Maven Courses — On Instructors Of The Future

I first met Wes Kao in New York as an alumni of altMBA10 where she was in a hurry to help people see what they were capable of as co-creator and executive director of Seth Godin’s altMBA.

Wes’ began thinking with precision about marketing a lot earlier than bringing altMBA to life. Wes brought into the world, early stage startups that became brands you’d recognise from any number of Fortune 500 companies. Leading product and marketing at Flite (then acquired by Snapchat) a highlight of the 150+ brand launches *before* working for arguably the marketers marketer, Seth Godin, in the epoch age of the Internet.

Wes was employee #0 for the altMBA. The online course experience like no other in 2015. Her involvement was central to the experience, as students joined in from 500 cities in 45 countries in three years. Being the co-creator to an icon, may have eclipsed her linchpin role where most of the work gets done in a online course delivery. Now, Wes is truly out in front, with an even larger movement in mind, which is why I leaned in to her tweets in early 2021.

Maven Isn’t Your Grandpa’s University

Wes has launched an online platform called Maven, with Co-Founder Gagan Biryani (who co-founded Udemy) …and it’s raised more than eyebrows. Andressen Horowitz chipped in $20m to bring scale to the movement underway. Accelerated by the pandemic, ‘community together’ is bringing people together to learn and delivering a superior student transformation than someone binge watching Youtube learning videos in isolation. For creators, its a game changer too.

Tectonic plates don’t move often, yet the build up of pressure borne on the shoulders of creators who are collectively supporting platforms (instead of platforms supporting creators), is about to breakthrough and reshape the digital landscape.

We’ve been promised this before. So why is this time different? Wes slices and dices the valiant attempts at digital learning in the past on A16Z Future and makes the case for Maven in a content ecosystem that was already shifting.

The Magic Of Togetherness

The magic glue of togetherness will hold for cohort based courses unlike previous attempts that sunk the boat for elearning instructors, MOOC’s or masterful YouTube videos made massively available for free.

altMBA Togetherness
I experienced togetherness in the altMBA. A fellow alumni explained it succinctly.

‘a door was opened on a world I didn’t know existed’.

If you want to learn together, abundant free content sources aren’t enough. You need people and a fixed start and end date to boost the possibilities for people brave enough to leap.

Enter cohort based courses.

The Granite Core of Cohort Based Courses

We’re seeing a new generation of instructors lead by unlocking the potential of learning remotely together, thanks to three granites cores (like the bedrock below the skyscrapers of New York). The granite may barely be visible today, yet as the aftershocks ripple through the accepted distance learning norms of MOOCs, YouTube subscriptions and eLearning, the skyline of the future will tower with a diverse range of cohort based courses we’re only beginning to imagine right now.

New Maven cohort based courses (CBC’s) are being launched weekly.

Let’s explore those granite cores of the Maven platform that the instructors are building upon:

ONE — Remote Together
Remote alone sucks. We know that from remote work experiences through the pandemic. Check-ins, Slack channels and Zoom’s collectively build a togetherness feeling, something that businesses refer to as culture.

At the bedrock of any Maven instructor led experience is frictionless remote together. For instructors, frictionless means Maven can look after all the things that aren’t leading on content but contribute to course experience such as frictionless onboarding, student administration and a white glove coaching layer.

Gagan Biryani drops by to guest lecture a Maven workshop.

TWO — Fresh Perspectives From Real Practitioners
Anshumani Ruddra is a practicing Google Product Manager and his Maven course helps Product Managers avoid a mid-career hump that often becomes a permanent roadblock to their growth. What an amazing opportunity for product managers to get better together through Anshumani’s instruction.

Marissa Goldberg is a Maven instructor on Remote Leadership because she needed to scale the requests she was receiving during the pandemic for advice from leaders. The ultimate course for solving miscommunication from the top as teams virtualise permanently in hybrid models.

