In this episode of All Things Co-op, Cinar, Larry and Kevin talk with John Hayes of MyCoolClass about the rise of educational platforms and online learning. MyCoolClass aims to give power back to the teachers as they navigate the online teaching world and show how cooperative principles can shake up the space. John and the ATC guys chat about what cooperative cultural values bring to education and how an education system run by teachers could be truly revolutionary.
About our guest: John Hayes is the creator of MyCoolClass, an online learning platform cooperative owned by independent teachers and tutors. John has been involved in antiracist activism for 20 years but has shifted his focus to fighting discrimination in online education through worker ownership.
Learn more about MyCoolClass at https://www.mycoolclass.com
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Richard Wolff This is Richard Wolff. Welcome to All Things Co-op, a podcast by Democracy At Work.
Cinar Akcin: Well, welcome to another episode of All Things Co-op. With me, as always, are my co-hosts, Mr. Gustafson and Mr. Fenster.
Kevin Gustafson: Super formal, wow.
Cinar Akcin: Super formal, yeah. I thought I'd mix it up a little.
Kevin Gustafson: We're getting less formal over time - or less informal, whatever.
Cinar Akcin: All things co-op is produced by Democracy at Work. Please go to www.democracyatwork.info to check out our various content and shows. If you like our videos, please partner with us, make a contribution and become a subscriber today. We're very happy to have John Hayes on our show. John is the creator of MyCoolClass, an online learning platform cooperative owned by independent teachers and tutors. John has been involved in anti-racist activism and has shifted his focus to fighting discrimination in online education through worker ownership. Welcome to the show, John.
John Hayes: Hi. Thanks a lot for having me, appreciate it.
Cinar Akcin: Great to have you on. So, first of all, just to kick it off, I wanted to know where you came up with the MyCoolClass idea and why you think there is a need for online cooperative learning platforms?
John Hayes: Sure. So after I left the United States — I'm living in Poland now — I started teaching at international schools and I started teaching online as well. And it was going great. It was a career change for me and I really love the work. And I started working for a Chinese company, and then the pandemic hit. And then once the pandemic hit, as I'm sure you're all aware, online education just skyrocketed. You know, that was something that no one could possibly expect. So a lot of these platforms were just dumped with money, just dumped with venture capital. So many huge investments. And the company I was working for received a 120 million in funding. They sent a letter out to all of the teachers thanking us for our amazing hard work. And two weeks later, they slashed everyone's pay.
Cinar Akcin: Yeah, yeah, of course.
Larry Fenster: Thank you for your contribution. Goodbye.
John Hayes: You know, having an activist background, I've been familiar with cooperatives. Actually, when I was 18 years old, I did loss prevention, security at a food co-op in California. So I have been familiar with it. So, of course, after that happened, I got pissed off. I got mad. So I wanted to see what can be done to create something better. And, there's a lot of talk about Uber, Deliveroo, DoorDash and other platform work, but online teachers have been completely left out of the conversation, and there's hundreds of thousands of us, if not more, all over the world.
So, with that said, I reached out to a couple colleagues of mine, a couple other teachers. My girlfriend, she is a graphic designer and web designer. So I kind of had her help me out a lot, because I couldn't draw a stick figure if I wanted to. So it started off with just three of us, and we just started building the idea, and spamming Facebook and the Internet with this idea, started up a mailing list. And within a few months we had about 2,000 teachers signed up on our mailing list.
Myself and new to, organizing cooperatives, I went and sought out different resources. So where should we incorporate? Where should we do this? And yeah, we found a amazing advisor, Sion Whellens in the U.K. He helped us set up all of our documents and get filed and registered in the U.K. So to date now we have just shy of 300 teachers, and we're located all over the world, I think, in over 40 or 50 different countries right now. And we have about 20 worker-members.
Kevin Gustafson: So I'm curious what the — in some ways — the conception is, right? Because you have seen, as you said, there's an explosion of online learning even through public schools, and state-funded schools, and things like that. But private schools are doing the same thing. Before then there was kind of the explosion of the Khan Academy, Coursera, you know, online learning and Code Academy in particular for things like that. And so what is your vision? How do you see yourself differentiating it? Is it the fact that it's a sort of cooperative that provides different values? Do you have a different kind of niche? What is the idea?
