Technological advancement has created a lucrative opportunities for education technology startups such as 2U, formerly known as 2tor, to raise the bar in the classroom. 2U has tweaked online education by adapting the latest technology and partnering with traditional educational institutions to create a sense of community around the new educational and social experiences. 2U combines different technologies to offer online degree programs and provide students with a total college experience, writes Zev Gotkin of Huffington Post.
The company partners with elite colleges and universities to build, administer and market comprehensive online degree programs. Founded in 2008, the company has partnered with prestigious institutions like George Washington University, Wake Forrest University, UC Berkeley and Washington University in Saint Louis.
2U caters to students in a very personalized manner, taking a page out of social networking sites like Facebook. In fact, the company aims to replicate campus life on the Web – and by many accounts, it succeeds.
The company employs technological tools from Salesforce, Adobe Connect and Kaltura, as well as its own technology. The company has built its entire learning management system on Salesforce, which provides cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Starting with the application process, Salesforce is used to manage students’ records, demographic information and contact information all throughout their academic career until graduation.
Students can call 2U 24/7 and expect to speak to a real person who will address the student by name. Each student is assigned a personal 2U representative he or she can contact for anything from tech support to financial aid to difficulties navigating administration.
2U uses Adobe Connect for conference call software. Students use the program for online classes, in which each student can see one another as well as the professor via live streaming video.
2U meets all of its video needs by using Kaltura, a provider of open source video software. Using Kaltura’s platform, the company provides students with high-quality, ‘movie-style’ videos, complete with professional actors that help bring classroom lessons to life.
In addition, 2U created a sophisticated social network that resembles Facebook. The social network is divided into two parts – academic and social. Students can choose which part they want to activate at any given time.
The academic platform provides class updates, assignment reminders and other notifications. The social portion allows students to ‘friend’ one another and interact with professors.
The network is instrumental in replicating the campus experience on the Web, said James Kenigsberg, 2U’s CTO and a founding member of the company. “Students who use 2U come away with friendships and a sense of pride and school spirit just like on-campus students.”
“In fact, many students who complete online degree programs using 2U often enthusiastically fly out for the in-person graduation ceremonies at their own expense.”