Decision Guide for Online Learning

Should you choose Pathwright?

It's 2019 and it’s raining LMSs, online course platforms, and educational apps. To start teaching online, you’ll have to wade through hundreds of choices. It’s tempting to simplify the decision by weighing feature lists against price and picking the best bang for your buck.

But in the fickle world of online software, we’ve found that what matters most, in the long run, is to partner with a company that aligns with your beliefs about education, technology, and business. So to make your search easier, here are a few good reasons to choose (or not to choose) Pathwright as your education software partner.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 01

Pathwright is a different way to think about online education.

First, Pathwright isn’t just a better LMS or way of digitizing educational content—it’s a whole new way to think about education. When we build new features, we don’t attempt to make a better version of something else but to design a digital reflection of how the best teaching and learning happens in real life. As we teach ourselves and work closely with creative and skilled teachers, our beliefs about what education could be sharpen and shape everything we build.

We’re still learning and don’t fully meet the ideals articulated below. But they encapsulate the direction we’re striving towards with and for the educators who depend on Pathwright.

More than 43% of the Pathwright team are active or former teachers, 71% have a teacher as a spouse or parent, and 21% are former students of a teacher on our team. Teaching is in our blood.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 02

Teachers make paths.

If all we needed to learn was access to information, we could master anything with a library card and an internet connection. But to master a subject or skill, we need someone to meet us where we are and guide us step-by-step to where we should go. In other words, we need teachers.

Our name reflects this fundamental belief about what teachers do: a “pathwright” is a maker of paths.

Every course and lesson you create in Pathwright is a path your learners can complete step by step. Every learner has their own path through everything they’re learning.

To read more about why we think in paths, check out "The Shape of Learning" from our blog.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 03

Great education is about people, not content.

Most online course experiences feel like a less-fun version of watching a Netflix show on your laptop alone in your room. Deep down, we know something’s missing because we learn best with other people not with a screen.

At Pathwright, we try to make it all about the people on every screen. Anyone can discuss what they’re learning on any step, courses are experienced with a group, and mentors and teachers play a primary role.

Our people first approach means you can teach online more personally whether you're teaching one or one hundred thousand people.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 04

Creating great content and teaching it are different things.

In real life, teachers curate content written by experts. They rarely write the curriculum they teach and the experts who write curriculum rarely teach it. But most education software flattens these specialized disciplines into a “course.”

Pathwright works more like real life:

  1. First, you can create dynamic courses and lessons as a re-usable “master” version of the curriculum.
  2. Then, any teacher can instantly teach the master version while personalizing it for their group (called a “cohort”). They can add their own content, schedule, and more without overwriting the master version or interfering with other cohorts.
  3. Best of all, you can make improvements to a master version and publish the changes to all cohorts without overwriting a teacher’s customizations.

With Pathwright, you get the best of three worlds in one package: Professional instructional design tools, a customizable curriculum, and the peace of mind that it's always up-to-date.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 05

Learning is active, not passive.

Take a look at the average online course and you’d think learning is primarily a matter of spending enough time watching videos. But science (and likely your own experience) shows that real learning happens through action, not passive consumption.

“Netflix for education” is the wrong idea.

We design Pathwright for active learning: each step starts with a verb: "read," "watch," "take," and more. Blocks help you make any passive content active with a few taps.

Read more about Blocks, our built-in interactive content builder and the importance of active learning.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 06

Your learners deserve the best learning experience.

While you—the educator—are our prized customer, we design and build with your learners in mind first. That may seem like an odd place to start from a business perspective (after all, you're the one paying our bills) but we know that the best teachers care deeply about their learners’ experience of teaching.

We strive to make the learning experience beautiful, focused, and immersive—not a colorless box.

When we began to design Pathwright in 2011, our goal was to create an online learning experience so simple that anyone could enjoy it regardless of their technical capability. Of the thirty adventurous students who beta tested the first ever Pathwright course, the first person to complete it was a retired gentleman in his 70s who’d never used a computer. He was so excited to be part of our partner school’s pilot that he asked his granddaughter to set him up with a new laptop, got online, and proceeded to blaze through the six lessons in the course of a couple days.

He left the other — much younger — participants in the dust. That felt good for everyone.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 07

We’re not the heroes. You are.

Our mission is “to multiply the impact that teachers make on the world.” We’re Alfred and you’re Batman. We design Pathwright to eliminate the busywork of teaching and give you teaching superpowers. And we provide professional Partner Services to help you get started, train your team, build your first course, and more.

For more on how we think about our mission at Pathwright, read "We’re Not Here to Change the World".

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 08

Software-as-a-service & services go together.

One of the unusual things about Pathwright is that we provide project-based services along with our software-as-a-service platform.

That’s because we’re not just a software company — we’re an education company. We’re here to help you with whatever you need to launch an innovative online course or an entire program. You can start right now with the software and optionally get help with consulting, training, and learning experience design from our partner services team anytime.

