The New Age of Learning: Creating the Ideal Online Learning Experience

Online LearningOnline learning has become a $56.2 billion industry and is expected to double as more than half of all college classes will become eLearning-based by 2019. Despite its stigma as a less acceptable form of learning compared to its traditional in-person counterpart, millions have embraced online classrooms including major universities and Fortunate 500 companies. Harvard and MIT offer publicly available online classes while other websites like Coursera offer up an abundance of free, online classes available from colleges and universities around the world.

Yet in order for online classrooms to overcome negative perspectives, they will have to wholly match the experience of traditional classroom teaching. Poor streaming capabilities, disorganized content and lack of accountability could easily ruin and discredit online education. There are web classrooms doing it right, and they all have a few things in common. Here is how online learning environments of the future will match the in-classroom experience and help improve learning.

They’ll have established seamless, easy-to-use access.
Online classrooms are inherently convenient because you can learn from anywhere – your home, a coffee shop, etc. Things get sticky when it comes to extra steps like software downloads or grainy, lagging streaming quality. Things that inhibit a student from having a seamless experience can discourage them from online learning altogether. Why go through the hassle? Successful online learning environments will be a portal, one easy location, for lectures, trainings, assignments, virtual office hours and more. The web lends itself to convenience; if your classroom doesn’t offer that, it will be disregarded.

They’ll offer the experience and interaction of in-classroom learning.ClassInteract
We’ve been over the convenience aspect of eLearning, but there is something to be said for the experience of sitting in a physical classroom among fellow students. Live interaction with questions and group discussions can spark thoughts that might not cross students’ minds if they weren’t engaged with each other. It is possible to capture that in-classroom experience online; it’s just a matter of having the right tools that allow students to see who they’re learning with and interact with them in real-time. We’ve built ClassInteract to do just that—it allows up to 25 students to attend class via their webcams, which enables more meaningful communication with their classmates. Asking live questions via a chat function and otherwise making an online class feel like a traditional classroom is important. An isolated, stay-at-home learning experience simply won’t cut it anymore.

They will enhance collaboration.
Traditional education is full of group projects and late night study sessions with peers. While they might not always be fun, they allow for a level of collaboration that helps students motivate and learn from one another. But these opportunities for collaboration should not be restricted to an in-person environment. Online classrooms that are designed to help students succeed will include discussion boards or separate group video sessions for students. They’ll create a sense of community that encourages students to learn from and empower each other.

They’ll provide access to professors.
Office hours are an integral part of everyday education. Having access to professors who are experts in their field adds major value to in-person learning. Hearing the thoughts of those experts delivered directly to the student can jumpstart thinking in new and previously unimagined ways. When your professor is located hundreds of miles away, it can be difficult to get that one-on-one time. But with today’s technologies, virtual office hours are a more viable way of getting this personal feedback than ever before. With the flick of a webcam, a professor can engage with a student “face-to-face” and build their relationship just like they do in-person at colleges and universities.

We’ve had the pleasure of working with organizations like Yale University and Pearson to further online education, with the goal of assisting in embodying all of the qualities above. As online classrooms grow in number, so should access and interactivity.

What would entice you to learn online? Let us know in the comments.

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Super Bowl XXIX vs. Super Bowl XLVIII: A Tale of Two Viewing Experiences

Watchitoo Second ScreenOn Sunday, the Denver Broncos will go head-to-head with the Seattle Seahawks in the king of all American sporting events: Super Bowl XLVIII. Millions will tune in, tensely cheering on our team of choice, picking out favorite advertisements and stuffing our faces with chicken wings and nachos. How the game will turn out on Saturday is to be determined, but one thing is certain: our viewing experience today is very different from that of the past.

Let’s go back almost twenty years to Super Bowl XXIX. The year is 1995 and the San Diego Chargers are pitted against their fellow Californians, the San Francisco 49ers, in Miami. ABC was home to the Super Bowl broadcast, and it was the first time that 30-second ads surpassed the $1,000,000 mark, going for $1.15 million. Tony Bennett and Patti Labelle sang during the half-time show which ended with the song ‘Can You Feel the Love Tonight’ from the Lion King. (Yes, that movie came out in 1994. We feel old.)

iPhones didn’t exist, nor did Twitter. The game was watched among friends and family with zero digital interruptions. We had no way of knowing what Joe in Denver thought about a certain play or what Cindy in Tennessee was thinking about during that last touchdown. Our thoughts were restricted to the room and the people with which we shared our viewing experience.

