Review: xtraNormal for Education and Business

Article first published as Review: xtraNormal for Education and Business on Blogcritics. 

When I first discovered xtranormal, an online movie maker program, I was amazed by how easy the web 2.0 tool was to use and how full featured the program was. One can truly make some quality flicks with a reasonable learning curve, and they even have a chance to go viral (see iPhone 4 vs. HTC Evo, warning: inappropriate language is used). In education, teachers are constantly craving for more ways to engage their students and provide new opportunities to allow students to show what they know on something other than a paper test or a PowerPoint.

xtranormal started as a completely free tool and then a short while back, converted to a somewhat pay for points format (previews are still free and can suffice for many classes). When this happened,  I offered some thoughts on the future as well as suggested possible alternatives. Recently, xtranormal has upped the ante by creating a robust teacher dashboard to manage classes, students, and assignments all using a simple and clean web interface. They have done the same for their Business platform, and what follows is a quick review of each.

xtranormal for Education

When a teacher logs in, they will find an easy to use dashboard where one can enter classes and use "tokens" to have students enroll in their class. This is similar to how students enroll in their teachers' classes on Quia, a popular quiz/test/activity subscription service that we use at our school. Once a class is setup, one can create a new project, assign it to any and all of one's classes, and the project will automatically get pushed to all of the students in those classes. What this means is that when a student logs into their xtranormal account (using a password that they created, though a teacher could change it for them should they forget), the student will see the new assignment and can begin creating their movie right away.

It should be mentioned now how the pricing structure is setup for the dashboard. It is done via a monthly subscription which initially generates some jitters in this blogger/educator. Subscriptions cost $10 for a teacher per month and $0.50 for each student again per month. "Pay only what you need" is the motto for this plan, and on one hand, the thought of getting only exactly what you need is attractive. On the other hand, let's say that you have 5 classes of 30 students each, a 150 seat subscription will run $85 a month. Granted, compared to some other subscriptions, $765 for a school year is not too bad, and if you can creatively share student accounts or if you only need the tool for a few months of the year, you might be able to bring the costs down. Having this kind of price model benefits smaller schools who may not be able to afford a high cost "one size fits all" site license, but can pay for specific teachers and students on an as-needed basis.

xtranormal for Business

In addition to an education platform, xtranormal has decided to throw its hat into the business arena by setting up a plan and pricing structure that caters to the corporate world. For $50/month ($75 for resellers), one can access a full xtranormal account through an interface that mirrors the traditional one. Companies can use xtranormal to create commercial videos to promote their brand, training videos to lighten up in-house professional development, or marketing videos to pitch a new product.

Similar to the education platform, business subscribers get full access to all the actors, sets, and add-ons, unlimited publishing of movies, and removal of the xtranormal watermark. One can add corporate logos as image inlays, so full customization of videos can be done with ease. In addition, aspiring animators and/or technology consultants (including this writer) can purchase a reseller license and a potential business opportunity is possible as companies may be interested in hiring out an experienced xtranormal user to create their videos. Check out the Geico commercial made using xtranormal below.

xtranormal is clearly trying to attract users to its robust online movie making platform. Their tagline "If you can type, you can make movies." is catchy and speaks the truth. The application is easy to learn and fun enough to hook you into wanting to make really good movies. By offering both an education and business platform subscription model, the company aims to cater to the two areas that would benefit most from using its product. Although the prices are a bit high in a world of free tools, xtranormal hopes to justify the price with important features such as the teacher dashboard for educators, and the customization add-ons for businesses.

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