Online Education Enthusiasm, Entrepreneurship, Hits Russia

The new wave of online education popularity has now crossed the border into Russia. According to Yulia Ponomareva of Russia Beyond, Russian startups have started developing online education projects in batches with projects that follow the successes of Coursera and Khan Academy in the United States.

The University of California and the Saint Petersburg Academic University are also jointly undertaking an online education project, named Rosalind Franklin, to teach bioinformatics through problem solving. The project helps people get a basic idea about bioinformatics, but Rosalind’s method of teaching is different from Coursera’s more general model by focusing on solving a large number of increasingly complex problems.

Also, there are no prerequisites for the program, which was named after Rosalind Franklin, an English biophysicist in the mid-20th century.

Rosalind considers its mission to facilitate the birth of a new generation of students that will study bioinformatics through attracting biologists who want to develop their programming skills and programmers who have yet to take on solving the problems currently facing molecular biology.

Russian startup LinguaLeo offers an English language course to more than four million people. Founded by Aynur Abdulnasyrov, it debuts Leo, a lion cub who is the website’s mascot and tutor. LinguaLeo’s business model is based on the freemium model that is free to use but allows users to purchase in-game currency: “Through the process of learning, users earn meatballs, a virtual currency that is used to feed Leo.”

LinguaLeo offers the basic options free while additional opportunities such as listening training or the IELTS simulator are purchased separately. The user, after registering, can study vocabulary and grammar, take tests, and interact with other users via internal chat.

Russia’s most popular social networking sites, Vkontakte, has also developed WeStudyIn to offer consulting services for study abroad. The project, begun in 2007, helps students obtain student visas, documents and choose specializations and courses of study.

Currently, WeStudyIn unites more than 80 experts from around the world who give advice to applicants via Skype, edit necessary documents, and help them prepare for tests. Potential students can study the descriptions of hundreds of programs, do a practice interview with experts, and find links to useful resources and thematic reviews of educational institutions.

The site earns money through the sale of its consulting services. The price varies from $55 (1,650 rubles) for an initial consultation lasting one hour to $1,650 (49,500 rubles) for step by step instruction and coaching which generally lasts about 25 hours.

Lectrio offers online courses in anything taught by anyone. The project, which occupies an unusual niche, makes it possible to create an online course for anyone who wants and is able to teach something to others. The website, created by the young Russian entrepreneur Nikita Korotaev, is an online educational environment where each teacher can post his or her course and freely share materials of any format with students.

The project allows a teacher to create a course for 30 students at absolutely no cost with pay-based upgrades. “Special fares for large numbers of students have been worked out for them at up to £1 per student per month.”