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Class Central: 8 Years in the Making

Class Central's 8th anniversary

Class Central just turned eight! This site started out as a side project that I built for myself and launched over Thanksgiving weekend back in 2011.

Over the years, it continued to grow. In 2019, we expanded the team, refreshed the entire site, spoke at multiple international events, and even published a paper in an IEEE conference!

Here’s a recap of some of the changes that took place over the past year.

Expanding the Team

For most of its existence, Class Central was run by a skeleton crew of 2-3 people, including me. After grinding for so long, 2019 finally makes me feel like Class Central is a company.

This year, six new people from six different countries joined Class Central. Being a remote company with no physical offices enabled us to do that. It also enabled me to spend the summer in London, while Scott, our designer and front-end engineer, was able to move to Japan with his family.

We generally prefer to hire people who have taken online courses, and these six are no exception. Welcome to Manoel, Suparn, Rui, Neal, Alister, and Heba! Now we are a team of 10 living in almost as many time zones. We even built an open-source tool to keep track of everyone’s local time — scheduling meetings is tricky!

Team timezones tool
Team timezones tool

Losing the Hyphen

We finally changed our domain name from class-central.com to classcentral.com! Both will still take you to Class Central. The new, non-hyphenated version will simply ensure that no one gets lost on their way there. It looks like a small change, but in today’s internet, it can have a significant impact on engagement. And we think it looks cleaner too.

Developing the Platform

Cleaner Interface & Better Typography

Design refresh
Design refresh

Over the years, we added features gradually. Because of our limited resources, we had to focus on those that were most needed and easiest to implement. Deeper improvements and longer-term design considerations had to wait. So, naturally, pages ended up accumulating design inconsistencies and unwanted weight.

Today’s larger, more well-rounded team gives us the means to take on more time-consuming projects, notably, refreshing the website’s design. This included using a bolder, more readable font and introducing a dedicated button for bookmarking courses. You can find all the details here.

Custom Lists

Custom lists
Custom lists

At the very end of last year, we launched custom lists to allow users to build thematic collections of courses. Our users have since created over 20 thousand custom lists. You can learn more about this feature here.

Help Center

Every month, hundreds of people from all around the world ask Class Central questions about MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), about Class Central itself, and about online learning in general — for instance:

To make it easy to find answers to these questions, we built a Help Center addressing some of the most common queries we receive. And if you can’t find the answer you’re looking for, you can always reach out to us by email. Pat, our support lead, will try to get back to you promptly.

Help center
Help center

Leveraging More Data

But improvements haven’t been limited to the user interface. On the backend, things have been changing too.

In 2019, we improved our data collection methods for existing course providers, notably thanks to Suparn, one of our latest recruits. And we expanded our catalog to include new sources such as Swayam, MiriadaX, ThaiMOOC, IndonesiaX, and France Université Numerique (FUN).

Neal has helped us expand our Subjects taxonomy to improve discovery. We now have over 200 Subjects listed!

To help us manage Class Central’s rapidly expanding catalog, we built an internal dashboard. It allows Bob, our catalog manager, to rapidly locate courses — using searching, filtering, and sorting — and to make on-the-fly changes.

Internal course catalog dashboard
Internal course catalog dashboard

Growing MOOCReport

In addition to our course listing, we also keep tabs on the overall state of MOOCs and online learning in our web publication, MOOCReport. Thanks to the addition of international members to our team — such as Rui, our data analyst — we were able to expand our coverage to India and China, bringing attention to existing developments little known in the West.

As part of our design update, MOOCReport also got a refresh. We created new homes for our Monthly Course reports. And after a hiatus of several months, MOOCWatch is back, distilling the main developments in the MOOCs world in a single, convenient article.

Participating in Conferences

In 2019, we were media partners for five different conferences and spoke at two of them. These included:

  • Future of Learning 2019 in Bangalore, India.
  • Open edX 2019 in San Diego, USA.
  • EMOOCs 2019 in Naples, Italy — where we gave a keynote speech, sat on two panels, and organized another.
  • Learning with MOOCs 2019 in Milwaukee, USA — where we gave three lightning talks and presented a paper.
  • World Conference in Online Learning 2019 in Dublin, Ireland.
Class Central members at conferences
Conference talks — from left: Manoel, Dhawal, and Laurie

In addition to serving as outlets to raise awareness about Class Central, conferences allow us to stay up to date on the latest developments in research surrounding MOOCs and online education.

And on a more personal note, it’s an opportunity for some members of the team to meet face to face — a pleasant change in an otherwise 100% remote job. For instance, after attending Learning with MOOCs in Milwaukee, we had the opportunity of having a lovely meal with one of our colleagues and his wife, who happened to live nearby.

As we’re barreling toward the end of the year, we look forward to the developments to come.

Comments
1

  1. Avatar

    Beverley Watson

    I would find it useful if it was clear from the start if a paywall will block you completely at the end of a section or if you cannot take part in tests.
    Tests motivate me to put maximum effort into a course. If tests are not part of the course I might skip parts. Why bother?
    I am retired and do the courses for interest only.
    I strive to complete any course I commence unless I realise that it is not for me.

    Reply

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