John Hayes: So our idea, you know, we're not reinventing the wheel. We're just taking the best parts of it and putting it together, with the with the cooperative foundation behind it. Because the reality is, is most teachers — I mean, most people in general — don't know what a co-op is. And it's really hard to explain to, a common person within a couple paragraphs without, getting into a whole economic discussion and getting, eventually political. So that's been probably, a real big challenge.
But as far as MyCoolClass is concerned, we have two business models. The first one is a teacher marketplace. So teachers can come on a set their own price, they create their own courses, their own lesson packages. They can teach English, Spanish math, calculus. They can teach calculus in Spanish or in French. So we really don't have any limitations on what you can teach. And then secondly, which we're probably going to be launching in the next week or two is a course Marketplace.
So this is going to be different because instead of a student finding a teacher based on the subject, they will be finding a course that they are interested in. So — and again, this is going to be for all ages, and all skills, subjects, topics — so, if you wanted to teach basket weaving, you could have a basket weaving course, or how to draw superheroes, to bake, how to start a cooperative. I mean, you can really offer anything you want. And so that's going to be a very unique feature. And as far as in the capitalist world of things, there aren't very many companies doing that, and they are very limited in where they operate or who they allow on the platform.
Once we launch this — our competition, called Out School. They've been around since 2015 and they just recently became a unicorn and they started up in San Francisco. But again, they only hire native English speaking teachers or teachers that not only are US, UK or Australian citizens, but they also have to reside there. So someone like me, I couldn't even teach because I live in Poland, I don't live in the United States. And then again, their market is really focused in the United States, were based in the UK. So our primary focus is going to be mostly Europe. So those are two main models.
And since the Chinese ESL industry collapsed last year after China did their whole crackdown on the tech industry, it really, really hurt online education, ESL, English teaching online. That was a huge — China was the biggest market for it. So after that happened, tens of thousands of teachers lost their jobs almost overnight. So some of them contacted their students from these platforms, and they want to continue teaching privately, so MyCoolClass is able to facilitate teachers to bring on their own students as well, onto MyCoolClass.
Larry Fenster: I was wondering — so still focusing on the students. Are you familiar with — in the United States there's a couple of places — edX, Coursera — they're called, and I may get the name wrong, MOOCs, they're massively organized online courses. Usually you can join these things for free, even listen to their classes. They usually highlight to academic teachers that are already very popular, maybe at Stanford, top universities. And then you can take a course and you can get a certificate, if you pay. So you take the course and they have a final test. And there's no time limit if you don't want a certificate, but there's weekly homework and things that you submit. Who the hell knows who grades them? But you have to do it and you have to take a test within — you know, if it's an eight week course, you take it in the ninth week, you pay 100 bucks, you get a certificate from some third party organization that I don't know what the value of it is, but it's you pay a hundred bucks, you get a certificate, and you can get maybe five or six of these if you want to get a coding degree or if you want to get into coding, you have something that says, 'Hey, I took these courses, I got these certificates from this, these top teachers at Johns Hopkins and Stanford.' And okay, it's not a degree but, you know.
John Hayes: Yeah.
Larry Fenster: So it sounds like students may not be — so what's the marketplace as far as your student goals go, and what are they looking for? Are they looking for degrees or what's the mindset?
John Hayes: Okay, so the mindset behind MyCoolClass — first off, all our classes are live, you will have a live in instructor. So there aren't courses, because a lot of teachers are trying do that for extra income, because you can create a course once, put it up on the marketplace, it takes care of itself. And then, you know, that's just extra income you get at the end of the month from it.
So all of our classes are live. We have a strong focus on learning languages. So right now that's the strong focus. And of course, as we grow that might splinter off into other directions. But it's really about learning about what people care about, and what they want to learn, their own personal goals. So, if you wanted to learn how to play guitar, you can find an awesome guitar teacher on here. You know, I'm an old punk rocker, I'm even thinking about putting together a course on the history of rock and roll. So we want to have fun things, as well as learning languages.
You know, outside of the U.S., just about every country in the world teaches English as a second language. And in a lot of countries — I live in Poland, so they teach a lot of the grammar, spelling, they can read, write, and whatnot. But when they actually get into a conversation, then they freeze up. There's not a lot of focus on speaking English in many countries. So plenty of students, they do want to pass high school, or get a language degree. So they want that extra speaking practice, so that would be a big reason why students would come over and take live online classes, if it's a one-on-one, or in a group scenario.
Larry Fenster: Okay, thanks.
Kevin Gustafson: How do you how do you verify like — you know, Larry's got a PhD and he's a pretty smart dude, and he knows a lot about a lot of different things. And so, like —
Larry Fenster: And he's a crappy teacher.
Kevin Gustafson: Yeah well, so there you go. Could he be a teacher? What do you need? Do you have to have a teaching degree? How does that work?
Cinar Akcin: And can I add to that actually? John also, how do you vet the teachers? First of all, what are their backgrounds in general? I'm curious about that. And also, how do you kind of monitor how the education process is going, the content that's being provided to the students?
John Hayes: Well, okay. So I'll try to hit both of those. So first off, what you need to do to be able to teach on MyCoolClass is be qualified to teach what it is you want to teach. And we have that vague for a reason, as there's so many platforms that have these "set in stone" rules, but there's so many exceptions to those rules. Again, if you're offering a guitar class, if you've been playing guitar for 20 years as I have, I don't need a guitar teaching certificate. If I'm a good teacher, and I play guitar, and I can teach it, well, then that would constitute as being qualified. So with that, when a teacher does apply, they need to send in an intro video to show you know that...
Larry Fenster: That they can stand in front of a camera.
John Hayes: [Indecipherable] and whatnot. And then they do need to send in a CV with any experience or degrees certificates. And again, we do it on a case-by-case basis because we don't want to turn people down just for small little technicalities. For example, if you are a native Spanish speaker, right, but you've been teaching English for 15 years. You have a TEFL certificate — which is Teaching English as a Foreign Language — we're not going to require that person to have a Spanish teaching certificate. I mean, does that make sense? This kind of — you know, it's irrelevant if you've already been teaching English, you know how to teach English, and you're a native Spanish speaker, you can teach Spanish.
So, we're not going to have these really strict rules that, again, if you have a masters in linguistics, we're not going to ask you for a test certificate, which anyone can get done in 2 to 3 weeks. So that's where we're getting at with qualified, and we do take it on a case-by-case basis.
And and then as far as after they join, there is a probationary period. We have a 50 teaching hour probationary period. And that pretty much shows that they know what's going on. They've been participating, they're getting students. And then that also allows room in case we do have issues with a teacher, they don't meet standards. You know, if they say, "oh, I'm an English teacher," and then they start posting up, and there's a bunch of misspelled words and stuff then all right, maybe we'll take a look at this. But we haven't really had that problem much at all with our group. And again, we want people to share what they love, their passions and their skills. You can't necessarily give a degree to all of that.
Kevin Gustafson: To kind of go up in the clouds, the second part of the this season of ours, the collection that we're talking about right now is in some ways envisioning a more cooperative future. And so, like we said, there's this, in some ways like an online education community, or even like a platform, is not necessarily new. The new aspect of MyCoolClass is the cooperative element of it. And so I'm wondering sort of, again, philosophically, theoretically, I dare I say ideologically, I'm wondering kind of how you see the difference — not necessarily like, you know, we could talk nuts and bolts about teacher qualifications, stuff like that — but why a cooperative? What is it that you kind of see as a sort of problem in education, that this venture is going to fix, or that it kind of at least presents the possibility that, if really brought fully into fruition, would be a genuine change in the way that we teach and learn and become active members of our societies.
John Hayes: Sure. So students — I mean unless you're talking about maybe Harvard, or Yale, or whatnot — but I mean most students care about their teacher and their education. They don't care about the school name. And especially when it comes to an online learning platform. They don't care if it's [indecipherable], or Preply, or italki, or AmazingTalker. They want a good teacher, period. And students will follow their teachers where they go. So that's a really big selling point with MyCoolClass, is because one, these — well, let me rewind a little bit.
The online education industry was expected to hit 450 billion by 2025, and that was an estimate given before the pandemic. Yeah. So this is not a niche industry, this is huge. This is really big. And the other platforms out there, very few people make the rules. They take high commission fees. They have really crazy — some platforms, they take money from teachers if you cancel too early. The company I used to be with, they actually asked for a picture of a teacher in the hospital to prove it, because their spleen erupted. I mean, that was a Chinese company, but still, I mean, it's insane. If you don't reply back to a student within 2 hours, they might hide your profile. I mean, this is just ridiculous. All these platforms, it's just ridiculous.
And a lot of the platforms that have similar models to MyCoolClass, what they do is they pay according to how many classes you teach per month. So one of the biggest platforms out there, Preply — I think they boast of having over 80 or 100,000 teachers on — they're a very, very large company. They're also backed by Hoxton Ventures, who is behind Deliveroo, who launched Deliveroo in the UK. So I mean, you can see where their intentions are. But what they do is they start off charging a 33% commission for teachers on the platform. The more you teach, the less that commission tracks. And it goes down to, I believe, 18 or 19%. But the thing is, there are so many tutors on there. They do have algorithms. No one knows how these algorithms work. And I have met very few teachers that are fully booked and paying that lower percentage of a commission.
And most of these platforms work that way. They deliberately over-saturate the platforms, have algorithms work to spread students out thin, and the company's making more, and more, and more profit. And teachers wages are going down. You know, these platforms, they put teachers in direct competition. So if you were British but you lived in maybe Malaysia or Burma or a low income country, they can go on these platforms and charge $3 an hour. What about the teachers that are living in the States or elsewhere that want to at least be earning 15 to 25? You know, they're getting completely undercut by this.
So MyCoolClass, we really took a look at all of these issues affecting, you know, online teachers. And we worked them all out. We meticulously worked out each and every problem. You know, soon enough, all of our teachers are actually going to be voting on the minimum marketplace price, so there isn't an undercutting of the market. And with the way these companies are just making so much money, MyCoolClass, we would love to be able to give that back to all of our teachers, get to the point where we give that back.
One unique thing that MyCoolClass is doing — and I have not heard of any other platform or freelance job that does this — we're actually giving freelance teachers paid time off. That's accumulated on their commission that they pay in the co-op, but then they can withdraw on it for a rainy day. You know, if you get sick, you need to cancel a week full of classes, you can. That could be 25% less of income you're making that month, if you get sick for a week, and that could mean the difference of eating peanut butter sandwiches or paying rent for the next week. So we really want to do that.
We would like to be able to offer training, continuous education and training, to all of our teachers as well. We want them to be able to invest into MyCoolClass as well. When we look at our our few competition that have very similar business models, they started off with maybe a million in venture capital and now they're unicorns five, six years later. So, as far as there being an industry with money and power, ESL, is it. So I think that MyCoolClass will be an amazing opportunity for teachers to take that power back as well as have a voice together to maybe have a positive effect on the industry. We're not expecting to be David beating Goliath, here, but if we can cause enough of a dent in the industry that other platforms say, "hmm, maybe I shouldn't be screwing over all these teachers so bad or else they're going to go over here," I'm happy with that. You know that would be great.
Kevin Gustafson: Providing a genuine alternative, that's legit, yeah.
Cinar Akcin: Definitely.
Kevin Gustafson: Larry. You're muted.
Cinar Akcin: You're muted, Larry. That's never happened.
Kevin Gustafson: Classic video call.
Larry Fenster: Yeah, thank you. So I want to riff off of you mentioned that there's going to be a vote in the near future about the vacation thing, I think, or something like that. And so I have a question about voting rights and power, how that wasn't clear to me from some of the things I read, which I'm sure is because I didn't read enough. But how does that work for you as a teacher? You get accepted. Do you have voting rights just because you're a teacher or do you need to become an investor to get a vote? And then the investor aspect and you buy-in shares or something is the share price is change and so is voting power based on one person, one vote for among shareholders, or is it based on number of shares or the value of your shares?
John Hayes: Sure. So okay, so I'll break that down. So we have three classes of membership. We have teachers who are user members. They use the platform to conduct their teaching business. Then we have worker members. They work for the cooperative. This would be, you know, design, you know, tech, anyone else. So they'd be worker members. And then we have investor members and we actually just did a rule change a few months ago to allow the investor class in membership. So with teachers, how it works is after they apply, we do charge an onboarding fee. You know, we're not backed with anything. I started this from my apartment in Warsaw, Poland. I don't make a lot of money. I left California for a reason. So they have to pay.
Larry Fenster: [indecipherable] by the way.
John Hayes: So the onboarding fee is between £5 and £25. So roughly, what, seven and $30? And that's based on the country they live in. So this allows teachers in low income countries to be able to buy in and become a member as well as those from higher income countries. So, the US, UK, this would be £25, and we have a few teachers that — we even had a teacher that came from Palestine, have a couple from Libya. I really do have teachers from all over the world. It's pretty cool. Then they are a teacher on the platform and then again we have a 50 hour probationary period before they become a full member with voting rights. So some teachers have been able to do that in a month, and bring on all their students. They're just teaching, teaching, teaching, and they become a member right away. Some teachers aren't being active or they're not really — you know, I mean, that's just life. Some aren't being active or bringing on their own students or are waiting for till we can drive more traffic to the platform. So they're just kind of sitting and waiting at that point.
So of course, only full members can vote. The majority of our worker-members now, they started from the very beginning with us, so they are full members. We've been around for about a year. And then the investor members — this is brand new and I'll discuss community shares in just a moment because it's kind of new in the US. The investor members, again, everyone gets one vote regardless of shareholding. So it's one member, one vote. And the investor members collectively cannot take up more than 10% of the total vote, effectively leaving 90% of the control in the teachers, and then the handful of workers. So we are one member one vote. And then going back to the teachers and the share value, regardless if they paid, you know, a £5 on boarding fee or a £25 onboarding fee, once they obtain full membership, they are granted a £1 nominal share. So that's how we're able to kind of balance that out, to be international, to allow different people from different economies to join. And that's how it works out. And then what we've recently done too, is since the conflict in Ukraine, the attack on Ukraine, what we have done is we started waiving the onboarding fee for Ukrainian teachers and we've already, I think, had about ten Ukrainian teachers join us just in the past couple of months too.
Kevin Gustafson: Sweet.
Cinar Akcin: I'm curious about how active are the teachers and the members — how active are they in participating in managing the platform, and voting and participating on different aspects of it? I ask this question because it sounds like a lot of them might not know the concept of a worker co-op, that ownership model. And so I guess, going to that question, what attracted them to this platform for them to want to join it and then also really participate in managing a platform, managing a company at the end of the day as a worker-member.
John Hayes: So that's the the worker members. We're really taking care of all the business aspect of it, the tech aspect, management classes, all of that. And that's actually one of the benefits to teachers is that once we get up and going and we're feeding ourselves now teachers really can focus on teaching. They don't need to worry about scheduling, invoicing, billing, as MyCoolClass takes all of that. Now, as I mentioned earlier and what you just said, a lot of people in general don't understand what a co-op is. They have a very vague concept of it. They don't actually grasp it. That has been by far the toughest challenge.
You know, we were incorporated, we registered in the UK in April of last year. We opened for business in July. And so we're almost a year of trading now and you know, we are growing very slowly and that is predominantly because it is very difficult to get a lot of our teachers to be cheerleaders for us because they're not quite sure of how it all works now. One thing that teachers do have to do within the first 30 days after joining MyCoolClass, we do have cooperative training. And I try to simplify it so a common person could at least start wrapping their head around a co-op, and what it is, and how it works.
So we have a compilation of different videos from YouTube as well as some short texts. I wrote a lot of things because I wanted to make it as simple and as clear in plain language as possible. But again, you know, the state of online teaching, this is where it also is getting a little difficult. Online teaching is a very exploitative industry and it has been for quite some time. A lot of teachers are skeptical of everyone and everything. Co-op, not a co-op, people in general, clients. I mean, there's just a lot of skepticism all over the place. So we do have, I'd say, about 25% of our teachers or so, maybe around 75 are very active. They do attend our — we have monthly meetups. We actually had one last night. We had about 20 or so that were able to attend. Then we post our replays, we have our own private social media platform, which is just for members and we have groups. So we are really trying to do a lot here. But the participation level is relatively low.
