Boom time for higher education startups

| Print |  Email
Linda Baker
Thursday, July 26, 2012

BY LINDA BAKER

07.26.12 Blog OnlineEdSuddenly, online higher education startups are all the rage. 

In the past six months, at least seven such startups have launched or announced funding.  And these aren’t just any startups—the majority are spinoffs created by professors or administrators affiliated with some of the nation’s most prestigious universities. 

Founded by Stanford University faculty, Coursera, which has raised more than $16 million in funding, aims to bring top tier classes to the masses—for free. Udacity, another Stanford spinoff, has similar goals.  Aiming to bring Harvard quality education to those who can't afford Harvard tuition, the Minerva Project is chaired by former Harvard president (and U.S. Treasury Secretary) Larry Summers. This past spring, Minerva announced that it raised $25 million from Benchmark Capital, the largest seed financing in that firm's history.

Once considered the lowly stepchild of higher ed, online education has been catapulted into the big leagues, with many of the massive open online classes offered by the new startups attracting upwards of 100,000 students.  As the buzz grows, many universities, which have historically been reluctant to adopt online learning platforms, seem to be jumping on the bandwagon. Coursera, for example, has already partnered with the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University, Rice University, UC San Francisco, University of Washington, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Virginia.

Will Oregon universities, already facing a slew of education reforms,  partner with the new startups?  Will the state join the online spinoff craze? Are these private companies a threat to Oregon universities? Or will private sector online solutions help bring an end to an ignominious era in higher ed—an era marked by endless budget cuts and skyrocketing tuition costs?   

For a few initial thoughts, I turned to Dave King, associate vice provost for outreach and engagement at Oregon State University, (where 10,000 students take classes online annually), Lisa Templeton, executive director of OSU’s extended campus, and Steve Brown, who sits on the Marylhurst University Board of Trustees and is the former president of KC Distance Learning, the country’s largest middle and high school online learning company.  (Brown, on vacation in Italy, responded via email).

OB:  What does the surge in the number of pedigreed online education startups mean for Oregon universities?

King:   I think it’s fascinating. We’ve been watching the massive online courses develop and I’m really pleased that it has opened the conversation. But the fact that the big guns are stepping up to this is possibly a two-edged sword. If you have 160,000 students in a (Coursera) class and you don’t create a truly engaging and interactive class then we’ll see some backsliding. At OSU, we’ve been working really hard to use quality as our goal: student to student interaction, student to instructor interaction. I don’t know that all of those interactions happen effectively in a 160,000 student class.

There is a potential advantage for us in having major institutions with large samples test some things.   We’re watching that very closely. Coursera and others have said upfront they are going to have to embed some level of automated understanding of how students are performing.

OB: Historically, online education has been stigmatized as a lesser form of learning.  Will the new startups help mainstream online learning, and how do the classes offered by the startups compare with new university led online initiatives?

Templeton: Online classes still have that stigma with faculty, but it has shifted. Their image of online is outdated. With the new technologies available, it’s really exciting.

King: We have started looking at open courseware, but are looking at it from the other side  Instead of a one size fits all, we've been working on open learning modules...in which we deconstruct courses into individual learning objectives, then make learning modules available as open courseware.

We are also investing in online degree programs. Six years ago, we had four full degree programs online. Now we're at 30 degree and certificate programs online with two or three more on the books for the coming year.

Brown:  Universities need to be aggressive in exploring different ways online education can impact current models - and not just offer fully online courses. Blended models will ultimately transform higher ed. Oregon universities are largely behind. Smaller, regional and less selective universities need to be most aggressive as they are at most risk.

OB: Will the new startups offer a solution to the budget crises facing higher ed?  Will Oregon universities seed a new crop of education startups?

Brown: I believe we will see a surge of new start ups nationally. Unfortunately, Oregon is not well positioned—there is much more activity at the K-12 level.

King:  We’re having that conversation about greater efficiencies. The big question is what is the level and ability to monetize the process.  The monetization model at this point has to be done as some kind of a spinoff. We are on the doorstep of a brave new world here. In that new world, we’re going to see significant amount of interaction between the public and private sectors.

 

Comments   

 
Guest
0 #1 educationGuest 2012-07-27 09:33:04
High Speed Universities programs allow busy adults to earn their degrees online while they meet job and family responsibilitie s. Students earn their degrees through a rigorous competency-base d model that lets them advance through courses when they demonstrate that they have mastered the subject matter.
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Dan and Louis Oyster Bar opens up to a changing neighborhood

The Latest
Thursday, December 11, 2014
121114-oystervidBy MEGHAN NOLT

VIDEO: Revamping a Classic — an iconic eatery stays relevant in a changing marketplace.


Read more...

Tackling the CEO-worker pay gap

January-Powerbook 2015
Thursday, December 11, 2014
BY OREGON BUSINESS STAFF

An SEC rule targets the disparity between executive and employee compensation, reigniting a long-standing debate about corporate social responsibility.


Read more...

The short list: 4 companies engaged in a battle of the paddles

The Latest
Thursday, December 04, 2014
pingpongthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Nothing says startup culture like a ping pong table in the office, lounge or lobby.


Read more...

The clean fuels opportunity

News
Monday, November 10, 2014
111014-dirtyfuel-thumbBY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.


Read more...

See How They Run

January-Powerbook 2015
Friday, December 12, 2014
BY LINDA BAKER

Studying ground-running birds, a group that ranks among nature's speediest and most agile bipedal runners, to build a faster robot.


Read more...

Reimagining education to solve Oregon's student debt and underemployment problems

News
Thursday, November 13, 2014
carsonstudentdept-thumbBY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.


Read more...

The short list: 5 hot coffee shops for entrepreneurs

Contributed Blogs
Friday, November 14, 2014

CupojoeBY JESSICA RIDGWAY

Oregon entrepreneurs reveal their favorite caffeine hangouts.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS