Amazon announced on Monday a free digital classroom utility called Amazon Inspire, which will be an educational marketplace similar to Amazon’s original website — with search, user reviews, and a five-star rating system. Only, when Inspire moves out of the beta version in August or September, it will be free.
“To truly transform learning in our schools and ensure educational equity for all students — regardless of grade level or zip code — it is crucial that we put high- quality, open educational resources at teachers’ fingertips,” says Joseph South, director of the office of technology at the U.S. Department of Education. Why is a government official involved? It’s part of “Amazon’s support of the U.S. Department of Education’s #GoOpen initiative,” announces a press release.
Speculation around Amazon’s move to education has been growing over the past few months. As Inverse recently reported, teachers at the for-profit education startup Udemy have been poached by Amazon to post courses on Amazon’s new service. We didn’t know what was in store until Amazon’s announcement on Monday. Udemy’s teachers can make six-figure incomes through selling their online classes and teaching material. Material posted on Amazon Inspire, however, will be free and directed toward a younger audience.
Open education would help level the playing field for schools that don’t have access to, or the money to access, learning materials protected by copyright. Of course, the schools will also need a computer or tablet and a strong internet connection to access the learning materials Amazon Inspire will provide as well.
Sites like Udemy have found success in the self-education crowd who don’t want to attend or can’t afford high-profile colleges and universities, yet still want to improve their skill sets. Amazon Inspire wants to bring that type of customized education to K-12.
Teachers will be able to use smart search to find educational material specific to grade level, standards, and school districts. Once the correct classes and information are found, they can be put into collections that can then be shared with other teachers and reviewed by people around the country.
Amazon Inspire will be free, despite Amazon being a for-profit company. Andrew Joseph, vice president of strategic relations for Amazon Education, confirmed that the venture will remain free all the way back in February — months before Amazon Inspire even had a public name.
“We’re not going to lock the content up.”
“Amazon is a big commercial entity and we have to make this sustainable over time,” Joseph said to Market Brief. “This piece we have committed to making absolutely free forever. We’re not going to lock the content up. We promised we won’t put a pay wall in front of it.”
Revenue streams could come from associated books teachers will want to buy or self publish in addition to the online content, Joseph also said.
For teachers and students, Amazon Inspire means more reliable access to quality online education material. It has the potential to give the country’s youth an equal starting point regardless of location and funding and make the digital classroom a reality.