A lot of teachers have the perception, "All right, I'm willing to give this a chance. Here's £25. Let me see what happens." And they think that they can kick back and really not do nothing at that point. And we're really pushing "No, no, this isn't like you go to a store, you buy a hamburger for ten bucks and then that's it. We need teachers to still go out and promote, and share about us, and really help us grow. Because the past year, most of our capital has come in from those onboarding fees. And that's how we've been able to sustain our activities. We're not profitable, the 18 members or the 18 workers, we're working seven days a week. I mean, we could easily double our size and all have eight-hour-a-day jobs. I don't remember the last time I've had a day off in the past year and a half.
And we're really struggling at that point. So what we've done is we, just a couple of weeks ago, we launched a community shares offer. I heard a lot about this in the UK, but I haven't found too much of it in the US, with maybe the exception of a couple of housing cooperatives. So community shares: they're nontransferable, so it works actually a lot like a bank account, so to speak. What we're offering investors is a 5% return annually after year one on their investment, and they can withdraw on it as of year three, as early as year three. And it's very favorable for UK investors because they will get up to a 50% tax release on their investment. So we're really trying to get the UK mostly to hear about our share offer just because you invest 5000, you're immediately getting half of that back through your taxes. So it's very favorable. But again, anyone in the world can also invest in MyCoolClass and then become an investor member for £100. £100 is the minimum share subscription you can get. So they can't be traded, they can't be sold otherwise. So it works almost just like a bank account with your fixed interest.
Kevin Gustafson: But it's a way for you to get money and to know that it's going to be there for a while, and that it might get withdrawn but it's not going to be like you said, subjected to trading and any kind of speculation or any sort of, you know, nonsensical price inflation or deflation.
John Hayes: Exactly. Exactly. You know, I don't have the numbers in front of me, but since the past ten years in the UK, there's been millions and millions raised by co-operative societies and through community shares, and 92% of them are still trading. So community shares really do help. Because MyCoolClass, our operating costs just to make, [indecipherable] go around is really low. And that's the nice thing about being a platform is because we can scale really large and our expenses don't go up that much. So, you know, the two things that MyCoolClass needs to be able to be successful is working capital, because I don't know how many people are crazy enough to work 16 hours a day for a year unpaid. But we are apparently.
Larry Fenster: Thank you.
John Hayes: Yeah, we're doing it. And, I mean, we're tired, we're burnt out. And we need to see some support. You know, we need to hire professionals to take on certain roles. We need to hire an experienced marketing director. We need to hire a tech support team. So I don't have to sometimes wake up at 3:00 in the morning just because there's a little glitch somewhere. I'm not an IT professional. I mean, I know WordPress pretty well, but that's not my job. So most of us were wearing between 5 to 10 hats each right now. So that's really the purpose for the share offer. Our business works, we have our platform. Everything in the car works, we just don't have gasoline. So that's really where we're at. And so we want to push the share offer, not just to people that care about education, but co-ops in general. I recall maybe a few weeks ago on your show, you're talking about how — I think it is you, Kevin — that look, that there needs to be kind of that poster board that people can look at for that and say, "Oh, wow, they did it. We can do it, too. This is how it works. It's not a pipe dream. This isn't utopia. Let's use them as an example." And, you know, I'm very confident that MyCoolClass can and will be that example. But we need the capital to get going.
On our website. You know, we have a whole business plan. We're 100% transparent. You know, we are talking to our advisory board, how much stuff do you want to put on publicly and what do you want to keep. Like, no, let's put our whole competitor analysis up there. I don't even care. So we just really are looking for a lot of support from the cooperative movement, from teachers, from educators and across the board.
Kevin Gustafson: There's your call to action. Anybody listening who's a teacher or has got money burning a hole in their pocket. You can do some onboarding.
Larry Fenster: Yeah, I have a question, but I also wanted to give you the opportunity, since I thought you were going to say, go to this website to make a contribution or buy some shares, and then I want to ask a question. So why don't you tell us where people should go, right. So that they can either —
John Hayes: mycoolclass.com. Easy simple. Okay. m-y-c-o-o-l-c-l-a-s-s dot com.
