In 2011, Western Washington University professors Eric Kean and Kirsten Drickey saw an opportunity to develop and sell training software for volunteer organizations and universities looking to expand their reach. Kean, who teaches math and viola at WWU, had an idea to provide a cheaper alternative to traditional textbooks. Wanting to challenge himself, he decided to build a site dedicated to creating interactive e-texts to help students save money. It’s More Than a Textbook (itsmorethanatextbook.com) is still successfully operating and used by students at WWU, Florida State College, and Brown University. Drickey, who teaches Spanish at WWU, built the Spanish book for the platform.
Wanting another challenge, Kean decided to set his sights on an online course management system. He taught himself to program and spent a year coding for 6-8 hours daily, “My first year doing it was very painful.” He partnered with Drickey, who had taken MBA classes in marketing, to help spread the word about the site. Avizr (avizr.com) fully launched with a marketing campaign this past April.
Kean and Drickey have had a lot of experience with various learning platforms, so they took all the great points and cut the excess. Drickey explained. “If you don’t want to do your safety compliance training sitting on you desk, you can do it on the bus.” Kean jokingly added “Or while you’re operating a forklift.”
Another plus of Avizr is the ability to sell courses. This feature directly benefits the entrepreneurs who have something to teach, Kean said “If people have a skill and want to earn passive income, this will facilitate the process.” Within the wide realm of knowledge on the internet we can learn anything, however sometimes users find themselves shuffling through material in search of someone credible. It can be overwhelming. By offering a course, solo entrepreneurs show seriousness in their craft and knowledge, gaining a sort of seal of approval.
Avizr teamed up with Seattle-based Tango Card to provide gift cards for completed training. The course administrator can chose what courses get gift cards to where and how much, then pass along the pre-determined options to the trainee. Studies show this type of rewards system can actually be motivating.
The outreach with Avizr and other online course management systems is extensive. From speaking with nonprofits, Kean found many physically sent individuals to campuses to help get their message out and train new recruits. “If they put their trainings online,” Kean observed, “they could easily reach everybody in Washington state, right from their website. That to me is a much more intelligent use of their resources.”
As great a platform as Avizr is, Kean and Drickey admit it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Getting the word out has proven tricky. Marketing online via social media needs to account for the different verbiage different sectors use, such as online learning management systems, and online training software. Since Avizr caters to multiple sectors, they need to use the verbiage applicable to each sector, while retaining readability. It’s a problem the team is excited to tackle and they are constantly brainstorming new solutions.
Right now Avizr has a three-tiered pricing plan customized for profit, non-profit, and solo entrepreneurs. In keeping with their goal to remain bloat-free, each plan adjusts features based on what’s most beneficial for each status. This way you get exactly what your business needs, without having to pay for excess.
Don’t worry about Avizr selling out and becoming just like the major online course management systems. Their goal is to boost local usage up and down the I-5 corridor in hopes of boosting the local economy. It may seem counter-intuitive for an internet company to want to remain local, but maybe that’s the better way to do business; it’s surely a more personalized way.
Kean likes the idea of being within driving distance to clients. It helps with accessibility and his dedication to customer service. “For people to say ‘Hey, I really like this feature,’ or ‘This isn’t working so well,’ and for me to be able to implement that is really rewarding.” Even if you’re not shopping for new course management systems, check out their blog for valuable training knowledge. Avizr, it helps you be more effective and efficient.