- Outlier.org, a company that offers general education classes online for college credit, raised $30 million in a recent Series B funding round, bringing its total amount raised to $46 million.
- The money will be used to add 14 courses by 2022, a move the company says will enable people to complete the equivalent of the first two years of a college degree on its platform. Outlier.org currently offers six courses.
- Investors are taking interest in companies like Outlier.org as the pandemic increases colleges' use of online learning.
Outlier.org, which charges $400 for a three-credit course, bills its offerings as a lower-cost alternative to traditional general education classes. It launched in fall 2019 with classes in calculus and psychology, catching eyes with its high-gloss videos that harken to another project of its founder Aaron Rasmussen, MasterClass, a nonacademic online course platform.
Since then, the company has added courses in astronomy, microeconomics, philosophy and statistics. It offers transfer credit for them in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh, an agreement it expanded late last year — though some faculty have been critical of the partnership.
The company is one of several organizations seeking to expand postsecondary options online, often working with colleges to do so. Others include StraighterLine, which offers students online classes for transfer credit, and edX and Coursera, which offer a variety of classes and credentials online.
These types of companies have investors' attention. Coursera raised nearly $520 million in a recent public offering after bringing in $130 million in a funding round last summer. StraighterLine raised an undisclosed amount from investors last spring. Last year saw a record amount raised in ed tech deals, EdSurge reported.
Whether the presence of these programs will help or hurt colleges is unclear. General education classes are reliable sources of revenue for institutions, so they may be reluctant to outsource them. As competition for students grows, however, partnering with the companies could help schools expand their reach.
Outlier.org is making a move to that end. The company recently hired a former Coursera executive focused on university partnerships, Anjuli Gupta, to expand its work with colleges, high schools and employers. Coursera announced in fall 2019 that it would provide courses for colleges to use as part of their curriculum.
Colleges have been more interested in Outlier.org courses due to the shift online during the pandemic, Rasmussen told TechCrunch.
When asked how many colleges Outlier.org is currently working with, a spokesperson cited "inbound interest from over a hundred universities" about uses for its courses. The company has also offered two courses with Florida Polytechnic University, for which that university grants its own credits, the spokesperson said.