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Charting the online ed disruption

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013


04.10.13 Blog EducationDon’t look now, but online education startups may soon give social media/mobile app developers a run for their money — in Oregon and around the country.

Portland startup Treehouse, which offers basic technology classes for high school students, announced today it was closing a  $7 million series B round of financing, with Kaplan Ventures taking the lead. CEO Ryan Carson relocated from England last year, and Treehouse will use the money to grow employees and services.

This past December,  EdCaliber, a maker of K-12 learning management tools profiled in our June 2012 issue, closed a $335,000 convertible debt financing round led by the Gorge Angel Investor Network.

On the national stage, Stanford announced last week it was joining a Harvard and MIT-backed enterprise, edX, to develop a system that allows colleges to develop free online courses, otherwise known as Massive Open Online Courses or MOOCs. Stanford already operates its own MOOC, but the edX partnership is expected to boost enrollment worldwide.

"I really believe this will enable true, planet-scale application of online education," edX president Anant Agarwal told the Huffington Post on Monday.

The surge in online education startups is the most visible sign of the disruption underway in the K-12 and higher education marketplace. As budgets tighten, tuition costs skyrocket  — and as quality in secondary and post secondary schooling declines — a growing number of entrepreneurs aim to upend business as usual, making education more accessible and affordable via online options.

As the parent of a high school senior, I am watching such developments with a keen eye. Because sending your kids to college in 2013 is akin to buying a hugely expensive house at the height of the housing boom — but with advance knowledge of the impending collapse.

As for Oregon's startup hordes, the payoff for entering the rapidly growing online ed arena may turn out to be every entrepreneur's dream: lots and lots of money.

OB Editor Linda Baker keeps tabs on CEO and public policy issues, with frequent forays into innovation, entrepreneurship, and bikes.


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