Things are a bit different now. The introduction of social media and second screens to our viewing process has changed the game (pun intended). This year, much like the last, the event will be more social than ever with viewers using social networks to share thoughts, commentary and visual content. They’ll be looking to second screen applications like Facebook-acquired SportStream to streamline social chatter and check stats real-time.

The ads have also expanded beyond the TV screen. While a television spot is still most coveted on Super Bowl Sunday (going for around $4 million for a 30-second ad), it’s not surprising to see more social, cross-platform approaches.  For example, for a consecutive year Doritos invited people to create their own Super Bowl ad, which in turn is voted on by the public. The winner is aired during the game. And who can forget Oreo’s big moment last year when they stepped up their real-time marketing game following the power outage? Their tweet was as popular as any TV ad that aired that night.  Who will be this year’s real-time marketing champion?

It’s about more than just brands though. Social media and sports are a match made in heaven. People can now interact with their favorite athletes, sports reporters and fellow fans anywhere, anytime. There were over 30.6 million social media comments during last year’s Super Bowl, and this year is expected to exceed that number thanks to increased use and cross-platform integration from brands.

Roger Sherman Twitter Interaction

Times have certainly changed, and the interactivity between the TV broadcast and the second screen experience will continue to grow. People are now connecting with their favorite sports reporters and fellow fans throughout the game from anywhere. But for all the differences between now and Super Bowl XXIX, there is something that played a role in both games: Full House. Yes, you heard that right. Prior to the game in ’95, the show aired an episode where Becky and Danny were at the game on assignment covering their hometown team, the 49ers. This year, a few our Full House favorites have reunited for Dannon Oikos yogurt ads.

How will you be watching the Super Bowl this year?

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5 Ways Marketing Made Simple TV is a TV show and not just a web show

Ever since Marketing Made Simple TV was created in May of 2012, our business model was clear.

We wanted Marketing Made Simple TV to be the Oprah show of the internet.

If you’re not familiar with Oprah, her TV show was syndicated all over the USA, so if you want to reach the massive audience, you had to deal with Oprah’s production company, Harpo Productions. Lots of companies did so and Oprah became a very wealthy woman.

The Oprah concept is why syndication is so important to Marketing Made Simple TV. One of my most important jobs as Creator and Host is to find and recruit the best syndication sites. We’re proud that popular sites like Business2Community.com, SocialMediaToday.com, and CustomerThink.com all syndicate the show.

However, if your business model is Oprah, you’re also thinking of television and not the web show of talking heads you find online. To create an online TV show, we needed a platform that supported our television concept. We found our answer in Watchitoo.

It might be helpful to think about what makes for a good TV show. After all, we cannot deliver great business ideas and insights for you – if we cannot hold your attention. After all, we must entertain too.

There are five main characteristics of a TV show, and we are thrilled that Watchitoo gives us all five.

  1. Director
    This is the first of the key differences. Skype, Google Hangouts and the like are user driven – anyone can join in. But TV shows have directors who orchestrate the production. Marketing Made Simple TV has a director too – Craig Yaris of Social Ribbit.
  2. Camera Changes
    One of the problems with standard web video is that watching everyone on the screen all the time quickly gets dull.  Yawn! TV shows switch camera views – from the host to the guest and back. (Think of a show like Face the Nation.) Marketing Made Simple TV works the very same way, even if the host and guest(s) are thousands of miles apart. The Director executes the camera changes and Watchitoo’s ability to instantly activate and deactivate webcams is amazing.
  3. B-Roll Content
    If you’ve ever watched the evening news, you’ve seen the videos or images that play over the shoulder of the host. That’s called B-roll content, and our director can call up content such as slides, images and video clips in the show. For instance, when Lisa Arthur, CMO of Teradata Applications wanted to discuss the 5 Steps to Data Driven Marketing with the audience, the Director brought up her slide on the five steps, so she could talk from it. That’s quick and easy in Watchitoo, and it goes into the recorded show, as well as doing a nice job of educating the viewers.
  4. Green Room
    In the world of television, a “green room” is an off-screen room used to prepare for an appearance – makeup, check tie and teeth etc. In the world of online Television, we have the same concept. After the host asks a question, he goes off-screen into the “green room.” Watchitoo makes this process easy and seamless for us.
  5. Minimal Post Production Editing
    While this is the fifth and final point, it’s also the biggest.  A big expense and use of time is editing. A good friend of mine, Gerhard Gschwandtner, creates a lot of online videos for Sales20Circle.com using a very slick tool call Vsee, but the recorded video requires extensive editing to make it presentable. The finished product looks terrific, but it is a lot of work.

