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St. Pete edtech firm aims to create the ‘Netflix of education’

Margie Manning

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Cofounders Jim Szewc (second from left) and Greg Cazzola (right) with some of the teachers from Cohesion Education.

Two teachers with a combined three decades of classroom experience have created an online resource that gives parents tools to help their elementary school children.

Cohesion Education is a subscription-based online library filled with videos on math, reading, and writing concepts for children in kindergarten through fifth grade, and intended to give parents insight into what their kids are learning. The lessons are created and taught by certified teachers.

Jim Szewc and Greg Cazzola co-founded the company after seeing the frustrations parents faced in not knowing how to help their children.

Jim Szewc, co-founder and CEO, Cohesion Education

“We said we want to create the Netflix of education,” said Szewc, who is CEO. “We don’t want this to replace the instruction from the teacher or the support they may be getting from a tutor or from their parents themselves, but just give the parents a view into what a lesson looks like in a typical elementary school.”

The videos launched after the Christmas break, but Szewc and Cazzola have worked on the business for about two years, bootstrapping operations with about $100,000 of their own funds. Almost all the money has gone into production. There are 637 videos, five to 10 minutes in length. Most of the videos were shot at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center’s former location, the TEC Garage in downtown St. Petersburg.

Cohesion will charge $12 a month or $99 a year for the videos. The company is offering free trials right now.

“We know that families that are spending money on education are spending more than we charge,” Szewc said. Most tutors in the Tampa Bay area charge $50 to $75 an hour and still turn business away, he said.

In addition to business-to-consumer sales, Szewc is looking at business-to-business activities, including a pilot with schools.

“In order to make this a product someone will pay for, we want to test it in a large group such as an elementary school and maybe some select parents in Hillsborough County schools … so we have raw data to use to sell beyond our local school district,” he said.

By offering certified teachers, Cohesion Education distinguishes itself from its competitors, primarily the free instructional videos on Google and YouTube as well as from Khan Academy, a nonprofit based in Silicon Valley.

“Their videos we feel are not as engaging as ours,” Szewc said. “In our next phase, we will add quizzes to the videos. We will add live ‘office hours’ with a teacher online, and any subscriber can ask questions and we’ll present answers to those questions, and other extra features those other companies don’t offer.”

Greg Cazzola, co-founder and president, Cohesion Education

Initially, Szewc and Cazzola were focused on just the local market, but they now see a national market for their product.

All lessons are based on state or Common Core standards, according to Cohesion Education’s website. Common Core is a set of educational standards for teaching and testing English and mathematics between kindergarten and 12th grade. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order on Jan. 31 to eliminate Common Core, but that won’t disrupt Cohesion Education’s business model, Szewc said.

“As far as elementary school goes, kids still have to learn how to read,  how to do basic arithmetic and understand math, and when it comes to elementary school, I personally do not see that changing, even if we repackage our state standards,” Szewc said. “We’ve been in this business long enough to know that about every three to five years, something major shifts, but it doesn’t necessarily have a monumental impact on elementary schools. We feel all it will mean for us is shifting videos around or maybe re-shooting a video, but the core foundation of what kids in elementary school learn is not going to change.”

 

 

 

 

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