I’m SO EXCITED to share this post with you. I know I haven’t written an update in ages on what Ben Blair has been up to. And today, I finally get to tell you! He’s been building a brand new company with my brother Josh Stanley, called Teachur. And it’s such a cool thing — it has the potential to transform higher education in a major way.
Teachur is a new online platform where students can earn an accredited college degree for the flat price of $1000.
Intrigued? Well you can learn all the details on the Kickstarter page that launched today. There is a short video packed with info, and the story on the Kickstarter page has even more info. If you’re not in the mood to click over, here is Teachur as I understand it:
The cost of higher education has increased from $40,o00 (in today’s dollars) in 1982, to $128,000 today. Which is insane! People used to be able to work a summer job and then pay for tuition. But now it’s a student loan model. The average student graduates with a 4-year degree and $32,000 in debt. Yikes!
And the thing is, the increase in price hasn’t made the curriculum and teaching significantly better. They’ve stayed pretty much the same. Instead, the new costs are tied to things like massive stadiums and a huge increase in the number of people in administration.
Josh and Ben wondered: could they separate the actual learning that takes place when earning a college degree, from the inflated costs of a high-end campus? And if they could separate it, how much would the actual learning cost a student? Turns out: they think they can do it for $1000. So amazing!!! Currently, the least expensive degrees out there are $20,000. So $1000 is revolutionary!
So what is Teachur going to offer? Well if you’ve ever taken an online class, you might be picturing something like that, but Teachur isn’t planning to offer online classes. Instead, they will give students Objectives and Assessments. What are Objectives? When a teacher is building curriculum, they come up with a set of objectives that students need to master for any particular class, and then they might align the objectives to guidelines for their specific discipline. Objectives are basically a list of everything a student needs to learn in a class. So for a U.S. History course, there might be 20-200 objectives (depending on how detailed the objectives are), including something like: student understands significant causes and consequences of the Revolutionary War.
What are Assessments? They are tests and reviews. They are a way a student and assessor can see if they’ve mastered the objectives. I’m sure you remember these very well from your own schooling. Sometimes they are written, sometimes they are multiple choice, sometimes they are oral reviews.
With Teachur, students will receive a set a objectives for their desired degree. It’s basically a path: learn this, then this, then this…. with assessments along the way… till you get to the accredited degree. Students will master the objectives in any way they like — watching online videos or tutorials, reading books or essays, talking with an expert. Then, Teachur will provide the assessments. When the student passes all the assessments? They’ve earned their degree!!
One more note on Assessments. The big question with these, is how to make them secure. And this is an awesome part: Teachur will be tying assessments to the Blockchain. I’m no Blockchain expert, but essentially it’s the security system that Bitcoin was built on, and it’s actually much more secure than the current testing systems that happen at real-life universities. If you’re curious, you can read about it here. The whole thing is so dang cool!
At the same time that the cost of education has gone up, up up, the internet has made it possible to learn pretty much anything you can think of at no cost. And Teachur will help people take advantage of that fact by giving them an accredited path of what to learn and in which order. If you want to learn to be a rocket scientist, the knowledge to become one is freely available. You just need to know what it is you’re looking for (objectives), and you need to prove that you’ve actually learned it (assessments).
Clearly, Teachur won’t be appealing to everybody, and I don’t imagine for a minute that it will replace our university system. Certainly, there is something valuable and wonderful about the experience of attending real-life classes on a campus, something that goes beyond simply learning the offered curriculum. And yes, there are lots of people that learn best that way. But not everyone does, and not everyone makes use of what a campus has to offer, and not everyone can afford a traditional university education. Some people really just want the learning and the degree.
How’s this for a metaphor: It’s like if you went to the hardware store to buy a hammer, but you can’t just get a hammer. In order to get the hammer, you have to buy a whole deluxe 50-piece tool kit. The deluxe tool kit is awesome! Filled with high quality tools. There’s a drill, a tape measure, a screwdriver set and tons of useful objects. But the thing is, you own some of those tools already, and when you look closely, you know you won’t use about half of what’s in the kit — even though the tools are excellent. You really just need the hammer. And you only have a budget for the hammer. Why do you have to buy the whole deluxe tool kit?
Josh and Ben are perfectly trained to build Teachur, and they’ve already been working on it for months and months. Ben Blair’s PhD is in Educational Philosophy from Columbia and the bulk of his professional life has been building curriculum and aligning objectives. Josh also studied at Columbia — with a focus on Educational Technology, and he’s spent his career thus far working as an instructional technologist, building educational tools and directing college faculty on how to incorporate technology in their teaching. As you know, Ben Blair has 6 kids, and my brother Josh has 5, so they are both keenly aware of the realties of college and what it costs.
Why Kickstarter? Well, like I mentioned, they have already put months and months into building Teachur, but they’ve reached a point where they need a bigger team to make this happen in an impactful way — they want to offer 130+ degrees! And they can’t do it on their own. Kickstarter is an awesome way to gauge interest. Sure, I’m totally into it. But I’m the wife of Ben and the sister of Josh. Are other people interested? That’s what the Kickstarter will tell them.
So I hope you go check it out! I’d love to discuss it with you and I’d love to hear what you think of it. Is there anything confusing? Anything you especially like? And what are your thoughts on the rewards – you can have a campus building named after you! Hah!
I’d also love your thoughts on higher education in general. We’ve talked about paying for college before, but what’s your current thinking on it? Does it stress you out? Would something like Teachur offer hope? Chime in!