can also pay to create “Spotlight Seminars” that showcase their products. No educational credits are awarded for these.)
EdWeb offers videos on teaching the Common Core curriculum, using technology in the classroom, teaching special ed students, managing classrooms, and other topics.
For teachers, the seminars are a way to learn new skills and earn all-important continuing education credits for free. “Teacher professional development is a huge issue these days,” Schmucki says. In New Jersey and several other states, teachers can take EdWeb classes for CE credits. For the sponsors, the courses are a way to reach the 100,000 subscribers in addition to the 3.5 million E-mail addresses on Schmucki’s nationwide teacher mailing list. She sends newsletters to 500,000 addresses at a time.
Schmucki says the program has been growing in popularity. She says earlier this year, 50,000 people in schools all over the country joined in an online webinar with Jean Pennycook, a penguin researcher in Antarctica. She also anticipates high interest in an upcoming series produced by Time Magazine for kids literacy. In April, primate researcher Jane Goodall will host a program, giving kids all over he world a chance to interact with her.
As EdWeb prepares to launch its streaming video service, it is expanding its quarters, moving next door to a larger space in the same office complex. The new digs are double the size of the old office and take up the entire second floor of one of the Montgomery Commons buildings. This gives EdWeb room for its own recording studios. The company now has six full-time staff and about an equal number of independent contractors.
Schmucki hopes the new streaming service will allow teachers to take continuing education even more easily than before. “Like people binge-watch Homeland, they could binge-watch EdWeb,” she says.
Schmucki, a Belle Mead resident, has an entrepreneurial streak in her family. In a previous interview with U.S. 1 (August 21, 2013), she said her mother was a homemaker who opened a high-end gift shop in Morristown. She studied history at Princeton, graduating in 1974, and got a master’s in accounting from New York University in a work graduate immediately after. During the program, she got a chance to see the inner workings of several companies, and was drawn to the advertising department. Following graduation, she took a marketing job at Time-Life books. Since then, she has made her career in education, specializing in product and database development and marketing for MacMillan Book Clubs, Peterson’s Guides, Film Media Group and MKTG Educational Services.
EdWeb is not Schmucki’s first company. She also founded online consulting agency Bridgepoint Marketing services, which puts together customized project teams.
Schmucki says EdWeb has added 20,000 subscribers in the last month alone and has reached countless more educators who took webinars but didn’t sign up as a member. One key to EdWeb’s success so far is its partnership with MCH Strategic Data that began in 2009. MCH, a data broker that says it compiles information on 1.1 million institutions and 8 million people, bought a 30 percent stake in EdWeb. The deal gives EdWeb access to its vast e-mail database of teachers.
Through all the growth, Schmucki says her company has stayed with its mission of serving educators. “A lot of people want to be the next Mark Zuckerberg in ed tech,” she says. But by not making classroom products, EdWeb has skirted the complex privacy issues about gathering student data. It also is able to offer teachers education about the growing panoply of classroom technology they are expected to use.
“Teachers really need help knowing how to use all this technology,” she says.
The strategy has worked so far. With the new office, Schmucki says she expects to continue growing. “We do expect to hire more staff, and now we have room to do that,” she says.
EdWeb.net, 621 Executive Drive, Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540; 800-575-6015. Lisa Schmucki, founder and CEO. www.edWeb.net.