When I graduated from college more than 10 years ago, “Google it,” had yet to become a ubiquitous term. Back then, people still printed up paper resumes to send via snail mail to prospective employers.
My, how times have changed. These days, if you can’t do a Google search, one would assume you have grandchildren. And if you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, good luck looking for a job. In the 90′s, we used to chat with friends using AOL Instant Messenger. I remember back in 2005 when I first started using Yahoo IM to discuss client software projects with my co-workers in San Francisco. Now, the use of applications like Google Talk (or Gchat), Chatter and Yammer are the norm. In 1998, Microsoft rocked my world when I realized I could write papers with Word and do math with Excel. Now, we do all that with Google Docs, and Microsoft is tripping, trying to catch up with Office365.
These are just a few examples of how web apps and services have slowly made their way into regular, everyday work activities. Instant messaging and online document creation and management are just two of the most common and widely used web applications today. There are many more web apps and services that are regularly used in the modern workplace, enough to make your head spin.
As CEO and co-founder, Jeff Fernandez, says, “Grovo is like the Cliff’s Notes for the digital world. We create one-minute videos for over 100 different web services and apps.” There are now close to 4,000 of these videos - that’s almost three days of non-stop tutorials.
It all came to fruition three years ago. Jeff was out to dinner with his co-founders Nick Narodny and Surag Mungekar. During the course of the dinner, a friend called, asking how to connect WordPress and Google Analytics. It was in that moment when they realized they were all getting similar questions from all types of people: moms, dads, aunts, uncles, younger siblings in college, and co-workers. The inspiration for Grovo came from the realization that “the cloud” was having a bigger and bigger impact on our personal and professional lives but there was no place to go to learn enough about it. So Grovo was created.
|Subjects Covered||Web apps and services including LinkedIn, the many Google applications, Firefox, Dropbox, Basecamp, Adobe Creative Cloud, Quickbooks Online, Salesforce, Facebook, Twitter, and more|
|Total Courses||126 difference topic areas. Almost 4K videos. 15 videos are added each day.|
|Student Level||Beginner to Intermediate|
|Format||Video, Interactive Quizzes and PDF cheat sheets|
|Certification||None, but there is an internal badging system|
|Cost||Basic account – free (limited access)
$8.25/month with yearly commitment
$7.50/month with 2 year commitment
Group pricing available
Many of you regularly find new web apps and services that are or have become useful and important tools in your work and personal lives but needed help getting started. Thus, Grovo is ideal for anyone who needs a cursory understanding of new and unfamiliar web app or service. According to Jeff, “If you use the Internet everyday, you are an ideal candidate for Grovo.”
More often than not, we learn through experimentation, by phoning a friend (maybe during his dinner), or by plain old trial and error. There’s nothing wrong with any of that but it takes time and effort. This is where Grovo can help you out. As Jeff says, “Grovo can help you truncate the learning curve. There are so many features available, more than you’ll find out about on your own, and more come out everyday.”
So with Grovo, you can get started either in the discovery stage (looking for a solution) or in the stage wherein you seek more knowledge (how do I…?). Thus, you don’t really need an account for a particular web app or service to get started in any given Grovo tutorial. However, having the relevant account will be useful after completing a few of the tutorials, at which time you would naturally want to try putting what you have just learned into practice.
Getting started with Grovo is simple and free. Grovo offers tiered pricing with a free entry level service and does not require any credit card information. This free service provides access to 1,000+ mostly basic introductory videos, which account for roughly 1/3 of Grovo’s content. Meanwhile, all of the videos for some topics are reserved for paid users and a premium account gives access to the full library.
Signing up with Grovo for the first time is a fun and interactive process. It starts with a 7-item questionnaire that collects your personal hardware settings (Mac/PC, iOS/Android, etc.), your email provider, security preferences, internet usage habits (business vs. pleasure), and most used personal web apps and services (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).
The net result is a curriculum that is tailored just for you. After completing the questionnaire, you’ll be taken to your personal dashboard, and from there, you can simply peruse your list and start watching videos.