For more on how we think about service and LX Design, read "Why Would a Software Company Design Courses?"

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 09

Discussions should flow as we learn and not be relegated to a forum.

As social creatures, we learn best when we get to ask questions, explore answers, critique, listen, expand on, etc. Unfortunately, most education software demotes this essential part of learning by requiring learners to visit a separate forum to discuss a lecture or reading “assignment.” That’s like a professor demanding that a student who raises her hand go into the room across the hall to discuss their question.

We believe that robust and contextual discussion is essential which is why you can easily add discussion prompts to any step and learners can post and chime in on their own questions as well.

To read more, check out our post "LMS Forums Are Broken".

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 10

Education should be beautiful.

If you’ve ever walked around a beautiful campus like those that house Oxford, Harvard, or the NYC Library, then you know that a beautiful environment creates a disposition to learn. In contrast, most LMS software is generic and boring (and that's being kind).

We believe that housing your online learning in a beautiful place is even more critical since the online experience is entirely on screen.

So we strive to make every screen aesthetically pleasing and provide tools that enable you to create unique and artful learning experiences.

With Pathwright, you can go far fast just with course covers, Blocks, and your own brand.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 11

Education is a long game, and we’re in it for the long haul.

New education startups crop up every week and most of them won’t survive more than a few years. That’s because the first goal of a start-up is to become a 10X return financial asset for the first round of investors as quickly as possible. We believe that making a lasting impact on education requires a long-term perspective.

That’s why we’ve said “no” to early funding that requires trading short term gains for an eventual big pay off when we sell out down the road.

We’ve never gone into debt or sold shares and we don’t plan to. Pathwright isn’t just our business; it’s our mission and life’s work.

Read more about why we do what we do.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 12

Investment from customers > $ from rich dudes.

We’ve funded Pathwright through partnerships with thoughtful, creative educators we call “partners.” The design and development of 70% of the features in Pathwright were supported with Partner investment and honed through their real-life use and feedback before they became part of the platform for anyone to use.

This partnership model keeps our vision and roadmap aligned with the needs of educators, not venture capitalists. And when a partner has a little skin in the game, we get sharper feedback, and they get what they need for a fraction of the cost they’d pay for from-scratch development.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 13

Learning requires a focused environment – especially online.

Your learners are already in the most distracting place in the world—the Internet. That’s a big problem because active learning requires deep focus.

We do everything we can to strip away extra links and images from the UI that distract from the important concepts and skills you teach. Ideally, your learners are so focused on learning from you that they don’t even notice that we exist.

For more about how we reduce your learner’s cognitive load, read an esoteric rant about sidebars from one of our founders.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 14

Education isn’t all about money.

Our best teachers were more interested in what was going on in our head and hearts, not in our wallet. With tuition costs and student loans exploding on the one hand and hustlers hawking online courses as a way to make “passive revenue” on the other, it’s easy to think that education is just a ploy. Our small way of pushing back on the snake-oil culture that preys on hopeful learners is to focus on helping the teachers who care about making an impact first.

We don’t give false hope that online courses are going to make you easy money even though that would be a faster and easier way for us to increase our revenue.

Read “Content Marketing Is Not Teaching” for more.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 15

Educators should make (a lot) more money

While we’re firmly against the snake-oil, passive-revenue mindset that drives much of education, we also believe that teachers should make a lot more money than they do. In an ideal world, they’d earn a salary that reflects the essential, exponential impact they make on our communities. That’s why we provide fully integrated and robust commerce features, including a unique way to offer your courses for other teachers to purchase as curriculum.

For more about our optional Commerce features, visit the Commerce section of our Features page.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 16

Technology won't save education.

Teachers will save education. Our part in that is giving great teachers tools that help them spend more time teaching more creatively and personally.

That's all we need to say about that.

Read more about the story of education and our place in it.

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 17

The best education includes lots of hands-on and in-person teaching.

The ideal type of education resembles hands-on apprenticeship with guided, rigorous exploration. It’s intensely personal and, ideally, actually in person.

While that ideal isn’t currently possible at every scale and in every place, we believe that technology can and will bring us closer to a world where teachers can reach hundreds — even thousands — of people while providing a personal learning path and guidance for each and that’s what we’re working towards.

Over 40% of Pathwright courses include live teaching and discussion through live video or in person classes or meetings

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Why Pathwright?Reason No. 18

The core needs of teachers and learners are the same everywhere.

Pathwright is designed to meet the shared human needs of all learners and teachers, not just the ones in a particular slice of education. We have happy teachers and organizations that are large universities, business coaches, big brands, team trainers, entrepreneurial experts, international mega-organizations, churches, K-12 schools, tutors—basically every category.

Our ultimate aim is to give any teacher or organization the ability to provide a personalized learning path for individual learners and then guide them along that path, whether you're teaching one person or hundreds of thousands.

We’re not all the way there yet, but that’s where we’re headed.

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