Two years ago, Tony Josato was teaching basic internet classes when a neighbor suggested he teach a class about selling on eBay. "I thought it would be great, but I didn't have the time to create an entire curriculum for all the complexities of eBay," recalls Josato, 33.
Nevertheless, a few months later, the O'Fallon, Illinois, entrepreneur began researching a possible curriculum and immediately found out about the eBay Education Specialist Program. This official eBay resource provides non-eBay-affiliated individuals with the tools and knowledge necessary to teach other people how to sell on eBay. It uses the same curriculum developed for eBay University--a fact Josato found particularly appealing--and includes professionally prepared guides for instructors as well as educational materials for students.
Josato became one of the first Education Specialists in the St. Louis area, and eBay training is now the primary business of his company, Josato Consulting. He provides courses for individuals at local community colleges, businesses and other venues, and plans to seek government grants for training people in economically disadvantaged communities to sell on eBay. "I believe we can take this Education Specialist Program to the next level in making a difference in somebody's life," he says.
The Education Specialist Program has trained more than 1,000 instructors and counting, says Sharon Guldner, manager of education programs for the eBay platform. Another interesting fact about the program is the high level of innovation demonstrated by Education Specialists, like Josato, who are finding new ways to tailor eBay training for specific applications. From weekly homebased sessions to trainers renting out community centers for large group classes, Education Specialists have brewed up an ever-growing set of channels for distributing eBay education.
Guldner says the creative offerings of Education Specialists are benefiting both eBay and eBay members. "There's such great demand for people to learn," she explains. "Everybody's heard of eBay and wants to learn, but at some level there's a little apprehension about how to get started. Education Specialists help break down that barrier."
A particular objective of the Education Specialist Program has been to bring classes by eBay-trained instructors to cities and towns lacking other face-to-face eBay education opportunities. "Education Specialists enable us to get the official eBay University curriculum out to a larger number of people in various local communities," Guldner explains. "While we had other instructor-led educational efforts, this is a way for us to benefit from the network effect of training many trainers who then train many people. The program is now a little more than 2 years old, and it's been incredibly successful in getting into smaller communities."
After starting with the basic how-to-sell course at 2004's eBay Live! in New Orleans, the Education Specialist Program has progressed to more advanced topics, such as how to become a more professional seller. Most recently, the program has developed training to certify Education Specialists as even more advanced trainers.
The Education Specialist Program also provides an online directory that lists training events by location. This makes it easy for students to find appropriate local trainers, as well as for Education Specialists to find clients. That's no accident. Guldner says two of the main goals of the Education Specialist Program are to teach would-be sellers about selling on eBay, and to give would-be instructors high-quality training and tools to start their own businesses teaching about eBay.
"eBay looks at itself as a platform that enables economic opportunity, primarily to small business," Guldner says. "So we've built adjacent opportunities for users to augment what they're already making on eBay. One [opportunity] is training about eBay." You can learn more about the Education Specialist Program or find an Education Specialist near you at www.ebay.com/esp.
Back to School
The Education Specialist Program is just one of many eBay resources for people who want to learn how to start businesses selling on eBay. "We realized some years ago that people who were using eBay were more successful if they had a little bit of a head start," says Guldner. "So we built a lot of our education efforts around helping them be more effective in their early years on eBay."
Though buying on eBay is somewhat straightforward, the selling side of the equation is relatively more complex, especially for people starting a new business on eBay. That was part of the reason eBay began eBay University, its first in-person educational effort, in 2000. The course provides tracks for both basic sellers and more advanced sellers. There's also a virtual edition of eBay University you can take from home (see "Learn More Online" on page 26).
eBay University is especially effective because the face-to-face instruction helps motivate people to learn and go ahead with their business plans, says Joseph T. Sinclair, author of eBay Business the Smart Way. "When people go to something like that, in addition to getting the information, it energizes them. Even when it's not a pep talk, just getting the information and being around people who are doing the same thing and finding solutions to problems they've seen has an energizing effect. It gets you hyped up. I would certainly recommend people do that."
The Selling Basics curriculum of eBay University covers topics such as becoming an eBay seller, creating listings, improving descriptions, photography, pricing, PayPal accounts, monitoring listings and completing transactions. Beyond the Basics is for sellers who want to get more out of their listings and start a real business on eBay. Its courses cover, among other topics, choosing an appropriate listing format, using listing tools, marketing your business, managing larger numbers of listings, packing and shipping inventory, and using PayPal for online payments.
While eBay University offers the same curriculum taught by Education Specialists, it is taught by eBay and PayPal employees as well as independent educators with longstanding eBay relationships, including published authors and experienced speakers. Using employees and prominent experts as instructors enables eBay University to offer students the latest information about eBay, presented by instructors with deep experience. You can find out when eBay University is coming to your area, or look into its online courses, at www.ebay.com/university.
Working It Out
eBay University instructors and Edu-cation Specialists are trained to teach overviews about general eBay selling and business topics. For deep insight into narrower topics, new eBay business owners can turn to eBay Workshops. These online events, which include both lectures and interactive discussions, are hosted by expert eBay sellers, authors and other special guests.
The range of workshop subjects is exceptionally broad. A single month's worth may run the gamut from taxes and market research to sourcing products and using Skype. "They might cover eBay Stores, or even a specific product we have on our site," says Guldner. Some topics are timely, dealing with recently introduced eBay features. Others are recurring, such as how to take better photos.
One to four new workshops are presented each week, and previous workshops are archived by month and topic all the way back to the first program in 2004, so you can research topics of interest. At the Workshop discussion board, you can also discuss workshops, post questions and even suggest topics for future workshops. Learn more about workshops at http://pages.ebay.com/community/workshopcalendar/index.html.
