Flip Your Class: Knowmia vs TED-Ed

Last semester, I listened to Dr. Jennifer Spohrer’s presentation, Blended Learning in a Liberal Arts Setting, hosted by NITLE. While blended / flipped learning offers  the opportunity to engage with students in a different way, one point of pain for faculty is time. It takes time to create lessons. It takes time to record lectures. It takes time to edit video.

One lesson I learned early on when I worked on digital library projects was to embrace the three R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse, and recycle. It all comes back to time and using your time effectively. Just because you can code something, doesn’t mean you should. The same applies to flipped lessons. As a subject expert in your discipline, you can create online lessons for your students to view. Of course, being a subject expert does not you are necessarily a wonderful online lecturer, but still you can create an online lesson. The question is should you?

Reduce Time and Reuse Preëxisting Lectures

A great start for faculty members who want to test out flipped learning without investing a lot of time is to locate lectures which they may use in their classes. Don’t organize a whole class around flipped learning, but find one or two videos that seem pertinent. Two resources are Knowmia and TED-Ed. Due to a cluttered design, over abundance of ads, and unfortunate name, I’ll mention TeacherTube as another site that exists, but one you may not want to use.


knowmia-iconKnowmia is a startup founded by Ariel Braunstein and Scott Kabat. The current focus of the company is on high school students and the lessons reflect that demographic. Users may create an account and upload their own videos, or can bypass the registration process and use a preëxiting video. The videos I viewed were not that captivating or well produced. Since it’s a crowd-sourced venture, the service may have some growing pains as content shifts from quantity to quality. Further, before you start adding content to Knowmia, make sure you review the terms of service as you’ll be giving the company:

a worldwide, non-exclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, fully paid, sublicensable and transferable license to use, modify, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, perform, and otherwise fully exploit the User Submissions in connection with the Sites, the Service, and Knowmia’s (and its successors’ and assigns’) business, including without limitation for promoting and redistributing part or all of the Sites (and derivative works thereof) or the Service in any media formats and through any media channels (including, without limitation, third party websites).

Remember, “If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.” That said, Knowmia has a slick iPad app, Teach, which you can use to create and edit video lectures. It’s intuitive and allows users to record video for each slide, and then put the whole thing together. Videos can be exported and you can upload them to Youtube or Vimeo. If you’re concerned about the terms of service, you can keep your exported videos on Youtube or load them into another service.



TED-Ed is an offshoot of the nonprofit TED and provides a service similar to Knowmia, but without the aggressive terms of service. Refreshingly, their TOS is not written in legalese and basically amounts to, don’t be a jerk. While users/teachers can create video lectures, TED-Ed actively solicits content creation by pairing an subject expert with an animator. The result is a well-produced video that is engaging and informative. If you’re curious, you can view the video below as an example or click here to see the video and the materials which support the lesson.

The lessons are then further shaped by multiple choice questions, open-ended questions and additional resources. The multiple choice quizzes are for quick assessment and to help students learn. Going back to that whole reduce, reuse, recycle mantra, TED-Ed encourages users to reuse existing videos and recycle assessment questions by allowing users to easily “flip this lesson.”

When a lesson is “flipped,” you can give it a new title, description; update, delete, and add your own questions, and create your own resource page for further information. It’s a very open model and it’s all packaged in a design focused on simplicity. If you wish to create a brand new lesson, you may import any video hosted on Youtube, whether it’s of your own making or not.

In Summary

Both Knowmia and TED-Ed provide similar services, but diverge in their approach and design. Is there a compelling reason to use Knowmia over TED-Ed? At this point, I don’t see it. TED-Ed has a sleeker design. It’s approach to “flipping” lessons encourages community and the terms of service are fair. If Knowmia brings content creators into a revenue stream that may change the situation, but really, how many educators are creating flipped lessons to earn extra cash?

Your Experience

This is where I turn it back to you, the reader. Have you used either Knowmia or TED-Ed in your classes? Have you created lessons or reused preëxisting ones? What’s been your experience with these services?

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  1. Pingback: Academic Technology Links for January 25, 2013 — Academic Technology

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