Launching the Minerva Project

Education Dot Com | The internet changed everything. Amazon replaced shopping malls. Ebay replaced auctions. iTunes replaced the record store. But can the Minerva Project possible replace the conventional university. Probably not, but it can sure try to provide an alternative. Ben Nelson, a once CEO of the Snapfish photo service, is bringing his belief in technological innovation’s break-though development to the table and pressuring social norms with a new idea: the Ivey league online university. Now, in no way is online education a new space. Yet, the concept of a totally online degree of high prestige is another story. University of the People was founded  by entrepreneur Shai Reshef in 2009 in collaboration with multiple United Nations organizations. The non-for-profit, tuition-free university experience is aimed towards providing higher education to those in the third world as an aid to development. Nelson’s offering is that of a competitive degree, accepting only a portion of its applicants and offering half the tuition the Ivey coffers of Harvard charge. The motivation behind online education as a business is undoubtedly attractive, as Benchmark Capital, known for their early calls on Ebay and Twitter, has already thrown 25 million dollars behind the initiative.

The International Classroom | It’s Wednesday at 3pm, and you’ve joined your Advanced Monetary benefits class. Your British professor is refreshing your Hungarian classmate on last week’s discussion. An outspoken Chinese peer posts his notes on a relevant article he read earlier that week. The world learns together. Harvard university has 2000 students in a class, only 200 of which are from outside of North America. The reality of our quickly globalizing world is that the jobs of tomorrow will most likely be virtually integrated with world. A progressive university would represent diversity.

Toppling Tradition | The major concern around this new venture is marketing it to the world has prestigious. Hundreds of years of tradition and successful graduates is what often defines a university’s reputation. Nelson and the Minerva Project have to be able to sell the potential of their students and the impact of their program, with nothing more than good  faith. This is going to be a challenge. My advice to Nelson would be transparency. The only way for this type of initiative to succeed will be to educate the end employers through proof of the methodology. Press, analysts, academics need to be invited within the virtual classrooms and see first had the power online education wields  Then, and only then, will these influencers have the ability to widen the community’s narrow view on higher education and who does it best. ♣

FEATURED IMAGE: Sourced from The Daily (May 7th 2012)


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