The tech industry has brought about many recent innovations in business, but perhaps one of the most important for those in food+tech is the trend toward monetizing knowledge. No longer are entrepreneurs solely hoping low paying ads and internet product sales will pay the rent. Technology like webinars, ebooks and apps are helping innovative food companies spread the word, and their wisdom, for profit.
Meet Megan Paska, a Brooklyn homesteader who runs a honey CSA and teaches urban farming workshops, including beekeeping. Starting Sunday, January 22, 2011, Paska will begin leveraging the web to extend the reach of her classes with the launch of her 3-session, online intensive Urban Beekeeping 101 workshop. Only time will tell how profitable these courses will be, but one has only to look to courses taught in other industries, like web development and writing, to see that the model has great potential.
I got a chance to catch up with Paska to learn more about the course and her business model.
Learn how to keep bees by registering here for the Urban Beekeeping 101 Online Seminar.
Danielle Gould: What made you decide to teach your beekeeping course online?
Megan Paska: Many of my readers kept saying they wished they could take one of my classes but they lived too far away. I thought about it and realized that all of my presentations for physical workshops and classes are perfectly suited to teaching a class online as well. I figured since beekeeping is the one topic I feel most comfortable talking about, I would start there!
DG: Is this the first time you will be teaching a class online?
MP: It is, but I’ve taught this exact class many times in person. I’ve tweaked the class to compensate for the lack of hands-on demonstrations and included videos, graphics, and as much visual information as possible so that people feel confident in their ability to understand the components and activities associated with beekeeping.
DG: What is involved with teaching the course online?
MP: The course begins with the basics of honeybees. Presentations given via GoToMeeting will include photographs, info-graphics and videos. I’ll be speaking through the session and at the end of each class, there will be a half hour Q&A session. Students will be given a recommended reading and watching list to continue educating themselves. GoToMeeting is great because it offers a replay option so people will be able to come back and review the course at their convenience.
DG: How many students are able to participate?
MP: I’ve opened the class to 20 to start. As I get more comfortable with the format, I could conceivably open it to twice that amount.
DG: Could you describe your business model?
MP: I’m hoping to create an online curriculum for all of the classes I teach, including original content in the form of graphics and video. I’m still very much in the initial stages of creating what I envision as an “Online City Farming School” with live instructors to answer the questions a YouTube video cannot. I’m offering one-on-one Q&A sessions to any students that purchase the recorded classes because I believe that interacting with a live person with answers can give a person significantly more confidence over just reading and interpreting things they read in a book or blog.
DG: Do you know of other people teaching homesteading courses online?
MP: I’m currently unaware of online classes for general homesteading, but some beekeepers offer specific webinars on topics like queen breeding, genetics, etc. I have taken a few and found them informative, but a little dry. I’m hoping that people will find my webinars not only informative, but exciting. I want people to sense my enthusiasm for the topics even if they aren’t seeing me face-to-face.