With Watchitoo, Marketing Made Simple TV has lots of TV capabilities in the platform. As a result, we do only minimal editing of shows to make them production ready. This saves us massive time and expense. (With their new StreamingPro release it needs even less editing, as the audio quality is vastly improved.)

Thanks in many ways to Watchitoo, Marketing Made Simple TV is a popular and highly syndicated TV show that interviews the smartest business leaders on Earth. It also gets tons of favorable press too.

We also want to make sure you know that our goal is to deliver ideas and insights to help YOU improve your business results. After all, Marketing Made Simple TV was made for you.

Our vision created the show. Watchitoo makes our vision possible. Without Watchitoo, Marketing Made Simple TV would be a much weaker and more labor intensive show. We at Marketing Made Simple TV are committed to the Watchitoo platform.

What do you think? I love to read your comments and appreciate those who share on social media too.

Jeff Ogden, the award-winning marketing expert, is Creator and Host of Marketing Made Simple TV. He formerly hosted Mad Marketing TV for Act-On Software. He holds a degree in Marketing from the University of Notre Dame, where it’s said they give “40 year degrees, not 4 year degrees.”

Marketing Made Simple TV premieres every Thursday at noon ET/9am PT at www.marketingmadesimple.tv. 14 days later it syndicates all over the internet. We hope you check it out.

You can contact the Host of the show, by emailing Jeff at host at marketingmadesimple.tv.

- Contributed post by Jeff Ogden, Host of Marketing Made Simple TV

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Watchitoo Launches Enhanced Version of StreamingPro to Power Scalable Live Online Video Broadcasts to a Global Audience

New Browser-Based Video Collaboration Platform Boosts Audience Engagement through Multi-Participant HD Video, Multi-Language Support and Cohesive Branding

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – NOVEMBER 19, 2013 – Today from the Streaming Media West conference, Watchitoo released the latest version of StreamingPro, a cloud-based video collaboration platform that powers some of the world’s leading live events, webinars and broadcast experiences. The enhanced StreamingPro offering is ideal for businesses and brands seeking deep interaction with a global online audience in real-time.

StreamingPro is an embeddable video platform that allows the audience to become part of the show through interactive features, such as multi-streaming video chat, live polling, and Twitter, Facebook and text chat. The latest version features a new, intuitive design that makes it easy for presenters and participants alike to watch and engage in live discussions through high-definition video and shareable content. In addition, new multi-language capabilities and high-definition recording brings an enhanced event experience to viewers around the world.

“StreamingPro allows anyone from small businesses and start-ups to large enterprise companies and networks to produce professional webinars, live events and interactive online programming ,” said Rony Zarom, founder and CEO of Watchitoo. “As we see at Streaming Media West, brands aspire to reach audiences in unique ways. We are thrilled to provide a platform that helps businesses better engage with their audiences, extend their reach and provide new revenue streams while maintaining their branding .”

StreamingPro’s new powerful production tools drive meaningful, effective events for brands. Presenters are able to manage audience video feeds, drawing engaged questions and discussion from up to 25 participants simultaneously. Some of the key features include:

  • Cloud-Based Content Channels – Hosts auxiliary materials for live, on-screen annotations or post-show reference. As a result, presenters and participants have easy access to documents that enrich the live event experience.
  • Clickable Layers – Provides brandable on-screen calls-to-action via live links and buttons. These give hosts and sponsors customized in-event opportunities to re-market to event attendees.
  • Branding Customization – Enables clients to customize the design and implementation of a brand-specific video interface so that the brand experience is seamless to the end user.
  • Enhanced Polling – Allows previously-designed questions to be administered to an audience with downloadable results for post-event analysis. This provides hosts with current information on viewer engagement, comprehension and attitudes.

