5 Startups Transforming Online Education

Zev Gotkin is an entrepreneur and founder of L’Mala, a writing firm specializing in website content development, blogs, branding, and social media promotion. He can be reached at wgotkin@gmail.com.

As the global economy continues to shift, there’s an increased demand for services in higher education. This fact, coupled with the rise of technology, is bringing many of these options online.  He writes for Mashable:

These services are only being spurred on by the more than one billion people who have joined the middle class in the last decade. In fact, in the next eight years, 150 million people will seek higher education. Additionally, funding for education startups has tripled in the last decade, going from $146 million in 2002 to $429 million in 2011.

This leaves entrepreneurs with the opportunity to create exciting new ways for individuals to learn online. Here are some of the startups that are shaping the online education trend.

1. 2tor

2tor is the first startup of its kind to offer full degree programs online at top-tier universities. It’s also the most highly funded. As of April, its total investments added up to a little under $97 million.

2tor partners with universities across the country to help them build and market their own online degree programs. The startup has created master’s degree programs for a variety of schools, including a master of arts in teaching at the University of Southern California and Georgetown University’s nursing program.

2tor is making waves for its web-based infrastructure that allows professors to easily share information with students, create interactive lessons, and provide lectures and opportunities for social interaction among students. Its iPad and iPhone apps even allow students to participate on the go. These varied services are allowing 2tor to lead the way as an online education startup.

2. Udemy

Udemy is unique because it allows anyone to take or build an online course, not just colleges and universities. Instructors can implement videos, PowerPoints, zip files, audio files, and PDFs to create a course and share it with the world. The site offers courses on technology, business, music, art, languages, math, science, games, sports, and more.

The basic premise is to crowdsource education. Much like blogging allows anyone to share information, Udemy allows anyone to create courses with nothing more than an internet connection. Many individuals with a desire to learn are cut out of the education system by rising tuition, housing, and commuting costs, but Udemy empowers anyone to share and learn at a more affordable rate.

3. EdX

Announced on May 2, EdX is the joint creation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard. The partnership strives to bring online learning to people across the globe and offers online classes for free. EdX courses include videos, quizzes, feedback, and more to help students navigate the material.

This month, the service received a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which shows just how much potential online education programs have to grow.

4. Voxy

This startup is allowing users to “learn a language from life,” meaning they use context and flexibility to teach new languages via web-based and mobile technology. Voxy turns your real-world conversations, activities, and the media you consume into contextual language lessons. The service allows users to control the pace of their learning with tailored language lessons focusing on things that are of interest to them. The iPhone and Android apps also allow users to learn on the go.

Language acquisition is more difficult for adults, but Voxy’s customized pacing allows for a stress-free environment. Since January 2011, the site has grown to more than one and a half million users, and spent nearly a year as the number one education app in twenty countries.

5. Noodle

Noodle has created the very first search engine of its kind, devoted solely to navigating the vast sea of educational information available online. Noodle’s customized search engine helps students and their families to find resources for tutors, pre-K schooling options, guidance counselors, summer camps, MBA programs, and much more. Basically, this service is revolutionizing the way we search for and locate educational opportunities suited to our needs.

How do you think educational startups are changing the way we learn? Share your thoughts below.

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