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Why I'm Divesting In Shares In Any For-Profit Colleges


Wow. I really stepped in it. I got a very kind note from Gagan Biyani this morning, which I will quote here:

"Hey man - just a quick tip. I'm from Berkeley - not Stanford. Its almost heretical to imply the latter :)"

Noted, and corrected. Biyani graduated from Berkeley.

Old Post:

We're about to see a wave of disruptive online learning environments ranging from K-12 education all the way up through higher ed.

The future of online learning will happen on platforms like Udemy, run by co-founder Gagan Biyani, a Berkeley [ed. changed from Stanford] grad, and his two Turkish friends. And here's why, according to Biyani:

"Mid tier and low tier colleges will struggle as more high quality education comes online."

Flexible online delivery of video courses, which teachers get paid to create and conduct, will drive more and more students looking for efficient and time-trimmed ways to learn what they want to learn, on demand. It goes even a little deeper than this, but according to Biyani, the factory mentality of learning and being taken through an assembly line of learning in order to earn a diploma that may or may not get you a job, is ending.

What people want to do now is learning something, anything, from anyone intelligent enough to craft material that will provide them with a method for solving their problems, making their life easier, or making it more rewarding. No more Ivory Tower traditional curriculum that is institution-credentialed and fed to students.

Now it's the other way around. Demand creates learning opportunities, and trims the "time to market" between learning a something and doing something with that knowledge.

Really, it's just about having the flexibility to learn what you want to learn in life. I am not saying that stuff [traditional education curriculum] is not valuable, it's just that it's not valuable to most people.

It's kind of a broken system. Why go to an average local university and live at home, when I can live at home and learn from the best professors online?

You will be able to have access to a Harvard university education online.

It's not a half online course. This is a course that has actually been built to be online and it costs $20 to $30.

The company, which charges for some courses and pays its teachers a portion of those payments, moved into a new office in SOMA in San Francisco in February and is working with eight interns this summer from colleges as diverse as Brown, Stanford and the University of Chicago. The company will have nine full-time hires in about a week or two, says Biyani.

"Things are going quite well, and we are starting to show some real revenue and user traction, mainly on the revenue side. We have a lot of partnerships," says Biyani.

The courses are for anyone who has a desire to learn, says Biyani. They are video courses, watchable anytime, anywhere, on any kind of platform. Students can pursue an asynchronous education.

This is a suitable platform for the 21st Century, and where content and the social imperative meet—I like to believe that our education should fundamentally affect the world around us—Biyani offers courses that should speak to those issues.

I ask Biyani at the close of our interview what three challenges he could think of that would inspire students to learn, and that they would be faced with as they attempted to live their lives in subsequent decades after their schooling.

Here's what he said:

1.I think the first thing is — I am not a futurist by any means — there is climate change on some level is going to have an impact

2. We're going to deal with a ballooning bureaucracy in the government, corporate and financial sectors. We are already having major problems shaking that down.

3. And then there's just dealing with life in a very different century. The Internet has literally taken over.

Interestingly, that took Biyani to what is ironically evidence of how education has changed.

"Udemy was not possible three years ago, because people would not spend five minutes watching a video. Now they have hour long videos. Netflix is the biggest user of bandwidth in the entire world," he says.

Look how far we've learned.