Each prescribed learning track consists of a group of 1-minute video lessons (the count varies from course to course). Each video, in turn, comes with a transcript and the full learning track that bundles the details of all related videos on the screen so that the user can view them together. Grovo’s video player is proprietary and has closed captioning (CC). When you toggle on the CC, the corresponding text in the transcript box comes alive with highlighting as the narrator talks. There is also a screen capture option currently being developed that will allow you to grab video screenshots and save them to your profile (under development and coming in Q4).
All lessons include a companion PDF which includes a transcript of the narration, a glossary, and a place for you to take notes should you choose to print it.
Passing all of the quizzes at the end of each lesson will unlock a badge for that skill.
This introduces a subtle gamification effect. Incidentally, you can link with friends on Grovo via your personal profile, see which courses they are taking, and “train” with them.
Finding new skills to learn on Grovo is easy. You can use the search bar and look for web services and apps tutorials that you need. You can also discover unknown tools by scanning the most popular videos among Grovo users, as well as the latest tutorial additions. Grovo is meticulous about adding new feature tutorials to various web apps and services as they come out. Fifteen new tutorials are added every day. Grovo has the entire world of web apps and services covered. If you have a problem, they have a solution. Here is a glimpse of their coverage:
- E-commerce: Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Kickstarter, Groupon
- Communication: Gmail, Google Voice, Skype
- Social Media: Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, G+, Hootsuite
- Organization: Evernote, Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox,
- Operating Systems: Windows 8, OS X
- Finances: Mint, Quickbooks Online, Paypal
- Mobile: iOS, iPad
- Browsing: Chrome, Firefox, Google Search
- Music: Spotify, iTunes, Rdio
- Word processing: Google Docs, Office365
- Analytics: Moz, Google Analytics
- Video: Youtube, Vimeo
- Presentation: Prezi, Slideshare
We took some needed tutorials in WordPress, SEO, and LinkedIn, but stumbled upon Boomerang, which is a Gmail and Google Apps utility that allows you to schedule email messages for delivery, receive reminders when messages have gone unanswered, and have messages reappear in your inbox as reminders. It’s an incredibly useful reminder tool and you can become a Boomerang pro in 15 minutes or less with Grovo’s 10 video lessons. Many hidden gems and “stuff you didn’t know you needed” lay waiting within Grovo’s library.
Grovo is also useful for recent grads and career transitioners looking for jobs. Jeff recommends checking out all of the LinkedIn and social media tutorials that help out in job hunting and make sure your online presence is consistent and professional, as they serve as your “digital image,” which any employer these days can view . “You can actually set up Linkedin to look for jobs for you,” says Jeff. Furthermore, you can do some research and find out what tools people in your field are using, and start reviewing them. Thus, Grovo can help you not only to get skilled up and get ahead at your job, but it can help you to actually land a job.
The video tutorials are engaging and easy-to-follow. Many of the introductory videos start with charming cartoons that revive fond memories of Schoolhouse Rock! from the early 80′s Saturday Morning Cartoons. In fact, the animation in some tutorials may leave you in awe at the level of effort and detail Grovo‘s animators put into these videos. On many occasions, you will find yourself rewinding the clip just to watch for fun. However, one video takes the crown for the best animation in Grovo’s library: How Social Media Evolved. We watched it a handful of times and we still couldn’t get enough of it.
Brilliant cartoons aside, the learning content is action-oriented and provides step-by-step details and specific examples. The 1-minute tutorial serves its purpose giving short, yet deep dives into singular activities and concepts. Each video provides the building blocks for learning an app or service, and as Jeff says, “After half an hour of videos and quizzes, you should have a good enough understanding to navigate a service.”
We’ve seen a lot of libraries, and Grovo is, by far, the most consumable. After using Grovo, sitting through an hour-long course seems like an insurmountable feat. Because the videos are easy to break up, you can apply what you learn as you see fit. Some might prefer to have a separate window going side-by-side, while others can watch a bunch of videos in a row and jump into the app being discussed.
