The top ten disruptors of education



New online learning models are bursting from startups and top universities, bridging the educational divide.

We are in the midst of a revolution that will bring high-quality education to hundreds of millions of people who have never had access to this level of learning before.

These tools will reach those in developing cities and countries but also foment a revolution in the U.S. classroom as they change our perception of what learning can be.

Here are the leading new platfoms disupting the education world:


Sebastian Thurn and his colleagues hit on wild success with their Stanford computer science courses when they opened them up to the online public.The team has left Stanford to start Udacity with venture backing and a new slate of courses. They have hit 150,000+ students in each course, signaling the demand for great online education. Thurn admits that there is no firm business model as yet, but will use the next year to experiment with different approaches.

highlights Udacity\’s new model.

2. Coursera

Daphne Koller and Andrew Ng founded Coursera to bring high-quality university courses to the masses. They are working with Princeton, Michigan, Penn, Stanford and others to fashion online courses which include video, online testing and peer support. In a recent Forbes article, Koller expressed the hope that \”maybe the next Albert Einstein or Steve Jobs is living in a remote village in Africa\” Bringing top professors to a global audience can certainly change the game in the education divide.

3. EdX — MIT and Harvard

MIT has been a pioneer in online education with its Open Courseware (OCW) program. Now it teams up with Harvard to launch EdX (by the way — have you noticed how many brands use x these days? SpaceX, UberX, X Prize, TEDx — it gives that hint of mystery to a brand.) OCW boasts more than 2,000 online courses, but these are all archived. EdX will specialize in courses that students can take together with supervision and interaction.

4. iTunes U

I still meet people who own iPads, iPhones and every other Apple device and yet do not know about iTunes U. How can this be?!

Want to understand what in the world a Higgs boson is? Download a physics course from U.

5. Khan

Sal Khan hit on education gold when he started making videos for his young cousins on science and math. Now the site offers more than 3,000 videos — all in short form so they are easy to digest. Great for kids to watch at home and do more interactive work at school. Let\’s phase out boring class lectures and get kids moving and excited at school.

Many would benefit from watching the video on the Greek crisis:

6. 2Tor

John Katzman founded Princeton Review and now launched 2Tor. His new company teams up with top universities such as USC to offer fully accredited degrees online.

USC and 2tor offer a full masters in education. This is great for anyone who wants to change careers and still work while they are obtaining the degree necessary to become a teacher. 2tors\’s newest degree is from Wash U. and offers foreign lawyers a masters in U.S. Law

7. Altius Ed

Spark Capital, Maveron and others have invested in Altius Ed. Altius partners with universities to offer a two-year bridge program for those students who wish to attend a four-year college but may not have the requisite coursework.

8. Latimer Education

Latimer works with historically black colleges to extend their reach online. Investors include Maveron.

9.Capella University

Rather than partner with other universities, Capella itself is an accredited university offering its courses online. Capella counts Maveron and others as investors and offers bachelors, masters and doctoral programs. The jury is still out on how these pure play degrees will be accepted in the marketplace.

10. Minverva Project

This is an ambitious attempt to start a new university from whole cloth. Students will live in dorm buildings placed around the world and the professors will pipe in via video conferencing to each of the buildings. Ben Nelson, the former CEO of Snapfish, raised $25 million from Benchmark Capital for this new venture. We will have to wait to see on this one as it has yet to be launched.

11. (yes, we could not fit all the new platforms into a list of 10)

This site offers online courses which earn real credits that can be transferred to many college degree programs. Straighterline aims to make college courses more affordable with both a la carte and subscription plans.

Bonus Disruptor:

Add to the pot the new University Venture Fund.

This new venture capital fund will invest in the kind of revolutionary startups that we described here. Bertelsmann and the University of Texas are two of the largest investors.

All in all, these disrupters will bring high-quality learning to millions of people in the U.S. and around the world who never had access to this material. Now the questions are:

a. Will it scale?

b. Will these models turn out to be sustainable?

c. How do we measure the intangibles of in-person learning and how can we replicate those online?

d. Who will disrupt these disupters?

Stay tuned.