These 5 Organizations Are Radically Changing the Future Of Education


Last week the Clayton Christenson Institute published the latest in a series of white papers on what he calls blended learning, the mixing of online educational content with in-person instruction. This week Coursera, one of the leading online classroom companies, announced another big partnership with brick-and-mortar schools, this time with the State University of New York system. The New Yorker recently asked whether the future of learning was moving online, and many casual observers have heard about Khan Academy or MOOCs, even if most of them stumble over the acronym.  

Online education, as Christenson and Coursera both recognize, cannot exist in a vacuum. Increasingly available and high-quality content have inspired a host of organizations to experiment with ways to wrap an educational experience digital content. The Christenson Institute put out a list last week with forty of them. Below are five they left out, both small and large. What other models have you seen that create educational experiences around online content? What are some of the issues you spot in these?

1. PelotonU

In Texas, fewer than half of high school students graduate ready for college or entry-level employment. PelotonU in Austin (co-founded by friend and former colleague Hudson Baird) takes an all-in approach to education: their college-age students live together in shared apartments, work three days a week, study two days a week, go through personal development activities on Saturday, and get Sunday off to spend with their families. Rather than traditional teachers, PelotonU offers students a personal mentor who helps them progress through online associate’s degrees offered by New Charter University. The program is free to students, who pledge 90% of their wages toward the cost of running PelotonU.

2. Enstitute

Manhattan-based Enstitute wants to provide another alternative to the four-year college, but to aspiring entrepreneurs. Students spend 40-hour weeks with a startup (“Apprenticeships”), supplemented by online coursework. In its first class now, Enstitute is already making waves and earning rave reviews from its current students.

3. Black Mountain SOLE

In his 2010 TED presentation Newcastle professor Sugata Mishra introduced the world to his “Hole in the Wall” child-driven learning experiment — a sort of teacherless Montessori model. Black Mountain SOLE hopes to apply this concept to higher education. On a YMCA campus outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the young founders of Black Mountain offer “Poison Ivy” scholarships to make it easier for students considering a traditional (and expensive) college education to “geronimo” into their self-directed program.

4. Relay Graduate School Of Education

The brainchild of the Robin Hood Foundation in New York, Relay isn’t just using blended learning to teach students — they’re teaching teachers. Partnering with Coursera, Relay trains teachers from charter school networks such as KIPP, Achievement First, and Uncommon. Relay isn’t the only group using online tools to train teachers; for more, check out this Stanford Social Innovation Review article from January.

5. Minerva Project

Having raised its profile with the $500K Minerva Prize, the Minerva Project is touted by journalists as the first online Ivy League university. Backed by $25 million of venture capital and a stacked board that includes Larry Summers and Senator Bob Kerrey, they might just pull it off — perhaps by hiring without tenure some of the excess Ph.Ds coming out of traditional universities in the U.S.