StraighterLine To Bolster Delivery Of Affordable Online Degree Pathways With BV Investment


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Disclaimer: StraighterLine’s Joe Thibault is the Founder of LMSPulse (formerly MoodleNews). Watch Burck Smith, StraighterLine’s CEO speak at the Elearning Success Summit.

StraighterLine, a Baltimore-based “students success company” devoted to offering solutions for affordable college degrees, is announcing a “significant investment” by private equity firm Boston Ventures Investment Partners. The financial support will bolster the company’s efforts in making formal degrees affordable through all-inclusive subscription models including self-paced courses, textbooks and resources, live support, tutoring and proctoring. Completion of online credits through StraighterLine’s model can count towards formal postsecondary degrees or certificates, furthering a vision of scalable, affordable, effective and accelerated learning pathways.

Burck Smith, along with David Parento, founded StraighterLine with the single goal of reducing the cost of Higher Ed. Through partnerships with universities and colleges, as well as supportive employers, the company has achieved a sustainable solution that demonstrably leads to improved student’s outcomes. Through a “Pathway Services,” StraighterLine reaches out to institutions to make sure their solutions not only harmonize with admission requirements, but that their students are properly equipped to persist and graduate at equal or higher rates. In 2017, StraighterLine was included in the “Innovators Worth Watching” list by the Christensen Institute. In 2016, a release by the company claimed to have saved over $100 Million USD to students and taxpayers.

BV’s commitment can be seen as a validation of evidence. Active on the “tech-enabled business services, software and IT services sectors,” BV is familiar with the space. EdTech companies in the BV portfolio include IntelliTeach, Veracross and SchoolMint (EdTech Holdings).

Educational achievement online is not only possible, but better: Burck Smith at the Elearning Success Summit

Speaking with LMSPulse director and host of the Elearning Success Summit, Stephen Ladek, Smith spoke at length about the insights driving StraighterLine since its origins in 2008 as a pivot from his previous online tutoring service.

«All of this originated from a question: How can we deliver quality education through the internet?»

Smith has been working on the answer for more than 2 decades. While StraighterLine has achieved a model that delivers and scales, he’s not satisfied. On one hand, the proven things of what “learning over the internet” can do are not widespread enough. Issues like competency delivery, self-paced education and 24/7 tutoring are hard to match face-to-face. The same goes with the ability to get started at any time in the school year calendar, or being able to pause and resume a program. On the other, technology is put to the test on the elements that raise some wariness. Assessment, for example, takes place live, careful design accounts for psychometric validity, and plagiarism tools complement the safeguards. Education systems are not in a place where they can fully trust learning validation.

The resulting product of crossing these chasms is an encompassing solution that caters to a large variety of student cases, beyond what some outlets have labeled as the “remedial student market.” Smith is not too concerned about this simplification of what the company does. In fact, it often bodes well when it’s time to motivate a fairly large market into trying to get back into college, usually after a setback that in ordinary circumstances could lead people to swear off obtaining a degree for good. Let there be no mistake, however. The model and the technology behind StraighterLine powers a broad range of cases. For those who actually learn more online than face-to-face. For those who value or need to be physically relocating on a semi-ongoing basis. For those who cannot or do not want to spend 100% of their productive times in the pursuit of a degree. Those interested in combining education from several colleges and universities. These and other scenarios fall into a highly flexible, highly affordable model that also ends up being more equitable.

At the Elearning Success Summit, Smith is able to go in length with a couple of case studies that yield not only higher levels of 7 and 13-month retention, but offer a higher ROI on acquisition campaign, than on traditional pathways; and the many ways in which StraighterLine is ahead of the curve in remote learning readiness.

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