StreamingPro powers some of the world’s leading online events, including live after-shows for Bravo TV’s Watch What Happens Live and Lifetime’s Project Runway as well as live streaming of the 1776dc Challenge Cup and TEDx Lower East Side. To learn more about StreamingPro and Watchitoo’s suite of video collaboration offerings, visit www.watchitoo.com/streamingpro.

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Want to Make Online Learning Work? Turn Students into the Stars

The move by universities and colleges to make more courses available online often meets resistance from students who want to ensure they’re getting the best learning experience possible as they pay increasingly more for the privilege of a higher education. That’s why it was a big surprise when a top Ivy League institution received glowing accolades for a recent online class.

Not only was there an 86 percent improvement in engagement over previous online courses, but students gave the class a 9-out-of-10 when it came to “quality expected from this university.” So, what made the difference? The answer may lie in students’ increasing comfort in the spotlight.

The Ivy League university took a unique approach to delivering its online course. Wanting to mimic the in-person classroom experience as much as possible, it not only delivered a live video feed of the professor but also of the 25 students – simultaneously.

YouTube, FaceTime and video chats are the norm for today’s students who grew up in the midst of a visual sharing revolution. Seeing videos of themselves in a live online class helps them feel more connected, while also enabling them to communicate visually with each other. This not only fosters community and accountability but also the creation of a more conducive learning environment.

Professors in the program agreed. One wrote, “…unlike in class seminars, it is easy to point out who is/isn’t engaging…It’s actually easier to push students to have quality discussions and engage seriously with the material in the on-line [sic] format than it sometimes is in-class.”

This is big. I’ve previously written in Wired about the challenges online education has faced in generating a high quality, engaging learning environment. Yet by making students the stars, this university managed to make an online course surpass the in-person classroom experience when it came to student satisfaction. One student wrote on their evaluation, “…[B]ecause the class was entirely online I felt more comfortable contacting my professor or TA…sometimes it can be intimidating to go to a professor with a silly question. This greatly facilitated student-professor interaction.”

The value of incorporating mass video participation like this transcends simply pleasing today’s students or placating the unfair “me generation” characterization. Quality online education empowers the future workforce. In August 2013, President Obama described online courses as a major component of a larger plan to reform higher education. He cited Georgia Tech’s online Master’s in Computer Science program, which billed at a fraction of the cost per credit hour of the in-person program. The President said: “…a lot of other schools are experimenting with [online] ideas to keep tuition down. They’ve got other ways to help students graduate in less time, and less cost, while still maintaining high quality. The point is it’s possible. And it’s time for more colleges to step up with even better ways to do it.”

Not only is engaging, two-way video learning saving students money, it is also cost-effective for institutions. While seminars and discussion groups routinely have the highest levels of engagement and student satisfaction among university courses, they are expensive to offer because they require physical classroom space and an instructor who can lead a limited number of classes in a given place on a given day. Advanced video classes, with cameras on students and teachers, means an institution can offer the same intimate, engaging learning atmosphere of a focused seminar while avoiding many costs.

The time is right for online learning to take a great leap forward. Enabling high quality discussions and live debate, plus giving instructors real-time engagement metrics may emulate or even improve upon the traditional classroom. With educational access crucial to our country’s future, do you think making students the stars of their own education is the key to success?

Rony Zarom is founder and CEO of Watchitoo (www.watchitoo.com).

Posted in Wired Innovation Insights September 5, 2013
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Who’s going to pay for MOOCs? Anyone?

Free MOOC platforms still have operating costs and providers will one day hope to turn a profit. How much will these courses be worth?

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) have undeniable appeal: they can support hundreds of thousands of students, are accessible to all, are taught by top faculty at prestigious universities, and, of course, are free…at least for now.

