Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon you can
use to change the world." Here are five of the most innovative companies seeking to change the world by equalizing educational access:
1. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is an educational website created by Harvard/ MIT graduate Salman Khan. It started as a private website Khan made to help tutor his niece, but has since grown to host over 3,300 publicly-available educational videos. The content tends to be math and technology-oriented, and ranges from simple addition to complex macroeconomics. Many Khan Academy videos are available through YouTube. Here's one on multiplication:
Khan Academy's mission is to "change education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere."
Coursera's goal is similar to that of Khan Academy, but the experience is more like attending a traditional college, only online. Coursera offers free online courses from many well-respected universities, including Stanford, Princeton, and Caltech, as well as some international universities. These courses are complete with video lectures from professors and weekly assignments that are graded by peers. Coursera was founded by Stanford computer science professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller.
Coursera founder Daphne Koller.: Photo by Dawn Endico.
According to the Coursea website, the company is "committed to making the best education in the world freely available to any person who seeks it."
Straighterline is yet another step closer to traditional college. Unlike Khan Academy and Coursera, it's not free, but it is affordable, and it offers something they do not: real college credit. Here's StraighterLine founder Burck Smith talking about what his company can offer:
StraighterLine offers students the ability to take any number of college classes for $99 a month plus $49 per course, or ten courses (the equivalent of a whole year of college) for $999. A number of accredited colleges and universities accept these classes for credit. A real college degree just got a lot more affordable!
For some people, even online college is not practical, because they just can't afford to stay chained to their desks, or even their laptops. That's where Irynsoft comes in. When Irynsoft founder Sandy Khaund first took an online class back in 2002, he found a problem. As he told EdTech Digest in a 2011 interview, "It lacked the convenience and engagement that would've encouraged me to continue in the program." To solve this problem, he created a way for busy students to carry their classes with them and plug in at any time.
With VIRT2GO, you can attend classes on your iPhone. Photo by Renato Mitra.
Irynsoft's VIRT2GO is an interactive learning platform for the phone. The Virt U: Virtual University app is currently available for iPhone. Through it, students can access lectures from schools like Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale, as well as Khan Academy content. By offering educational content on the go, Irynsoft aims to solve one of the top problems facing prospective students: finding the time to learn.
No matter which virtual school a student chooses, OpenStudy can help. Created by former Emory University dean Preetha Ram and former Georgi Tech professor Aswin Ram, OpenStudy is an online platform connecting students with others studying the same content. These connections can be forged at any time, day or night, and across any amount of space worldwide.
OpenStudy promotion booth. Photo by TechCrunch.
According to the OpenStudy website, "Like any successful startup, we work hard, have fun, and believe in what we do. We invite you to use us, join us, and spread the word. We want to change the way the world learns, and we'd love to have you be part of it."
These innovative education companies are changing the world, millions of (web-connected) students at a time.
Sources: Crunchbase, EdTech Digest, OpenStudy.com, The Tech, The Washington Post