CanopyTALKS: What inspired us to build a social learning platform – locking down the concept PART 2
Interviewer: Christian, in the first part of this interview series, you mentioned that the CanopyLAB concept has gone through many iterations in the 3,5 years you have been a business. Could you tell us more about that?
Christian: We started as a platform for youth to explore important topics with one another online. We were pretty much not thinking about creating a for profit business, but were strictly focusing on impact. Along the way, some of the choices we made in the pursuit of building a better product also made us an attractive offering for private companies of all sizes.
Interviewer: What were some of those choices?
Christian: Well, when we got started the elearning industry had an average completion rates of 6-7 % depending on which study you consult. So it was clear that something needed to change.
Sahra-Josephine: For us, the fundamental architecture of a learning platform needed to change. Again, here I was very inspired by some of the trends I noticed during my research, but I needed Christians help to really understand what it was I was seeing.
Interviewer: What were some of those trends?
Sahra-Josephine: First of all, we saw mass mobilisation across borders around social causes such as #BringBackOurGirls and #BlackLivesMatter. Social media began to demonstrate an incredible promise in helping people organise around a social cause. Essentially, you can mobilize millions via the Internet. But there was also a wasted potential. Because how do we translate that potential into action? Through various of my volunteer jobs, I knew that without the needed toolbox, people do not have the skills to change the world they actively rally to change. Rallying is not enough. So, I saw a potential in social media to get people together, but a need for something more to enable and empower action to change whatever cause people are passionate about, ranging from climate change to maternal health.
Interviewer: But now you’re talking about activism and volunteering. What does that have to do with a learning platform?
[…] I would share a lot of my research findings with Christian, who saw the powerful role social media infrastructure could play on a learning platform.
Sahra-Josephine: Essentially, I would share a lot of my research findings with Christian, who saw the powerful role social media infrastructure could play on a learning platform. Another example was my research around Romanian labour migrants in Denmark. I studied an online forum where they did everything from arranging their transportation to Denmark, to vet future employers and crowdsource advice on contracts and labour market conditions in general or at a specific farm. I was amazed by how people with very limited social capital leveraged the knowledge of people they will never meet in order to obtain more rights and better working conditions in Denmark. Again, there was a potential to collectively change their world and their lives, through connecting via an online forum.
Interviewer: And you saw this as evidence for the need for a social media infrastructure on a learning platform?
Sahra-Josephine: I never made that connection, Christian did on a business trip to Lebanon. I think today I see it more as evidence for what you can achieve with the right architecture and how the wrong infrastructure get’s in the way of you achieving what you set out to achieve.
Interviewer: What do you mean by that?
Sahra-Josephine: If we take the example of the Romanian labour migrants, their forum became so popular, that the forum infrastructure became messy and hard to navigate, thus beginning to defeat the very purpose of having the forum to begin with. That made me think about the online learning platforms with a completion rate of 6-7 %. If you could optimize that structure and thereby increase completion rates, or hack your way to an improved learning experience, that was very interesting to me.
We would build a new version of the platform, where a social media architecture would be the foundation of the learning experience. Many other platforms would later incorporate a chat, or a personal profile, but nothing as extensive as what we built.
Christian: I think the moment I said it out loud, it just made sense. We would build a new version of the platform, where a social media architecture would be the foundation of the learning experience. Many other platforms would later incorporate a chat, or a personal profile, but nothing as extensive as what we built.
Sahra-Josephine: And once we launched that version, that is when the first corporate clients came knocking on our door. They don’t suffer from the same completion rates, because essentially their employees are forced to take the courses they offer, especially those related to onboarding or compliance. But that doesn’t mean they enjoyed that experience, and many were willing to pay for a new type of learning experience.
[…] That vision to transform corporate learning, something we have now been working hard at for almost 4 years, that was also a very attractive idea for investors, and once we had locked down that idea, things started to change for us rather quickly.
Christian: And that vision to transform corporate learning, something we have now been working hard at for almost 4 years, that was also a very attractive idea for investors, and once we had locked down that idea, things started to change for us rather quickly.