Name: Learnable

Quick Pitch: Learnable allows anyone to create and charge for online courses.

Genius Idea: Many schools have started to take online education seriously. By 2006, 66% of postsecondary learning institutions included in federal financial aid programs were already reporting that they offered some form of Internet learning, and a 2009 report from the U.S. Department of education found that those students who studied in online learning environments performed modelstly better than peers who were receiving face-to-face instruction.

This is very much along the lines of what Futurist Thomas Frey predicted in his 2007 paper on the Future of Education.

It’s great news for people who are looking to work toward a college degree, but there are few affordable parallels for people who just want to pick up a skill. Where does one go for affordable online lessons on homepage design? Javascript programming? Guitar? the Irish Whistle?

For many, the answers can be found on YouTube. But these “lessons” are usually one-off demonstrations rather than consecutive instruction. They lack a community component, and provide no revenue to reward the teacher.

Learnable aims to create what YouTube lacks as an education platform. Anybody can create a course by bundling articles, documents and videos into consecutive lessons that students work through at their own pace. A Q&A section attached to each course becomes its forum, and users can see who else is enrolled in the course.

Like a similar online learning platform called Udemy, Learnable offers an option for teachers to charge their students for lessons. Most lessons are priced around $20, and Learnable collects 50% of each student’s fee. Students can see an outline of course content and a bio of the instructor before they purchase a course, and all courses are approved by the company before they launch.

Learnable was spun off from Sitepoint.com, a resource for web developers that hosts forums, blogs, and, yes, courses on web topics. But the new site, which enjoys many of the same investors but is a separate entity, aims to be more universal than the site it sprung from. Only about a quarter of the 70 courses currently being offered relate to programming or web design (and yes, the Irish Whistle is represented).

Whether or not students will find courses like Learnable’s worth paying for, continue to rely on old how-to standbys like YouTube, or instead migrate to new (but free) learning platforms like Sophia, is what will make or break the new platform. It may also shape how people learn from each other each other in the future.