Startup Partners With University of Pittsburgh to Offer Transfer Credit for Online Classes

IBL News | New York

A new educational provider created by the co-founder of MasterClass and called Outlier.org will offer introductory, credit-bearing college online classes at scale, at $400 per course.

Outlier.org is set to launch September 9 with two, three-credit, 14-week courses: Calculus I and Introduction to Psychology. They will be offered through the University of Pittsburgh, which will facilitate the transfer of credits.

The company has promised to offer refunds to any student who doesn’t pass.

Despite the .org name and address, Aaron Rasmussen, co-founder and former creative director of MasterClass, said Outlier is a for-profit company, and he added, “Our goal is a social impact. Coming up with a market solution to education, rather just relying on people’s charity, is far more durable.”

Each year, 1 million students take a college-level Calculus I course in the United States, at an average cost of $2,500, and 40% of them fail, explained Rasmussen. “That means we’re wasting $1 billion per year, and that’s just on a single class.”

The main question is whether the existing university system will accept the transfer of these credits.

Students will need to check and verify which institutions will accept these credits.

Rasmussen’s experience in education is mostly based on MasterClass.com, a provider known for light-hearted online classes from celebrities in disciplines like photography, guitar-shredding or home cooking.

Other companies such as StraighterLine or Study.com tried to bring general education courses at scale in the past.

“While Outlier.org has taken the lead in many of these areas, Pitt faculty members have closely reviewed the syllabi and assessments to ensure that they meet our high standards,” said the University of Pittsburgh Provost Ann Cudd at Education Dive.

The courses, developed on a proprietary LMS, will combine video lectures with open-access materials and. The platform will implement proctoring through Examity for assessments.

Students will be able to choose from different instructors or even switch between them mid-semester. The teachers for Calculus I, for example, include Hannah Fry of University College London, Tim Chartier of Davidson College and John Urschel of MIT.

Outlier expects less than 100 students in each class for the fall term. Classes will be broken up into smaller study groups of four to five students who can connect over video chat.

The startup said that it will remain focused on the first 25 college-level courses, rather than recreating an entire college curriculum.

 

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