TEACHING ONLINE VS IN-CLASS IS VASTLY DIFFERENT. We desperately need to make online content better and friendlier for students and instructors. This appears to be a step in the right direction although $16M (or 2Tor's $26M) is not huge by venture capital standards. Much more investment is needed for continued innovation and technology development.
As online learning matures... digitization will likely transform education as it is doing now to books (and has to music, photography, commerce and so much more). THAT will scare a lot of academics to death as education is radically re-invented. How do you see it?
The space for delivering higher education over the Internet got warmer this morning with the announcement that Coursera, founded by two Stanford University professors, had landed $16 million in venture capital.
Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller’s Web portal for higher education also bulked up its offerings, adding 30 courses from Stanford, Princeton, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and New Enterprise Associates led the funding round, and KPCB partner John Doerr and Scott Sandell of New Enterprise will join Coursera’s board.
Sandell ranked fifth on Forbes' 2011 Midas List of top tech investors, while Doerr has a long track record of Silicon Valley success.
"Higher education is ripe for innovation: it is too expensive and limited to a few,” Doerr said in a release. “Coursera is unique in partnering with the best universities to offer free, global access to the world's best teachers and courses.”
In his career as a venture capitalist, Doerr has bet on some of the biggest names in technology, including Amazon.com, Intuit, and Google, and he’s piled up a fortune of more than $2 billion in the process. In recent years, he’s been active as an investor and advocate for clean energy technology and other technology products aimed at providing a social good.
Koller and Ng see their company as one that could indeed provide a social good, by spreading access to top-flight courses across the spectrum of disciplines to more people.
Imagine that courses from the University of Michigan or Stanford were open to millions of people instead of thousands, Ng told Portfolio.com. “I think the world would be a better place for that,” he said.
For all the social concern, though, Coursera is a company that will eventually have to make money. Its founders told Portfolio.com that Coursera would look for ways to do that as engagement in the site grows, but are now focused on building content and user engagement.
Coursera is also just one of the startups looking to leverage technology to bring education from highly-rated schools to people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to get it. And venture capitalists are taking note.
At the beginning of April, 2Tor, a New York City company, added $26 million from venture firms to its already brimming war chest. Unlike Coursera, 2Tor is focused exclusively on graduate-level programs from top universities, and offers students the opportunity to get graduate degrees. 2Tor and the universities it works with also charge for their service.
“It’s a much smaller program,” Koller said. “It doesn’t need to deal with the scaling issues that we do.”
Kent Bernhard Jr. is News Editor of Portfolio.com