Private Company Solves US Education Problem
By Ilya Pozin
November 15, 2012
The government spends millions of dollars and countless hours trying to fix our stumbling education system,progress is slow, and lasting change seems unlikely. Higher education is expensive, and only getting more so.
Many students face barriers to getting the education they really want — but today, through a collaboration model, a group of top universities and an emerging education technology company have unveiled a way to literally fix our education system. A few years from now, we may look back and say this was the day when the upper echelon of higher education finally figured out how to open their (virtual) doors to thousands of the nation’s brightest young stars and, in the process, permanently redefined what it means to go to college.
The company redefining the system is 2U, a small yet transformative technology company based in Landover, Maryland. Formerly known as 2tor, 2U partners with top-tier universities to create best-of-breed online education programs. The company — one of the highest-funded tech startups in the U.S. — has already partnered with the University of Southern California, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington University in St. Louis, Georgetown University, and other prestigious colleges and research universities for fully-accredited master’s degrees in Nursing, Social Work,Business, and other disciplines.
Now, 2U is taking its service even further. Today, a group of renowned universities announced plans to launch, in partnership with 2U, Semester Online, a program which will offer access to the best courses and faculty in the world, taught in small, live digital classes, for actual credit from the schools.
The roster of participating schools is impressive:Brandeis University, Duke University, Emory University, Northwestern University, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Notre Dame, University of Rochester, Vanderbilt University, Wake Forest University and Washington University in St. Louis are the founding members of the initiative. Courses will be delivered through an online classroom and interactive platform developed by 2U.
The state-of-the-art courses will offer undergraduates the same faculty and curricula as their in-person counterparts. Students can participate in discussions and exercises, attend lectures, and collaborate with peers–getting as close to the on-campus class experience as is currently possible on the Web.
While the program won’t be launched until next fall, it’s my belief that this partnership illustrates a turning point for both startups looking to deconstruct the physical barriers to educational excellence and students looking for an easy, accessible way to earn their degrees at America’s most admired universities.
2U has already shaken up the online education industry with their graduate programs, and now they’re set to change the game for undergraduates. With the proven results in the graduate degree world clearly established, over time one can expect Semester Online will set the stage for an entirely new generation of online academic options.
As these types of high-quality online programs successfully eliminate barriers to elite education–like time, place, and the cost of facilities–the education system as we know it could be redefined forever.
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