Code.org is a non-profit organization in the education sector with a mission to get students to learn how to code. The organization was founded by brothers Hadi and Ali Patrovi, both successful tech entrepreneurs. Having achieved considerable success as programmers, entrepreneurs, and investors, they turned their energies towards promoting computer science education in schools.
Their first Hour of Code campaign, which took place during Computer Science Education Week in December 2013, far outstripped expectations and gave millions of students worldwide their first lessons in coding.
Code.org was founded by Hadi Partovi and his brother Ali Partovi. They were born and raised in Iran, then immigrated to the United States. Among other projects, they co-founded iLike, a popular music app on Facebook. As angel investors and startup advisors, their portfolio includes companies such as Facebook and Dropbox.
At 38, Hadi retired from Microsoft. He decided it was time to act on a new idea.
“Technology is literally taking over our world, and yet there is only a small percentage of people that has the skills to create the technologies that we’re all consuming,” said Hadi. He and his brother started Code.org, a website that offers free hour-long tutorials that teach children the basics of coding.
“If we got more students to learn programming and how to code, first of all, all of our children would be better prepared for the 21st century,” said Hadi. “Every career that you can think of in the modern day world should have some background of [computer science].”
The Partovi brothers started by producing a Youtube video featuring celebrities like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and basketball player Chris Bosh. The video struck a nerve and went viral, sparking the movement that led to the success of the Hour of Code.
The organisation’s new mission is to bring computer science classes to every school in the USA. Hadi an Ali believe that anyone can learn the basics of computer science, and that it should be a crucial part of the modern education system.
“There’s no other skill that helps amplify the creativity of the human mind the way computer programming does,” said Hadi.
The Health-2-Market project is offering three new online courses on entrepreneurship and IPR. The courses aim to help health researchers to commercialise their findings so that their research can have wider benefits to society.
The Health-2-Market training programme is based on the conviction that scientific breakthroughs should be exploited to benefit the general public. The courses are meant to complement health researchers’ existing expertise with business-oriented skills and knowledge. The goal is to enable anyone involved in life sciences research to start a business.
All three of the courses are online and free (the project is funded by the European Commission). The courses require no prior knowledge, other than basic computer and digital literacy skills.
The three courses are as follows:
- Entrepreneurship and Business Planning is offered by the SKEMA Business School in France
- Business Ventures and Marketing is offered by IE University, Spain
- Intellectual Property Rights and Ethics is offered by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden
For more information about the courses, visit the Health-2-Market website.
The Open Education Challenge, launched in partnership with the European Commission, is a new opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators passionate about education to develop, strengthen and fund their start-up. This new European-wide initiative is part of the Opening up Education initiative and of Startup Europe, and is under the patronage of Mrs Androulla Vassiliou, member of the European Commission.
Applicants may be aspiring entrepreneurs or existing startups in the first stage of development. All projects are welcome; the only condition is that they must contribute to transforming education. Your proposal can address, for instance, one or more of the following:
- Learning contents
- Devices, tools and connectivity
- Learning assessment and analytics
- School management and organisation
- Learning communities.
We accept applications from all over the world. All selected startup teams must commit full time to the incubation process and will be required to have registered or register within the EU.
Twenty finalists will get a chance to go to Barcelona to pitch their idea in front of a European jury, chaired by Lord Puttnam. We will select the 10 most promising startups to join our Incubator:
- 12 weeks – 24x7.
- In successive European cities: Paris, London, Berlin and Helsinki.
- With the best European experts in education, technology and entrepreneurship.
- Seed funding of up to €20,000.
- Access to Our Open Education Investment Club from day one.
Starting in January 2014, Udacity will offer technical training courses from corporate partners such as Google, Salesforce.com, Autodesk, and Nvidia. While the courses will offer accreditation, they will not be free.
The promise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) was a big one. The New York Times declared 2012 “The Year of the MOOC.” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about the “budding revolution in global online higher education.”
“Nothing has more potential to enable us to reimagine higher education than the massive open online course, or MOOC, platforms that are being developed by the likes of Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and companies like Coursera and Udacity,” wrote Friedman.
Image: Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun, photographed by Martin E. Klimek for USA TODAY
Udacity itself originally promised to provide education “free to the world and accessible everywhere.” Yet Udacity founder Sebastian Thrun found that he was unable to deliver on that promise.
"We were on the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and at the same time, I was realizing, we don't educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product," Thrun was quoted as saying in a Fast Company article. "It was a painful moment."
The problem is that while a MOOC can attract tens or even hundreds of thousands of students, very few of them (less than 10%) ever complete the course. Of those who complete it, not all of them pass. Udacity rode the wave of optimistic rhetoric about the open education revolution, but underneath all the hype it is still a company. Given the failure of its initial product offering, Udacity is pivoting. In entrepreneurship lingo, that means that it is changing its strategy based on its early experiences.
The company has announced a new selection of courses offered by corporate partners such as Google, Autodesk, Salesforce.com, and Intuit, among others. The companies produce and pay for the courses, and in return they get to access and train a pool of potential recruits. Some of the companies are also using the platform to offer training to their own employees.
Image: Screen shot of new Udacity course, "Intro to Data Science"
Thrun recently announced on his blog the launch of Udacity’s “Data Science and Big Data” track, built in partnership with Cloudera. Courses cost between $100 and $150 and students who complete and pass the course will receive credits and a certificate. The courseware is still available for free.
Udacity has received significant criticism about this change of course, notably from MOOC expert George Siemens, who wrote, “This is not a failure of open education, learning at scale, online learning, or MOOCs. Thrun tied his fate too early to VC funding. As a result, Udacity is now driven by revenue pursuits, not innovation.”
On the other hand, most MOOC platforms are not yet profitable and there has yet to be established a sustainable business model for MOOCs. Thrun’s approach is not as idealistic as much of the discourse around open education, but his approach is just one of many in the rapidly fragmenting field of MOOCs. A profit-driven model could have interesting applications for other MOOC platforms or even for education at large.