On the Radio
The best-known expert on eBay selling is Jim "Griff" Griffith, the dean of eBay Education. In addi-tion to teaching university seminars and penning his bestselling book, The Official eBay Bible, Griff also writes "Griff's Corner," a regular column featuring tips, answers to eBay members' questions and more. The topics range from staying safe online to successful selling. "It's a little bit of the inside voice on what's going on, along with Q&A stuff," says Guldner.
The information and approach in "Griff's Corner" are directed at basic and new users rather than more advanced sellers, and all feature Griff's plain-English style and sense of humor that have put people at ease since he was hired as eBay's first customer-service representative in 1996. You can learn more about "Griff's Corner" at http://pages.ebay.com/university/griff. Questions sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will be considered for future editions of "Griff's Corner."
Griff is also featured on eBay Radio, presented live on the internet each Tuesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. PST, and Sunday on the Ask Griff show at 3 to 5 p.m. PST. The show is also available as a podcast; archived shows can also be downloaded. In addition to Griff, eBay Radio features guests ranging from eBay CEO Meg Whitman to eBay marketing specialists and, occasionally, non-eBay experts on branding, sourcing and many other topics.
Program director Lee Mirabal presents an eBay news segment,but callers are the center of eBay Radio. By calling (877) 474-3302 in the U.S. or 011-858-678-8958 internationally, people can ask Griff and guests a question or just share their views with the eBay community. As further incentive, the show hands out a free autographed copy of The Official eBay Bible to one caller selected at random each week.
"What is most interesting about eBay Radio is the question-and-answer part," says Guldner. "This enables users to go deep into questions they have about the site." eBay Radio tends to attract a loyal audience of relatively experienced and expert eBay sellers. One of the unique characteristics of eBay Radio is that it's a learning resource eBay sellers can tap into by listening at almost any time, even while they are selling on eBay.
If you join the eBay Radio group, you'll automatically get a note from Griff every week alerting you to the topics of upcoming broadcasts and guests who will appear on the show. You can listen to current and past shows, look through archives by date or topic and learn more about what eBay Radio has to offer at www.wsradio.com/ebayradio.
Live and Learn
Ever since the first eBay Live! in 2002, this annual event has been known as a social and networking event for 10,000 or more eBay users who want to hobnob with each other as well as eBay employees. But eBay Live! is also an important educational opportunity for people looking to start businesses on eBay. "It's a combination of learning, celebrating and networking," says Guldner.
In fact, eBay Live! is at the top of Sinclair's list of educational opportunities. "People can learn more at a trade show than they can in any other environment," he says. "Being able to walk the floor and talk to vendors and see what's available to help you on eBay is a huge education that can't be duplicated anywhere else." And that's before you even get to the formal education offered there. This year's eBay Live!, held June 13 to 15 in Las Vegas, featured more than 175 classes, workshops, labs and seminars. It also had celebrity speakers such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream co-founder Jerry Greenfield. The keynote address by Whitman gave attendees a chance to hear about the future of eBay from the person in charge. All told, eBay Live! is an education in itself, says Sinclair. "You have a three-day smorgasbord of lectures on a wide variety of topics," he says. "You can pick from what you know and what you need to know."
"[eBay Live! is] a tremendous resource," agrees Josato, who has attended eBay Live! and gone to classes there as well as met with vendors of services for eBay sellers. "I recommend it to anybody who's getting serious about their business on eBay. There are just so many resources available."
Education on eBay has come a great distance from the first eBay University classes. From live radio shows to customizable online learning, eBay educational resources span a broad spectrum of topics and levels of sophistication. Education isn't just for newbies, nor is it only for experts. "We believe learning is a valuable part of the eBay experience, regardless of where you are with your career with eBay," explains Guldner. "So we have resources available for all types of users."
Though eBay education is largely about coursework and curriculum, that's not the whole story. Learning about eBay by taking notes in a classroom lecture, shaking hands at an eBay Live! networking function, sitting in front of your computer listening to an eBay Radio broadcast or taking an online course all help to put a face on the people who are part of the eBay community. "I can remember going to the first eBay Live!, and members were delighted to meet us," recalls Guldner. "It's a unique opportunity when we're out there teaching and making their experience on eBay a little better."
Learn More Online
eBay's educational offerings took on a state-of-the-art hue with the opening of the new eBay University Online this year. "It's a real change to our existing online training," says Sharon Guldner, manager of education programs for the eBay platform.
The new Learning Center consists of almost completely refreshed content, which is a significant evolution. More important is the introduction of a new platform that enables users to build their own customized lesson plans.
When users log on to eBay University Online, they will be provided with specific training recommendations based on their level of experience and interests. "If you're a brand-new user, we'll teach you the basics of buying, selling, photography and so forth," says Guldner. "If you're a little more experienced, we'll talk about the basics of using eBay Stores and other topics that are more advanced."
When users pick from a catalog of courses, they initiate a tracking system that follows their progress through the self-paced coursework. "If you have designed your own curriculum and built a catalog of four or five courses, and [you] get through only two-and-a-half of them, you can come back and pick up where you've left off," says Guldner.
eBay University Online doesn't stop there. As you make your way through the courses you've selected, you'll be presented with an ever-changing set of additional educational options for further learning. "After you've completed a set of lessons, we'll then recommend another set of classes and enable you to design additional coursework," says Guldner.
eBay University Online will appeal mostly to the more computer savvy eBay students. But there will always be offline training for people who prefer to get their education face to face. For the rest, eBay University Online offers cutting-edge, self-paced computer instruction available any time. Learn more at www.ebay.com/education.