The Host For The Masses

Coursera and Udacity may open up lectures to millions around the world, but they can’t re-create the classroom vibe--and that’s where Tara Lemmey thinks the magic truly happens.

“To me, it’s all about the emotional connection,” she says.

Spin, her company’s online application, lets people interact in a digital space. Users can watch and react to the same video, play the same game, or work on a project as though they were all in the same room. Spin’s coolest function may be how it transforms videoconferencing. Participants can organize and size their view windows according to volume--a teacher would place herself at the top, with the loudest “mike,” and her pupils down below.

An early trial brought together 500 students from China, Brazil, India, and Japan for a semester of lectures by Harvard professor Michael Sandel. Spin scores in other ways as well. In a pilot project for the soccer team D.C. United, it made Spin Stadium, a digital place for fans to watch and cheer together.

“Interaction isn’t gaming; it’s emotional response time,” Lemmey says. “It’s having a laugh at the same moment.”

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