MOOC Startup NovoEd Acquires $2 Million to Fight The Problem Of Engagement in Online Education

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The greatest disadvantage of online education as it stands today is its lack of engagement which can at times make it really boring. It is a problem NovoEd, which happens to be the fourth massive open online course podium to come out of Stanford after edX, Udacity and Coursera, has raised $2 million to resolve. Its explicit goal is to reduce the enormous dropout rate often faced by online courses. It is intended “to make online learning more social, experiential, and interactive.”

Universities including Babson College, Stanford University and the University of California, San Francisco UC Berkley, Princeton, and numerous other educational organizations will offer online classes. Classes hosted on NovoEd’s platform will also be offered by the Kauffman Fellows Academy. The online education fellowship, an offering by the entrepreneurship think-tank Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is aimed specifically at investors. “I’m very excited because this is a collection of superstars,” as NovoEd co-founder and Stanford professor Amin Saberi himself said “The goal is to add more classes.”

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NovoEd had its inception in January 2013 with its founders Farnaz Ronaghi and Saberi having originally started a program from Stanford called Venture Lab which was intended to be a learning platform that integrates elements of social media.

Their intention is opt for a mixed paid and free revenue model. “Nearly all of our courses are open to everybody,” Saberi said. “Most of them are free. There may be a small fee for certificates at the end” adding that some of the courses will come with an up-front fee like the course on VC investing offered by the University of California, San Francisco. Saberi was specially delighted and encouraged by the partnership with the Boston area Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College whose program program for entrepreneur education is ranked No. 1 by the U.S. News and World Report rankings. “They are starting with four courses, but the goal is to go up to 20-30 courses,” Saberi said.

Eventually, he hopes to add online courses similar to university electives, giving the examples of team-building or more advanced finance classes. There is even talk of a fully online master’s degree program in the near future.

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Founders of startups in the silicon valley, funders and other startup proponents have tried out an assortment of radically different approaches to the teaching of the abstract and often difficult concept of entrepreneurship. Included among them is the boarding school strategy advocated by the venture capitalist Tim Draper, expensive MBA programs at top universities, international startup programs or the latest addition to the stable an increasing number of channels for online education.

NovoEd which is backed by a number of angel investors other than Costanoa Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kapor Capital, Learn Capital, Maveron, Ulu Ventures, has till date raised over $2.04 million, according to a public SEC filing. Previous online education startups born out of Stanford, Coursera and Udacity, have raised $65 million and $21 million, respectively, following leverage of their MOOCs to create independent companies.


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