Promising access to the very best instruction from the world’s experts could be interesting.
INTERVIEW | by Victor Rivero
In 2010, renowned sports photographer Chase Jarvis partnered with Craig Swanson to create an online space where professional photographers could teach specific skills in multi-day seminars to aspiring photographers via live video. The results were astounding. Within months, tens of thousands of individuals had watched the live, free classes and a huge number of them had purchased copies of the courses. creativeLIVE’s most popular classes have drawn over 150,000 participants at a time. More than one million individuals from over 200 countries have participated in creativeLIVE’s free online seminars since the company began in 2010, and creativeLIVE has paid out millions to its instructors.
As a photographer, Chase’s mission from the beginning has been to create a platform that offers highly curated content, advice, inspiration and access to the very best instruction from the world’s best experts. “In building my own brand and a name for myself, I had no mentor and had to carve my own path to becoming a photographer and building a successful business,” he says. “Everything I built was from the ground up. I wanted to find a way to help people succeed, so I developed creativeLIVE with my co-founding partner, Craig, in an attempt to provide creative entrepreneurs worldwide with more than I had. I can say from my head and my heart that I think we’re providing a ton of value: high quality, free resources that will show those interested how to transform their passions into tangible results around their lives, hobbies, and careers.”
Victor: What does the name mean?
Chase: The name is a simple yet dynamic moniker, combining two key elements of our platform. “creative”, the type of knowledge we deliver to our worldwide audience, and “LIVE”, the avenue through which we are able to present this knowledge with the help of some slick technology. No need to make it more complex than that.
Victor: How would you describe it, exactly, and what prompted you to do it?
Chase: creativeLIVE is an online education company that unleashes the creative potential of millions of people by connecting them LIVE with the world’s most talented and inspiring experts. I co-founded creativeLIVE in 2010 with my partner Craig Swanson. It was more art than science… alchemy, really. Craig was working on transitioning out of a tech service business into online training via webinars and I was enjoying a great dialog with a million or so photographers who followed me socially and were interested in sharing information on the web.
Both Craig and I were flirting around with the “live” Internet platforms in our respective circles and had a lot of respect for what the other was doing. Over about six months of brainstorming we collaborated on a vision for an online space where aspiring artists and entrepreneurs worldwide could come together to and learn from the world’s best experts for free (the “freemium” model was Craig’s brilliant idea!). So we developed these concepts into the creativeLIVE platform. And now the best of the best teach on our platform to millions of aspiring learners from all over the world in multi-day skill-specific seminars.
Today, creativeLIVE connects viewers with a highly curated family of instructors — the best of the best — those who have top-notch, real world experience in their field — Pulitzer Prize winners, New York Times best selling authors, Emmy nominated directors… You get the picture.
Victor: What does it do and who does it benefit?
Chase: creativeLIVE provides an online learning space for both amateurs and professionals alike to come together in a community environment to learn or fine-tune real, tangible skills that improve their lives and careers. Although the platform by focusing primarily on photography we have successfully expanded channels like film and video, design, business & productivity, software and beyond. And we’re adding courses all the time.
The skills taught on creativeLIVE really serve to benefit an infinite range of people. For example, a sports photographer looking to expand their business by breaking into wedding photography can take a week long “wedding boot camp” from some of the top leaders in the industry; a new mother looking to capture those precious first few months of her baby’s life could take our workshop on infant photography; and a young entrepreneur looking to get their small business off the ground can take advantage of one of our courses on creating a business plan or establishing a brand.
The sheer numbers and diversity of viewers we have seen for these types of courses is a testament to the breadth of the demand out there for instruction pertaining to creative pursuits and the creative side of business, and we are excited to be able to bring that type of instruction to people all over the world.
I’m floored at what the learners on our platform have been able to accomplish. We receive amazing success stories almost every day from people in every walk of life, from 200 countries worldwide.
Victor: What’s your take on online learning, and where do you fit in?
Chase: Online education platforms are growing at a breakneck rate, and there are a number of very effective companies out there that are disrupting the world of education as we know it. Many of them are positioning themselves as cheaper alternatives to traditional brick-and-mortar universities. creativeLIVE is offering something very different. Rather than replacing traditional education, we hope to supplement it, providing a resource for lifelong learning that viewers can take advantage of before, during, and long after they finish school.
Additionally, we’re unique in that our focus is around creativity. There is an ardent belief at creativeLIVE that creativity is the new literacy. It is one of the most desirable characteristics in any line of work – the ability to make, to create, and to solve problems in new, insightful ways.
Our platform is also different because of the level of interactive elements that we incorporate. We are 100 percent social from the ground up. People use social channels as primary means to connect with experts and one another in REAL TIME via social media team while we’re deploying the most highly produced, high quality content in the industry, bar none. The quality of the engagement is off the charts high due to the fact that our classes do not have a grading or certification system. People are there because they want to be there. We attract viewers who are truly interested in learning for learning’s sake, and are therefore more involved and motivated to actively participate in their classes than students on other platforms. This creates a super rich learning experience for our viewer base as a whole. Not to mention how engaged the experts are knowing that there are 40,000 students on the other end of that live video feed.
Victor: When was it developed and could you share something interesting or relevant about its development history?
Chase: It was developed over the course of about a year in sort of ‘beta’ formats, but we launched in 2010. A couple interesting things… One that stand out is that we’ve been profitable since day one. That’s highly unusual, but something we’re very proud of as a team. Additionally are our numbers… more than 2 million people from 200 countries have participated in our free online courses, we’ve had more than 10 million viewer hours of content consumed. And a recent week-long Photoshop course alone attracted over 150,000 people from 178 countries. That’s crazy cool. And we expect these numbers to continue to grow thanks to an amazing community of learners who are spreading our message everyday.
Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?
Chase: creativeLIVE has always been available as an online platform. You can accesses our live class schedule at www.creativelive.com. You can also download any classes you missed live for a small cost to watch at your leisure.
Victor: How much does it cost and just what are the options?
Chase: Anyone looking to participate in any of our classes can do so for free during the live event. If a student wants to own a copy and view the course again later at any time, the courses are all available for purchase at a reasonable price — usually around $100 for about 15-20 hours of content. There is no obligation to buy, ever. You only buy if you want to own it. The free part is exciting because we wanted to make sure our material was accessible to anyone who was truly eager to learn. The business model based on those who are happy to pay for the ability to consume the content on their own timeline offsets the other costs and we’re left with a sustainable model.
Victor: You’re doing some amazing things! What are some that come to mind?
Chase: As mentioned before, one notable example is the Photoshop week course — a weeklong intensive seminar on Adobe Photoshop, during which world class photographers and digital artists taught classes on specific photo editing techniques for both beginners and professionals. We had over 150,000 people from over 178 countries, and we received an overwhelming amount of positive feedback on both the quality of instruction and the breadth of the material covered. It was the largest event of its kind ever held in the world.
Another recent example was New York Times Best-selling author Tim Ferriss bringing his newest book “The 4 Hour Chef” to life before 100,000 people on our platform even before you could purchase the book. And yet another example would be our recent “Build Your Brand” class with Porter Gale, the former VP of marketing for Virgin America. The three-day long course provided business owners and entrepreneurs with insight into how to develop a cohesive vision for their company and successfully market it to their customers.
Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for and who is it not for?
Chase: creativeLIVE is tailored particularly for people looking to learn about things they care about. They are not usually aiming for a grade, or a certification, but aiming to grow, learn, and develop a skill, whether it be to better their personal life or their business. Unlike other online education platforms, creativeLIVE classes are not trying to be a part of a standard undergraduate education. Those days are numbered. We do not offer basic chemistry or English literature 101 and we don’t plan to. Our audience is largely made up of people who want to get real results and learn from people who have changed the world. Whether our viewers are complete novices or creative professionals looking to further perfect their craft, the quality of our instructors combined with the interactive element of our courses makes creativeLIVE a hugely effective platform for anyone eager to grow.
Victor: Now for a broad question – what are your thoughts on education these days? How would you characterize our present situation?
Chase: I’m very critical of the current, traditional educational landscape — especially in the US. Student loan debt now out-weighs credit card debt and the average student graduates college with around $27,000 in debt. So, as this younger generation emerges from traditional educational paths we are saddling them with debt, telling them to get “real” jobs — which translates into mind-numbing, soul sucking jobs — and training them to ignore their most priceless resources… their creativity, uniqueness and the real world opportunities to create a life and a living for themselves doing what they love. Why? Because we haven’t taken stock recently of the times in which we live. We no longer live in an era of the factory, where we need to produce student/citizens like widgets to perform certain functions just like the person next to them. We are in a whole new era — so we need to act like it and build an education platform for our future that recognizes it too.
Victor: What sort of formative experiences in your own education helped to inform your approach to creating creativeLIVE?
Chase: I only narrowly saved my own life by quitting every career path that everyone else wanted me to do… be a doctor, a lawyer, or an accountant… not that there’s anything wrong with those jobs – but they were just the jobs that other people thought would be measured as ‘successful’ for me. Well I quit those paths – all of them – to pursue the things that I wanted to do more than anything in my life, which was to be a photographer. And when I quit those things, I realized that there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to learn outside of formal training from people who had really done what I wanted to do. I vowed at that point that if I was ever in a position to change that, I would. So it was after building my own career and meeting so many others like me who had done the same and wanted to help shift the paradigm that I was able to connect the dots and contribution to the genesis of creativeLIVE.
Victor: How does creativeLIVE address some of your concerns about education?
Chase: Put bluntly, creativeLIVE teaches real skills. And it’s inspirational as all hell to learn from someone who has DONE what they’re teaching. It’s a FREE empowerment engine for anyone with an internet connection. And it does so by breaking down the typical barriers to education… It transcends geographic barriers since the courses are online; it transcends the problem of access to the very best expert by enabling conversations between any student — whether you’re in Nairobi or Nebraska — with that expert, regardless of how important, influential, famous or smart that expert is…. And it transcends the cost issue — because it is offered entirely for free. Frankly speaking don’t see very many types of subject matter that couldn’t work with our model – we’re just focusing on “creativity” because we think it’s the most valuable and important skill set in the world today.
Victor: Your outlook?
Chase: I’m excited to see how the future of education — delivered meaningfully and at scale — can transform our culture. The future of education is several things. It is skill based. It is life long. It is free or highly democratized. And it is here now.
Victor: Got any good stories? Something quirky?
Chase: Sure. Note that I think quitting is underrated. They might call it a “pivot” in Silicon Valley, but I had to quit so many things to put myself on the path to do what I wanted to do for my life. I quit a career as an athlete, I quit the medical school path, and I dropped out of a Ph.D. to finally understand what I wanted to do. And yet I couldn’t be happier with my choices. So quitting ain’t so bad — especially if it’s a ticket to your dreams.
Victor: Anything else? Parting thoughts for EdTech Digest readers?
Chase: I think the best thing is for me to tell them to try it. Try creativeLIVE. Take a course on creativeLIVE.com in something you love, from someone who is in the top 1 percent in their field. And if you’re not honestly impressed by the quality of the content, the quality of the broadcast, the experience, etc. — then I’ll eat my socks.
Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. Get your story told through case studies, white papers and other materials you can share at trade shows and on your website. Write to: [email protected]