MOOC platforms have operating costs and providers would eventually hope to turn a profit, so the gravy train will end at some point. How much will these courses be worth? First, we need to figure out if MOOCs will cannibalize revenue or grow it. On one hand, the sheer volume of students’ taking free for-credit courses could tamp down the demand for traditional brick-and-mortar, tuition-based learning and thus depress the prices. On the other hand, if universities are getting a percentage of enrollment fees, then it could potentially be a lucrative venture.

One thing is certain: students will pay only if MOOCs provide value. So what constitutes value? Well, learning is a uniquely complex commodity with a host of factors that figure into how much they are typically willing to fork over, including: prestige of the university, degree programs, quality of professors, course content, class sizes, student profiles, social factors, financial aid, proximity or convenience, career placement and more. Some of this is present in a MOOC, but it’s not clear where the boundaries are. For example, will you make professional contacts for life through your MOOC? Maybe, maybe not. Focusing on the overall learning experience can help develop a solid value proposition that spans the myriad demand factors and lays a foundation for pricing for the masses.

Value-added knowledge?
So how do the MOOC experiences stack up in terms of a solid learning experience? Currently, MOOCs seem to be viewed as value-added knowledge as evidenced by the low retention rates they’re reporting. Many reasons explain low retention, including the basic fact that they are free, so students can be non-committal. The cost of taking a free course is only time, so why not take a course from a prestigious university taught by a top professor? The course may or may not advance a career, but will satisfy a curiosity.

Another reason MOOC’s may be showing low retention rates is the lack of real-time interactivity. Udacity, Coursera and edX follow the same mold: a series of recorded lectures followed with assignments. None of which involve personal interaction with the professor or other students. The platforms, and in some cases the professors themselves, send emails to remind students to participate. Threaded discussion forums and quizzes are also designed to boost engagement, but is that all there is?

Increasing interactivity and offering something akin to a “real” face-to-face classroom experience would provide much more value to these courses and boost the low retention rates. For example, integrating Web-based videochat into the experience will enable students and professors to discuss, debate, present and just make the learning experience more multi-dimensional. Ultimately, adding synchronous learning elements help restore integrity of the classroom environment, just as they have in some closed distance-learning programs.

If you don’t interact with anyone, who’s going to miss you when you drop out? And if you drop out, who’s going to pay for the course? The bottom line is that MOOCs are business propositions whether they’re used mainly for promotion of the brand or, eventually, as a direct revenue source. Either way, why not make them better?

Rony Zarom is founder and CEO of Watchitoo (www.watchitoo.com).

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What ‘MOOCs’ are missing

In theory, MOOCs are miraculous: you take a college course for free with an Ivy League professor , and you never need to show up in the classroom. If you’re anyplace on the planet, well-appointed office or dirt-floor hut, just log in and partake of the world-class education.

A MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) can have tens of thousands of ad hoc students representing every time zone on the planet. But often, only a tiny fraction will finish the course.

Because of the immense student-teacher ratio, professors naturally keep their distance from the learners. The school typically loads a recorded lecture onto the course page and lets students view it when they can. They take quizzes and tests and carry on with the course in relative isolation except for occasional discussion board conversations. They’ll post a question or comment and go back later to see how, or if, anyone else has responded.

Distance learning of this kind is indeed distant. In a MOOC, you can’t raise your hand or tap a classmate on the shoulder to get a simple question answered so you can proceed with your learning. Often it’s the circumstance challenging the student more than the course material.

In Duke University’s recent bioelectricity MOOC, only 313 students completed all course requirements out of more than 12,000 registrants. Of those who made it to the first two quizzes, only 25 percent completed the course. There are a lot of reasons for dropping out of a MOOC, some totally out of the  institution’s control, but one of those reasons has to be the feeling of isolation.

The reality is that with thousands of students looking to just one professor, there’s just no conceivable way to create the kind of high-touch interaction, engagement and real-time feedback of a traditional face-to-face classroom.

Or is there?

Well, traditional distance-learning courses – those limited to a school’s duly admitted students – are finding a way. They’re increasingly replicating the essential face-to-face, in-classroom experience by incorporating live videoconferencing into courses.

As many as 25 students can appear on the screen through their webcams while legions of others follow along. The professor can lecture, lead discussions, counsel individuals and even hold office hours entirely online. Classroom sessions can be recorded for students with work and family obligations that keep them from joining at the appointed time.

