Amy Webb wasn't planning on starting another business. But two years ago, as revenue-strapped newspapers began closing down or laying off staff, the former reporter and editor turned digital media consultant decided to step in and help her former colleagues.
Webb, who was already running a successful company geared toward bringing traditional media organizations up to speed with digital technology, pulled together some of her fellow consultants and scheduled a free webinar for recently laid off journalists. Not long after the two-hour primer on must-have digital media skills ended, Webb and her colleagues started getting emails from would-be participants begging to know when the next one would be. By the second webinar, 50 participants had ballooned to over 200, and a third session had 600 sign-ups.
"I thought this might be an idea for something bigger," says Webb, whose team quickly began building an all-in-one digital media training resource on the Drupal content management system. Almost by accident, Knowledgewebb was born.
For $129 per year, members of Knowledgewebb get access to webinars, live chats, tip sheets and discussion forums on topics ranging from setting up one's home office to social media strategy to advanced SQL programming, all taught by a variety of expert instructors.
What started out as a means for journalists to learn new skills expanded into a learning community for all professionals, entrepreneurs and small business owners. The site's Entreprenuership track contains lessons on non-disclosure agreements, working with contractors, monetizing your website and maintaining a healthy life-work balance. Looking to start a Web-based business? One class offers a comprehensive checklist of everything you need to take into account. Other tracks include Blogging, Code, Social Networks, Metrics/Traffic, and Personal/Professional Development.
It's not just entrepreneurs and media professionals who could benefit from Knowledgewebb's cirriculum, says Webb. "There are a lot of really smart people out there working in whatever field they work in. They're sort of at a point now where they can't sit in a meeting and say I don't really get this Twitter thing. We have a whole bunch of content available for people like that."
After a successful first iteration, Knowledgewebb recently relaunched with new features designed to make the learning process more motivating and social. In what Webb touts as a first for Web-based education, the site now uses Foursquare-style merit badges, which can be unlocked by completing classes. These badges display on the user's own profile, as well as next to their name when they participate in discussions forums, signifying their achievements thus far.
"What we're doing is cultivating experts inside the network," says Webb. "We have the designated experts, and then we have Knowledgewebb users who have taken a lot of classes and earned these badges, so other users can instantly see who's a trusted member of the community."
In addition to badges, Knowledgewebb recently rolled out a course scheduling tool called My Digital Planner, which breaks down a user's completed classes and lists the ones they are planning to take in the future. Once a course is completed, users can generate a report to demonstrate their proficiency to employers or educators.
ReadWriteWeb readers can save 30% off a Knowledgewebb subscription with the the discount code RWW2010