The money pours in to fund online learning start-ups – while the public system starves

Tony Bates, online learning, distance education resources, Oct 30, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

One wonders where those of us who support a public education system will find funding for research and development. Certainly, not from the same funders who are underwriting enterprises like Coursera and Udacity. Even if they were willing to fund outside the Harvard-MIT-Stanford nexus, which is unlikely, they tend to sustain ventures with a commercial intent, not those that serve the public good. As Tony Bates writes, "This year some of the online start-ups that have received venture capital funding are:

  • Udacity: $15 million this week; total: $21 million
  • Coursera: $16 million in April
  • 2U (formerly 2tor): $26 million in April
  • Codeacademy: $10 million in June."

The money meanwhile to support public education is not forthcoming, he says. " The California two year college system has undergone nearly $1 billion of cuts since 2008, resulting in a waiting list of 470,000 students who cannot get into classes. The California State University system meanwhile is outsourcing most of the services for CalState Online to Pearson." And in time, "these privatized, American online companies will start to gnaw away at the funding behind public education systems in countries outside the United States." Where is the Canadian response?

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