Larry Fenster: Okay. Good. I wanted to give you that chance for sure. So the question I had was getting back to the difficulty you're having with member participation in the co-op idea or just participation in decision making, I guess. It sounded like the vacation, the decision about how to make vacation pay possible, how much if to teach before you get vacation, and how much vacation, and things like that — that seems like it would be pretty motivating for people that are worker-members, teacher-members, to motivate them to participate. Are there other aspects of decision making that they might get involved in at some point, or now that they haven't been it could. Like, I'm just thinking it might be issues of too many people teaching the same thing. So how do you deal with that so that you limit competition maybe, and make sure that people aren't forced to reduce their their fees because somebody is a star or something like that. That might be something that I don't know if you could vote on that could be democratically decided. Does that come up? But other issues too. It seems like there ought to be more decision making issues that affected teachers would be a way to increase their involvement and interest in the power that they have, which they may not recognize that power is a good thing, that the vote is a good thing, and that's the cooperative idea.
Kevin Gustafson: And I wonder how they do that? You talked about the social — your kind of own social media thing, which is a way of having discussion and kind of getting together, stuff like that. But what are the nuts and bolts of how you vote? You know, that's that's a form participation in terms of discussing, but do you have monthly general assemblies, quarterly, how does it work?
John Hayes: So we have monthly meet-ups just because we are still so new and growing. Most of the teachers that have stood up and said, "Hey, I want to help, what can I do?" they actually probably end up becoming a work leader and joining with us right now. But, you know, it's it's really hard because like I was saying, there is so much skepticism due to the climate there and a lot of teachers are very working class. They are living paycheck-to-paycheck. Many teachers are currently teaching on two, three, four, even five other platforms, and they're all over the place. So this is where the pull and tug is. You know, we want more participation. We did actually have a vote on the minimum marketplace price a few months ago when we were smaller, but we had less than 10% of the teachers that actually took part. So this is where our battle is.
We're at the point where we need to show that we can do this. And then at that point, then that would give teachers the confidence in MyCoolClass and the cooperative principle. But people expect "I'm the worker. I expected X from the company." So it's really hard to still get people to wrap their mind around, "hey, this is my business, too." And so we really try to drill in that we do have lots of training and we have our first AGM in October. So we're actually starting to kind of prepare for that as well. A lot of the decisions are being made between the workers because we're meeting with each other every day. Like about the 20 of us, where we're very, very, very tight. And so most of the decision making is being made among the workers right now. And then as teacher participation increases, absolutely that will be opened up. But again, you know, we don't have the participation level so high right now. And this has been a battle. We know what we need to do and ultimately raising capital to start marketing, that's going to be the kicker, that's going to get all the teachers jumping up and down and take that active role participating.
Kevin Gustafson: It takes longer than a year to change someone's class consciousness as well, you know?
John Hayes: So yeah, yeah.
Kevin Gustafson: Give you a break on the fact that it's pretty recent. Give it some time.
Larry Fenster: It sounds like the fact that there's so many teachers are spread out among — they may not be earning enough off MyCoolClass alone, and so the more you can get them to earn more on your platform, then the more likely they're going to be invested in spending time and realize the power of their vote. But if they're all spread out all over, first they don't have any time, they're preparing dozens of classes, maybe some of them can by this time, but whatever, it still takes time and then it's not as big a benefit. The more they get invested in terms of the number of classes that they're offering on your platform, the more they're going to get invested in the power of their vote. So it's a catch-22. You got to get — right, I got you.
John Hayes: Yeah. And to get back to what you were saying about over saturating on one subject or another. So our goal is to reach a thousand teachers and then take a look at kind of what we have at that point, because a thousand teachers is nothing compared to, you know, any other platform, is still very small. And then we'll probably temporarily moratorium on applications, see where we're at. And then we'll say, "okay, we're only accepting French teachers, or Spanish teachers, or whatnot, because we have way too many English teachers." And, you know, those are things we want to do. And we do need that member participation to kind of — we're hesitant on putting, too many rules. We want to kind of deal with them as they come, to see what's necessary and what's not necessary. So yeah, we really are demanding that teacher participation so we can in our — we have our own social media platform, like I said, and that's completely separate from our learning platform. So this is private teachers can put in polls openly, there's no approval process or anything like that.
