Summary:

Lifelong learning startup Curious wants to provide teachers of all kinds with the web tools to build their own online classrooms and reach a wider audience of students.

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When Curious launched this spring, its focus was offering lifelong learners a marketplace of bite-sized lessons on everything from beer brewing and salsa dancing to calculus and coding. Now, it’s upping its attention on the other side of the learning equation: teachers.

For the past few months, in an effort to ensure quality classes, the site has recruited its teachers and given them in-house support to create their classes. On Friday, the company said it had opened up its service so that teachers anywhere can create classes of their own.

“We think there are thousands of things to teach and ways to teach and you’ll never be able to build all the content yourself,” said CEO and founder Justin Kitch. “This is all in the name of helping teachers become entrepreneurs.”

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Kitch is hardly a stranger to web services. In the late-1990s he launched Homestead, a web hosting company for small businesses that later sold to Intuit. Just as his earlier company enabled small business owners to a set up shop online, his vision for Curious is to provide “teachers of all stripes” with the tools to build their own online classrooms and reach a wider audience of students.

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The site’s lesson-builder software enables teachers to easily create interactive lessons that blend video, text and images, and include multiple choice questions, hints and other engagement features. And the site includes a “teacher’s lounge,” where teachers can access resources on how to shoot and edit video, market and monetize their lessons, and effectively communicate with students.

Curious isn’t the only startup courting lifelong learners with online lessons on topics that tend to run more creative and practical than academic. Companies like CreativeLIVE, Craftsy and Betterfly have popped up in the last few years to target hobbyists and enthusiasts. And some of Curious’ more business-oriented content is similar to that found on lynda.com and other sites with professional development content.

Even its interest in helping teachers elevate their profiles (and beef up their bank accounts) isn’t so unlike that of Udemy and Pluralsight, which say teachers on their platforms have earned six figures or more.

But Curious is trying to carve out a niche for itself as a place for more casual, digestible learning on a broader range of topics, with classes that are between five and 15 minutes long, instead of an hour or more each. Also, Kitch’s background makes it a particularly interesting startup to watch.

The company, which has raised $7.5 million, is currently free but plans to rollout a micropayment system in the future. It currently includes more than 3,000 online lessons in 100 categories.

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