Using Information Technology to Improve Parent-Teacher-Student Communication

I have interviewed Edtech entrepreneur Özlem Turhan from Classloom in Istanbul, Turkey. Learn about her motives for starting Classloom, how her business model works and the challenges she is facing.

Watch the interview with EDTECH entrepreneur Özlem Turhan

Transcript:

Hans-Peter Bech:
Today I am interviewing Edtech entrepreneur Özlem Turhan the founder and CEO of classloom.com. Good morning Özlem, how are you?

Özlem Turhan:
Good morning from Istanbul. I am doing great, what about you?

Hans-Peter Bech:

I am doing great, too, thank you.
I understand that you received the Stevie Award for Best New Product or Service of the Year — Consumer Services in New York last year. Please explain briefly what that is.

Özlem Turhan:
Yes, we were awarded with the Bronze Award. We are very happy to be nominated as a finalist and for receiving the bronze award. It is also so motivational and inspiring to see all other successful female achievers from all over the world and to be a member of this innovative and entrepreneurial community. This award is so special for us because it comes less than one year after we started the company.

Hans-Peter Bech:
Congratulations, that is certainly well deserved. So Özlem, tell us briefly, what is classloom.com?

Özlem Turhan:
Classloom is like a closed version of Facebook for teachers, parents and students. Our objective is to improve teacher/parent and teacher/student communication to be more efficient and interactive.

Hans-Peter Bech:
How does Classloom work?

Özlem Turhan:
A teacher can open a group for her class in the Classloom and invite all class parents or students to that group. Groups are closed groups and allow teachers to share all class related events, homework assignments, exam schedule, documents, announcement and photos with parents or students.

The system sends auto emails whenever there is an update in the group. This way parents become aware of what is going on their child’s school life and never miss anything.

Classloom is a free of charge platform and just a desktop or mobile device with an internet connection is enough to access the system.

Currently we have hundreds of teacher/parent or teacher/student groups and five thousand users use Classloom as a medium for class communication and collaboration.

It’s a very easy to use tool and makes teacher’s life easier and increases parent and student engagement.

Hans-Peter Bech:
Why did you start this company?

Özlem Turhan:
Parents and teachers are two of the most influential contributors to a student’s educational success and we know that good communication between student and teacher is one major key to educational success. This triangle has to be in a continuous communication to ensure that the student is doing well both in school and outside of school.

When parents and teachers communicate with one another, they are able to support student learning together more effectively.

Classloom is an internet technology available any time anywhere that makes this communication and collaboration timely, efficient, productive, and satisfying for both parties.

As a mother of three and as an entrepreneur experienced in software industry I saw this important need and decided to offer a complete solution to the market.

Our vision is to be the medium which makes teachers and parents able to work together towards a common goal of facilitating the best educational experience possible for students.

We believe that Classloom can contribute positively to get more value out of the investments we do as societies and parents in the education of our children. With better educated children we can give them a better life and make the world richer for everyone.

Hans-Peter Bech:
What is your ambition with the company?

Özlem Turhan:
Technology is not only changing the way students learn — it is also reshaping the way parents and teachers interact.

We can say that technology can break down walls between schools and families. Research confirm that students perform better academically when parents are deeply involved in to their education.

Technologies like Classloom provide convenient, effective and interactive way for communication, information sharing and collaboration. You can access 24 hours a day on the internet and be notified by instant email or mobile app notification whenever there is an update. Most of the current Classloom users (62%) access the platform from their mobile devices, so we literally put the information on how they can support their children into parents’ hands. I think this is amazing.

If a teacher use such a solution for communication and collaboration with her students this way she has the ability to improve, support, help and follow their students outside the school and keep the lines open all the time.

From a business perspective we obviously have competition from others with the same idea, but we see no reason why we shouldn’t make it to the top and become one of the top 5 tools in the the world reshaping this communication and collaboration among teachers, parents and students. With Classloom teachers save time and energy and have more engaged parents and students. This way they can be more focused on educating their students and let them get the best possible education for their lives.

Hans-Peter Bech:
You are offering the service for free. With increasing number of user that is obviously not sustainable in the long run. How do you intend to make money in the future?

Özlem Turhan:
Yes we currently offer our service for free. Despite the enormous value provided we know that teachers and schools, especially public schools don’t have big budgets for such new systems. Our strategy is to continue to offer the basic collaboration platform for free all the time. But increasing number of users means higher costs for maintaining Classloom available all the time and we need money to meet these costs. Most likely parents and vendors will be the sources for future income. We didn’t think too much about it yet and just focused on user generation, but advertising and adding freemium subscription based extra features for schools and parents may be our monetizing options.

Hans-Peter Bech:
What have you achieved so far? Who is using the system and what do they get out of it?

Özlem Turhan:
As the end of December we reached five thousands users and the users visit Classloom on average three times a day and stay six minutes on average for each session. 75 percent of visitors of our web sites are recurring visitors.

From the beginning 12.000 entries posted, 4.000 photos and 1.200 documents uploaded to the system. Users send 3.500 private messages via Classloom to each other. Approximately 150.000 notification emails have been sent to the users. Thus all users kept informed all the time about updates in their groups.

Hans-Peter Bech:
Where do the users come from? Do you target specific countries?

Özlem Turhan:
Classloom was borne in Turkey and I’m a Turkish entrepreneur. So first we focused on our own country, which we know well. There is not any such tool in Turkey at public schools. There are some paid solutions for private schools and they mostly focused on managing the back offices. Even in private schools technology usage for parent communication is not wide spread. So there is a huge need for a solution like Classloom. Of course having business experience and network here in Turkey is an advantage for us to spread in our own country easily. We use digital marketing and social media to attract new users. We have a wonderful blog which we designed as an online magazine and we publish useful contents both for parents and teachers. We use our blog as number one tool for spreading our word on social media. This approach works extremely well.

At the beginning of August last year we added English as a second language option and without doing any promotion we now get users from all over the world. Currently 5 percent of our users are American teachers and parents. USA is a huge market and has 55 million students and 3.5 million teachers. So far we see that American teachers are also in need of solutions for better communication and look for alternative ways. They welcome Classloom and keep sending us motivating feedback. So we have put USA as the second targeted market after Turkey. However, we need to establish our content promotion strategy in the USA and increase our marketing effort.

Even we didn’t promote our solution, interestingly so far we have user accounts from 37 different countries from different geographies like Malaysia, Brazil, Egypt, United Kingdom, France, India, and Saudi Arabia. Actually Classloom can be used by all teachers and parents all around the world who understands some basic English words anyway. They can put content in to the system in their own language. We are planning to translate interface in other languages in near future.

Hans-Peter Bech:
What are your major challenges?

Özlem Turhan:
We are very familiar with the educational environment in Turkey and know how to meet its needs well in terms of contents and product features. Promoting a product and going deeper in a foreign country requires a know-how about that market. My biggest challenge is being able to establish the same marketing strategy and operation which we conduct here in Turkey, in the USA as our second target market. I need someone on the ground who can help me to create native content which fits best for USA education life and teachers’ interest. In general I think I will need content provider partners in each country for better promoting our solution. I hope to find those partners as soon as possible.

Hans-Peter Bech:
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me today Özlem it has been extremely interesting hearing about your project, vision and ambitions. Özlem has promised to give us regular updates on the development of her business so stay tuned for the next interview.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.