Reflections on the past decade or so working in eLearning, supporting isolated learners (Covid series: 1 of 15)
This series of posts is a reflection on the more than a decade of working to support isolated learners with eLearning. In order to add some context, this first post is our story. The series contains posts that are based on our musings over the years. They have been updated to create this series.
Coracle is an EdTech company that provides a specialist B2B Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Our mission is to create a world where no-one is isolated from learning opportunities. Our Digital Learning Platform (DLP) enables skills gap analysis, access to course materials, tests and assessments, evaluation and self-reflection tasks.
A Coracle is a small boat, used since Roman times. These lightweight craft are so portable that fishermen can pick them up and carry them on their shoulders. Coracle Online is synonymous with this flexible vessel. Coracle's users can pick up their studies and carry them with them wherever they go, and access a rich library of knowledge whenever they want.
Over the Christmas break in 2005 James Tweed had a conversation with his brother-in-law, Nader Nanjiani. Nader was working in Dallas for Cisco Systems. His CV at the time included work in interactive media, IP telephony and communications. In 2003 he launched the first ever Cisco online community for certified engineers to support the professional development needs of hundreds of thousands of Cisco customers, partners and prospects. He co-authored "The Business Case for E-Learning" (Cisco press 2004)
Inspired by Nader and looking for a change of direction, following years of shipbroking and trading financial products, James took a proposal to the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers (ICS) to digitise their TutorShip distance learning course. A few months later, Coracle became the exclusive digital reseller for ICS and had delivered the first online maritime courses suitable for preparing candidates for ICS exams.
As Nader said, “I was excited to see James get going with maritime eLearning. It was a great opportunity and provided a lovely case study for my book, "The Power of IP Video”"
Like any lean startup, our journey began with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), which allowed us to collect data to validate our ideas. When we launched, our focus was on delivering maritime courses to individuals. However, extremely high levels of volatility in the shipping sector, following the global financial crisis in 2008/2009, meant we re-worked our value proposition and transitioned to a B2B approach, allowing us to offer our platform to a range of business verticals.
Over the years we have experimented with a range of technical and pedagogical approaches, as well as products and services.
A few select milestones from the journey:
- Various awards, including: 'Marine Media' Finalist, SAP-Brighttalk ‘Go For Growth’, National Customer Service Award, National Business Awards for Best Use of Technology (finalist), Poseidon Challenge Award, Startups Awards 'Best Use of Technology', Running the Gauntlet, Lloyds List 'Innovation Award’.
- Podcasts. Since launching the first podcast in 2007, Coracle rapidly became the leading free-to-air provider of primary source audio market reports and industry intelligence podcasts. We distributed content via ShippingPodcasts.com and iTunes with our audio podcasts covering areas such as the dry cargo markets, tanker markets, container markets, foreign exchange markets, as well as monthly recruitment news, marine insurance and maritime law. These provided a valuable resource to our students. With over 10 million downloads, podcasts gave the company an excellent way to reach people and whilst the team remain big fans of podcasts (indeed, we're flattered that other people have copied us in providing this type of service to the maritime industry and have even copied our shippingpodcast name), the offering inevitably evolved and the stand-alone podcasts feature was consigned to the archives.
- Maritime Twitter Top40. Back in 2010 we started to monitor maritime industry buzz on twitter. Connecting learners with information has always been a core part of our goal and as the use of Twitter became increasingly pervasive, the impact on all industries started to grow. Our approach was to help visitors by aggregating those that influence others in the industry with the Top 40 being refreshed on the 1st of every month to reflect changes over the past month. It was a fun project and helped us evolve our thinking about learner behaviour online.
- Ship It! In 2011 our iPhone app ‘Ship It’ was the #1 Educational/Game app in France, Portugal, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Poland, Turkey, Hungary, Czech Republic, Guatemala and Argentina. The game was also ranked in the top 10 in over 55 countries. We’re planning to relaunch the game as a heritage App later this spring.
- The Learning Line. In 2013 we launched v1.0 of our ‘open and social’ platform. It was known as The Learning Line and was based on the pre-release TinCan API.
- Osprey-VLE. In 2017 we migrated The Learning Line into a major new edition and renamed the platform Osprey-VLE.
- Coracle Inside. Combining out proven Learning Management System (LMS) with patent-pending secure technology, Coracle allows access to digital learning, health, wellbeing, self-improvement and therapeutic content, preinstalled as apps onto laptops or tablets for use by users unable to connect to the internet. Coracle Inside is being currently being rolled out across HMPPS prisons, allowing isolated and vulnerable prisoners in-cell digital learning opportunities.
Today and tomorrow
Based near Cambridge, a centre of EdTech, the company today offers a combination of specialised eLearning software, support services and consultancy. The company ethos is to provide proactive, innovative value-added services to clients and we work hard to maintain a reputation for integrity, high quality service and developing long term relationships.