Crowd-Funding Campaign to Reform Higher Education on a Global Scale
Oplerno—a groundbreaking online educational institution—has launched a crowd-‐ funding campaign on Indiegogo to raise $100,000 to further the mission of redesigning higher education from the ground up.
“Much of the current system is out of control, with skyrocketing administrative costs, interfering corporate interests, and lack of faculty empowerment,” says Robert Skiff, founder of Oplerno. “Furthermore, student debt is increasing at an alarming and unsettling rate. By allowing students to connect directly to their instructors and giving instructors ownership and control of their teaching content—as well as at least 80 percent of the tuition they bring in—we are removing the excesses of the modern educational industry. Let’s give students the skills they seek, the credits they need, and an entirely new way to think about education,” stated Skiff.
The centerpiece of Oplerno’s redesign of the higher education model is the way that teachers and students are treated. At Oplerno, faculty own and control the course content they create. They decide how many students they will teach (though no more than 30 per class, guaranteeing a personal learning experience) and what to charge students for their services. Faculty members take home at least 80 percent of the tuition dollars they generate—between $5000 and $36,000 per class, depending on class tuition and enrollment. Students control their education through a degree of choice unavailable at traditional institutions. They choose their own teachers based on the types of skills they want to learn, outside reviews of classes, and affordability of class tuition. Typical costs for students will range between $500 and $1,500 per class. Using proprietary software, Oplerno will allow for the creation of an open and transparent marketplace, where learning can occur without the limitations imposed by many of the traditional structures of higher education. Oplerno will use the money raised by the Indiegogo campaign to pay for various start-up costs associated with accreditation, faculty support, and student advising. If Oplerno reaches its goal of $100,000, the organization has promised to donate one percent of its net profit—forever—to projects proposed by faculty and students that focus on education, ecological restoration, and economic development. As part of the crowd-funding campaign, Oplerno is offering a ten percent discount on tuition for 10 years to individuals who donate $1,000 or more.
“We have already created the foundation for massively increasing access to higher education on a global scale, while lowering costs for students and increasing pay for faculty,” Skiff says. “Now we need some help financially to bring our vision to scale. We want everyone to benefit from the work we have done to this point, so we have created some long-term value for people who are willing to help us build a new kind of learning organization.”
Oplerno currently has more than 50 faculty from all over the world, creating graduate and undergraduate courses in fields ranging from engineering and the sciences to the liberal arts and humanities. Courses are being developed in English, Spanish, and Chinese to meet the needs of the global marketplace. Oplerno is committed to seeking regional and national accreditation as soon as possible. It plans to offer classes early in the first quarter of 2014 that will be available from any location on the planet with Internet access.