Why not try some of this in MOOCs? Offer one or two live, interactive sessions a week? Or take one of your school’s many MOOCs and make it totally synchronous (education jargon for live)? You could call it an “MSOC” for Massive Synchronous Online Course. Would it get out of hand because of the crowds? Actually, it shouldn’t. Videoconferencing tools make it easy to decide who can appear “on stage,” who can talk and when they can talk. It doesn’t always have to be 25 students on the screen. It could be 12, half a dozen, two or one.

Here’s another idea: Why not give students videochat tools to form once-a-week interactive study groups? Certainly, some MOOC students are connecting on Facebook or in real life, but it’s hit or miss. “Consider my history study group, which met at a Brooklyn diner,” writes A.J. Jacobs in a recent New York Times piece. “I showed up, but no one else did.”

Here we have an Internet that has presented the world with an enormous opportunity to democratize education, to bring stellar learning opportunities to the most deprived corners of the planet. Yet we haven’t found a way to make the experience tolerable.

For MOOCs to succeed, students need to feel they’re interacting meaningfully with the people in their class, starting with the professor.

Why not try?

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Watchitoo Powers Worldwide Student Assembly with Alan Alda

Eleven-year-olds around the world seek simple answer to profound question

Last year, the question was “What is a flame?” This year: “What is time?” Through his association with Stony Brook University and the Alan Alda Center forCommunicatingScience, Alan Alda is helping students around the world work through these questions.

The Center reached out to scientists in the second Flame Challenge to explain “What is time?” to an eleven-year old audience. By the March 1st deadline, hundreds of scientists submitted answers to this year’s question from around the globe, including England, China, Thailand, Australia, Japan, and Italy. And, again this year, eleven-year-olds from around the world joined Alda in an interactive, videoconference conducted on the Watchitoo HD videoconferencing, live streaming and collaboration platform to discuss the finalists and vote for their favorites. This Worldwide Assembly took place on April 30th.

Students in the Watchitoo videoconference viewed the challenge entries and talked with Alda and their peers around the globe about the entries. Each class appeared on the screen with Alda, at one point alongside a streaming contest entry. Meanwhile, viewers from around the world typed questions and comments through the Watchitoo platform.

While the votes are being tallied check out the finalists here, or watch Alda talk about the entries with some of the student judges at http://www.centerforcommunicatingscience.org/the-flame-challenge-2/#.

Watchitoo enables up to 25 individuals or groups to join an interactive online HD videoconference and hundreds of thousands to follow the conversation. Unlike other conferencing and streaming software, Watchitoo can be embedded in a customer’s website, blog or Facebook page and customized with their own branding.

“Through technology advances, classrooms are expanding and students are learning from peers around the globe,” said Watchitoo CEO Rony Zarom. “It’s truly inspiring to see how students respond when you bring them face to face with new people, communities, content and ways of interacting.”

Winners for this year’s challenge will be announced at the World Science Festival on June 2nd.

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‘Reboot: Education’ Event Answers How & Why Education Needs to Change

Why does education need to change and how will it happen?

That’s the topic of the “Reboot: Education” event  tonight, May 20, in Washington, D.C. Leaders from Pearson, Coursera, 2U, the US Department of Education, Watchitoo and more will be both on hand and brought in via the Web to discuss how the industry is changing and how they are responding to the challenges. The live stream of the event, powered by Watchitoo will be live from 7:45pm-9pm ET http://1776dc.com/rebooteducation/.

The event, hosted by DC tech incubator, 1776dc, is preceded by a fireside chat led by Jeff Selingo, Chronicle of Higher Education editor and author of “College (Un)Bound.” It will include 250 confirmed on-site guests from the U.S. Department of Education, regional universities and Capitol Hill staff.

Speakers will have the opportunity to address the question of why education needs to change, and how that can be accomplished, either live on-site or brought in virtually through Watchitoo. Online viewers of “Reboot: Education” will be able to view the conversation, ask questions and post comments on their social networks.

The live stream of the event, powered by Watchitoo will be live from 7:45pm-9pm ET.

Tune in and join the conversation:

http://1776dc.com/rebooteducation/

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