Marian Knopp is helping her students build workflows that maximizes your time and attention on what matters to you, with ease. If reaching Inbox Zero in *everything* you do is a goal you have, then the group Marian is bringing together are the people you need.

There are more instructors launching their courses every week and that’s what makes Maven special for students. You have the opportunity to take a handful of courses in the areas that matter to you and accelerate your career or upgrade your business productivity.

THREE — Coach A First Class Instructor Experience
Instructors see the possibility of cohort based courses where we learn together so they’re applying to be selected for Maven in their thousands. Instead of saying yes through to the crowd through a 📢 megaphone, Maven have donned 🤍 white gloves to select instructors that can deliver the highest potential experiences for students. Instructors themselves go through their own transformation through a Maven hosted cohort, that introduces them to concepts like the ‘Course Mechanics Canvas’, developing a ‘spiky point of view’ and the ‘state change method’ as the foundational layers of their new cohort based skyscraper of student transformation are constructed.

“If everyone agreed with you, you are way too middle of the road. Your edges are way too rounded.” Wes Kao on a podcast interview with Chris L. Davis.

Coaching The 2nd Maven Cohort aka #MVN2

The second cohort began at the start of July with a group of founding coaches, that I’m truly honoured to be trusted by at Maven. With Rachel Cai’s Course Management guidance, the coaching cohort is supporting the hopes of creators to change people for the better and the desires of students to be transformed in a group that experiences learning together.

Why Maven Will Win

Ok so let’s recap a little. Why does Maven believe they can build taller where others have attempted but stopped short? It’s the confluence of:

1. Remote Together (technology and community)
2. Fresh Perspectives From Real Practitioners
3. Coaching A First Class Instructor Experience

Of course, there is scaffolding still up on parts of the Maven building and a few floors are yet to receive their final coat of technical paint, but the direction is clear, and it’s upwards and outwards. 🚀

What Maven Says About Maven

Maven helps anyone build a cohort-based course and deliver an incredible student experience at scale.

Unlike small workshops or on-demand online classes, we integrate both live and asynchronous components to engage students without needing to scale up instructor time or support staff.

Our mission is to democratize education through online cohort-based courses.

Right now, many experts and creators don’t have the team, budget, or bandwidth to create a high quality cohort-based course. Inspired by the simplicity and power of tools like Shopify and Substack, we are building a platform that enables the best instructors around the world to build the most engaging and interactive courses.

Our small team has built and run world-class educational experiences at Udemy, AltMBA, Minerva, Google, General Assembly, Socratic, and Shopify. We’re backed by incredible investors including Andreessen Horowitz, First Round Capital, Naval Ravikant, and Arlan Hamilton. We’ve launched sold-out courses for incredible instructors like Li Jin, Anthony Pompliano, Lenny Rachitsky, Sahil Lavingia, and more.

What Wes Brings

Now let’s get back to what you might want to learn about how Wes sees the world because that’s getting magnified by the instructors, coaches and ultimately the student transformation that a Maven CBC experience delivers.

Go a little deeper into her work and you’ll discover how the intentionality of every word is in her essays.

On community she offers the following suggestions:

1. Build trust among students quickly because courses don’t last forever.
2. Culture can be intangible and implicit, but it develops quickly and is hard to change.
3. Communities reveal themselves over time, so there’s only so much you can do to prepare.
4. Handle a wide range of student personas and course topics.
5. Learning first, community second.

Read the full article on the juicy challenges of building course communities.

On value proposition construction she advises:

1. Use before-and-after: Everyone loves a good before-and-after contrast.
2. Pour salt on the wound: No pain, no sale.
3. Show, not tell.

What is the change that Wes seeks to make? Here are her words on founding Maven in October 2020.

“I know the type of impact I want to make: doing work I’m good at that’s needed, with people I respect and who bring me joy. That’s enough. 💜”

Apply to be an instructor for the next Maven cohort.

Or join the next set of engaging Maven courses from world class instructors 🔥

Read the Wall of Love for what Maven is building.

Follow Ryan Jennings on Twitter.

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