The online education company 2tor has just closed another round of funding, Techcrunch's Erick Schonfeld reported this morning. The $32.5 million investment brings the total raised by 2tor to $65 million.
Schonfeld's story opens with a fairly bold statement from 2tor CEO John Katzman (who was also the founder of the test-prep company the Princeton Review): "One reason online education isn't good is I don't think it is trying to be that good."
It's a good lede, no doubt, and an interesting claim -- one that prompts me to ask "Why?"
Why isn't online education good? And why isn't online education trying to be good?
2tor clearly addresses the first by providing a technology platform for its university clients, who in effect outsource the operation of their online classes to the company. 2tor's offerings includes the necessary infrastructure -- video, audio, and LMS -- as well as the marketing and instructional design support necessary to run a successful distance education program.
For its part, 2tor boasts great success with its partner schools. Since launching online programs for the Masters in Teaching and Social Work Degrees at USC, for example, enrollment has increased from 80 to 1500. And according to Techcrunch, "expanding its student population nearly twentyfold with 2tor has not hurt USC's teaching program in the slightest," citing the boost in its U.S. News and World Report ranking.
As someone who completed her bachelors degree thanks to several distance learning opportunities (several of which were, admittedly, of the old-fashioned correspondence courses sort), I'm always pleased to see efforts that make it easier for those who can't attend school in a traditional classroom setting to still be able to get a good education.
But I have to wonder: why wouldn't a university want to improve its online program? Is it that universities are archaic? (That might be a trick question.) Is it that universities see the value and necessity of the on-campus experience? Or is it that the distance and the technology challenge a number of things that a university has long controlled: who receives the knowledge (and the degree) and how it's distributed?