“The cloud is having a profound impact on business. It’s helping companies save money, make money, save time, and manage their organizations a whole lot more efficiently,” Jeff says. Thus, the new Grovo is also very much for team training in business settings. A new management dashboard has been created that will allow managers to assign and track different modules for different job roles, and to monitor progress. According to Jeff, small businesses and startups are using the platform to train in social media and online marketing services like Google Apps, Facebook, Asana, Twitter, Google Analytics, and Adwords. And it is not just for trendy Internet startups. Some of Grovo’s customers include respected brands like Chevron, Pitney Bowes, Sotheby’s, and P&G.
To meet the needs of a modern workforce that’s always on the move, Grovo is fully optimized for mobile devices. It has responsive web design as well as apps for iPad and iPhone. We tried them all out and the learning experience is seamless between platforms. During the course of our testing, we were able to easily pick up from one device to another with no gaps in progress, or even a skip in the video. Furthermore, we were able to take the assessment quizzes, open up the PDF companions (except for iOS app where they are not part of functionality), and easily navigate the website. According to Jeff Fernandez, 30% to 40% of current users are using mobile phones and tablets to access Grovo.
Cost of Program
Grovo offers some pretty attractive price options for 1- and 2- year plans. Even at $15.95/month, 4K video tutorials covering more than 100 different web apps and services is a solid deal.
Ease of Use
Online learning platforms don’t get much easier to use. My mom could use it without having to call me. Content is organized in a simple fashion that works and is accessible via web browsers, mobile browsers, and iOS app, without skipping a beat in service. Bonus points for closed captioning for the hearing impaired.
Quality of Content
Grovo does exactly what it promises — provide basic training for cloud services and web apps. Not only is it thorough in coverage, but for each service, it provides detailed instructions that can be easily understood and implemented by anyone. Furthermore, the production value is off the hook.
Quality of Support
It’s basic training. You have your videos, your PDFs, and, if you’re lucky, the option to “train with a friend” who might be able to help you through a rough patch. It’s not too often people will get stumped with the entry-level but it’s not clear what to do when you are at a dead-end and need support.
There are a lot of useful apps here that can help you polish up your “digital image.” However, the training is basic and not too many of the skills are super high value. That said, using Grovo to get proficiency in relevant apps to your industry can give you an edge against the guy sitting next to you in the interview waiting room.
If you are struggling to keep up with the proliferation of web apps and services, Grovo is the tool for you. Better yet, if you are struggling with all of the phone calls and emails from friends and family asking you what to do, Grovo is the tool you should recommend. I, for one, will be buying it for my mom and dad who call me on a daily basis to help them figure out how to use their Mac, new iPhones, and even their e-mail.
On a serious note, Grovo is on to something here. Its special sauce is the 1-minute video. “The shorter we keep our videos, the more likely people are to complete them,” says Fernandez. “People don’t quite have the attention span they used to. Hyper-attentive learning — a 1-minute video and a quiz — works really well, and people enjoy it.” With Grovo’s micro-video format, you can train on your own terms: at home or at work…or on your iPhone right before you hop on your Citi Bike (like in the video below).
The compactness of the learning experience and its availability via mobile and tablet makes it a “training library on the go.” It’s really convenient to watch a few videos at a time during lunch, between work tasks, right before heading out for the night, in the backseat of a car, or even in between TV commercials during Project Runway (for the ladies) and during NFL games (for the guys).
Beyond the portability factors, web apps and services have spread well beyond personal use. The first time I worked for a company that used Google Apps for email, not only was I shellshocked, but I didn’t know how to use Gmail because I was still using Yahoo’s mail service. On top of that, we used wifi and Dropbox — again a strange and unfamiliar application — to store files instead of a file server. Finally, we used Salesforce.com instead of desktop CRM applications, which I used to implement for a living. It’s times like these that I wish I had Grovo to help me through.
These situations are not unique. In fact, they are the norm these days as more and more apps and services emerge to make our personal and work lives easier. However, there is an initial discomfort factor, which Grovo can alleviate. I get the same texts, emails, and phone calls Jeff, Surag, and Nick got before they started Grovo. Fortunately, I don’t need to start another learning platform. I can just, without hesitation, recommend that they check Grovo out… and to stop calling me for help!
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