Here’s another of The New York Times articles from last week by Tamar Lewin. This one deals with Washington D.C.-area startup Straighterline, which aims to act as a consolidator of reputable online classes. Looking at a few other stories on Straighterline, it seems the company still has kinks to work out as it moves up on its growth trajectory. Some past reports have criticized the quality of the classes.
August 25, 2011 A Way to Speed the Pace By TAMAR LEWIN
Burck Smith, who previously started an online tutoring company, founded Straighterline in 2008 to challenge the high cost of college. “We got here by wondering why higher ed still costs so much, despite online being so much cheaper,” he said. “We license our course materials and presentation from McGraw-Hill, and it’s the same stuff hundreds of colleges use.”
Straighterline is a company, not a school, offering a growing roster of courses that include the introductory math, business, science and writing classes found at most community colleges and universities, for a fraction of the price. It costs $99 to register for a month, plus $39 a course — or a full “freshman year” for $999.
We wonder how Straighterline really is different from other players in the space. It seems their main contribution is to charge a la carte for online education… by the course and not per semester. That is a positive and important move for sure. They also seem to focus on courses that can transfer between colleges easily. These kinds of standards and a focus on portability could help the industry and bring larger profits for Straighterline. The founder tells the Times that it aims to serve community college students prone to dropping out of classes.
Straighterline has served more than 1,000 students, Mr. Smith said, about 60 percent of whom completed their courses, with about 70 percent of those passing. Credits can be transferred to Straighterline’s two dozen partner schools, or in some cases, to another institution. Thousands of colleges nationwide — although not the most selective ones — will consider awarding transfer credit for courses certified by the American Council on Education, including 23 of Straighterline’s classes.
Here are other links for the Straighterline company and a couple of earlier stories about the company: