Stanford StartX startup EdCast has maintained a regular presence in the headlines recently. In September, the cloud-based learning platform provider announced a $6 million Series A funding round, followed by news at Educause that it is partnering with the Open Education Consortium, increasing its partner count beyond 300. Most recently, it helped Michigan State launch its Foodchannel portal for food-related MOOCs and learning resources.
But what exactly is the company's mission? For founder and CEO Karl Mehta, EdCast's platform, the Knowledge Cloud, is the key to facilitating collaboration between universities. He calls his concept the "multiversity," and it's largely focused on providing a user-centric experience that makes open-source content available to students and faculty worldwide.
We recently caught up with Mehta to learn more about the multiversity, MOOCs, and more.
EDUCATION DIVE: To start out, tell me a little bit more about your vision of the “multiversity” and how the recent Series A funding round furthers that.
KARL MEHTA: Over the past 500 years — or even 1,000 years — of institutional higher ed, even now the institutions operate like an island. At UC-Berkeley or Stanford, if the students are taking the same course, [the professors] don’t collaborate. So what the Knowledge Cloud platform does is, for the first time in history, it enables three levels of collaboration — an institution-level collaboration, instructor-level collaboration, and student-level collaboration — around a particular team, subject, or topic. So, if I’m studying architecture, it should be borderless or boundary-less. Why can’t I study architecture with another student who is taking the same topic at a university in France or in Italy or in New York? There is a lot in common. Just like we all use the same textbooks, today we all use the same digital information. Why can’t I use the content from a great professor in Europe about architecture? This platform enables those kinds of use cases, where students have the ability to learn from material or content from anywhere in the world, the instructors have the ability to take content from anywhere in the world, and the institutions have the ability to collaborate, where institution A can do it with B and C and pull it together. So that’s a whole new experience that people have felt the need for, but the systems and tools never existed, so that’s what we built.
Do you see the multiversity as the disruptive force that MOOCs wanted to be?
MEHTA: Well actually, the multiversity will help institutions to not get disrupted by MOOCs. So if MOOCs become very successful by taking institutions’ IP and institutions’ eyeballs to their own website, then yes, it can cause disruption and institutions could go out of business. Because institutions have two things: They have their knowledge content from their faculty, and they have students. Currently, they’re sending both of them to third-party websites. With the Knowledge Cloud platform, they can keep their knowledge on their own site, and they can bring in the students directly and have a direct relationship with the students rather than inserting a middle man. Plus, they can all collaborate with other institutions worldwide so they can become a stronger force and have a lot more value, plug in the gaps that each one of them may have, and be much stronger to not just survive, but thrive.
How will the OEC partnership help you get there?
MEHTA: We just announced a partnership with OEC, which is a perfect partner for us. As you know, Open Education Consortium — they’re 300 universities and they’re all aligned in one mission, which is to make knowledge open and accessible. They didn’t have a platform to collaborate with one another, although they are all aligned on the same mission and they like to do the same thing. So with our platform now, almost more than 30,000 modules of content existing in open content libraries across these 300 universities will now be available to students worldwide.
What are the benefits of being part of Stanford StartX?
MEHTA: Well, it’s a great experience. StartX has the entire network of Stanford University, Stanford Alumni, and other Stanford companies that are funded by Stanford University. So, it gives you tremendous networking and mentoring, more importantly, from very, very smart and experienced people. There’s a lot of cross-pollination of ideas and people, and it’s just great to be a part of that community. Stanford University is also an investor, so it creates a great endorsement, especially for us because we are a higher education business.