Kevin Gustafson: Nice.
Cinar Akcin: One question about — you touched upon and you said you wanted a thousand teachers on the platform. What do you envision for MyCoolClass going forward? What is your vision of success in addition to that? And also a little bit more on the speculative side. How do you think the ownership, teacher ownership on this platform, how is that going to change one: the content that's delivered in the future, and it's a little bit speculative to go into this kind of envisioning of what a cooperative society will look like, the content and way teachers interact with students. What do you think? I mean, hopefully, how would that change or how that would improve the engagement between teacher and student?
John Hayes: The teachers that are attracted to the cooperative model — or at least spend 5 minutes looking at the website to try to understand it — they either love it or they're totally not interested in it. So we are attracting amazing teachers, very amazing teachers around the world. But one thing to remember is MyCoolClass we are a platform co-operative of independent teachers. So there are going to be various different types of teachers on there. You know, as far as what you can teach on the platform, we're not going to have — we don't allow classes such as get rich quick or how to become a stock broker, I mean, obviously, things that are against the principles, you can't teach how to make guns, drugs, or Bible study classes. But I mean, short of that, it's really open. And that's the part of the cooperative that's going to be the biggest, is the course marketplace. Because therefore it's going to be hard for competition just because each teacher does truly offer something unique. It's not like, you know, we have a course book handed out to a thousand teachers and say, "Hey, teach it, by the way." And then so some teachers are doing great, some teachers are doing poor, but teachers are completely independent. So, again, if you were to offer maybe a basket weaving class in Croatian we can't guarantee you're going to get students. I mean, that's just the reality of it.
But again, you know, the co-operative we want to help you say, "Hey, these classes are doing well, these classes aren't doing so well. Maybe to shift your focus over here." The co-operative wants to pay for outside trainers to come in so we can professionally give our teachers ongoing education to help them be independent, but within a cooperative because so many teachers are going independent right now. But it's not helping the state of affairs of online education as a whole. There is no mass movement or a group to counter this. So we're trying to pretty much collect all of the independent teachers, combine them in one. And now we have an army to actually put something up against this beast that we're facing.
Cinar Akcin: Well put.
Kevin Gustafson: On that. In some ways, that beast needs to be slayed, but we're well on the way to doing so.
Larry Fenster: Yeah, it's been great.
Kevin Gustafson: Thanks, this is very interesting. And you know my brother is a principal at an elementary school. And so I hear a lot of some of the sort of war stories of the traditional kind of what I might call like early 20th century style education, put everybody in a room and forced them to listen to people talk. And then obviously there's been changes, and there's different pedagogical approaches. But this is in many ways the future. And I think it's the future, both in terms of the use of technology, the establishment of a platform, but also hopefully the clarity of principles. So and it's been great to talk to you, John. I'm really looking forward to year two being one of growth.
John Hayes: Yes.
Larry Fenster: Yeah, good luck! We'll check back with you, I hope, and see how it's going, and let's keep in touch for sure.
John Hayes: Absolutely. Thanks a lot for having me. Again, MyCoolClass, come check it out. And you guys can also geek out on our rules and our governance and all that stuff, you know, it's it's all up there.
Kevin Gustafson: So teachers, if you know, if you're an independent teacher, check out MyCoolClass. If you've got, again, money burning hole in your pocket check out MyCoolClass. And if you're a co-op nerd, check out MyCoolClass.
Larry Fenster: And check out Patreon and All Things Co-op, Democracy at Work, and make that contribution, become a member. Yeah ah you know check out the cool swag.
Kevin Gustafson: You get like swag like this shirt and stuff.
Larry Fenster: Oh, nice.
Kevin Gustafson: It's a work shirt, it's legit. Check it out.
Cinar Akcin: Ok John, thanks a lot, and I really look forward to seeing you grow. Luck to you.
John Hayes: Okay. Thanks a lot, everyone.
This transcript has been lightly edited for readability.