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Academic Earth Launches Website Offering Free Video Lectures from Leading Universities

March 24, 2009

Learners Around the World Gain Access to Academic Superstars

NEW YORK, March 24 /PRNewswire/ — Academic Earth, a social entrepreneurship venture focused on expanding the availability of high-quality educational opportunities for people around the globe, announced Tuesday the launch of its website at http://AcademicEarth.org.

Academic Earth offers free access to online video of full courses and guest lectures from leading educational institutions including Yale, Harvard, and MIT.

“The internet now makes it possible to share with millions of people around the world educational opportunities that were previously only available to a privileged few,” said founder and CEO Richard Ludlow. “Academic Earth is dedicated to making it as simple as possible for anyone with an internet connection to find, interact with, and learn from video lectures from world-class scholars. This is an educational opportunity that has never before been possible.”

The catalog of video lectures, spanning nearly all major academic subjects, contains 60 full courses and 2,395 overall lectures, for a total of more than 1,300 hours of premium educational video content. The lectures are presented through a clean, user-friendly interface that allows visitors to browse by Subject, University, or Instructor. Site editors have also compiled Playlists such as “Understanding the Financial Crisis” and “Wars Throughout History” that bring together lectures from a number of institutions to provide multiple sources and perspectives on key issues.

In addition to full courses (a sample of which are listed at the end of this document), the site includes guest lectures on leadership, business, and policy from luminaries including Google Co-founder Larry Page, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young, former Senator Bill Bradley, New York Times Columnist Thomas Friedman, and Blackstone Chairman Stephen Schwarzman.

The impetus for the initiative came from founder Richard Ludlow’s personal experience as a student at Yale University. “I was having trouble in a linear algebra course until I stumbled late one night upon a full video course available online from MIT. Not only did I have access to supplementary instruction, I got to learn from Professor Gilbert Strang, one of the most renowned teachers in the field and the author of the textbook used in our course,” explained Ludlow. “This not only got me through linear algebra, it also opened my eyes to a growing movement by universities to virtually open the doors to the classrooms of some of their leading professors.”

“There was a problem, however,” he continued. “I discovered that these resources were dispersed among many unconnected sites and available in varying file formats, making them difficult to find and browse. That’s the challenge we have taken on with Academic Earth.”

Ludlow believed that by bringing these resources together into a single user-friendly educational ecosystem, applying best practices in video technology and interface design, and giving tools for community interaction, he could help spread these high-quality educational resources to a much larger global audience. After graduating with simultaneous bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics from Yale, he deferred admission to Harvard Business School to begin preparation for what became Academic Earth.

To raise the funding for the initiative, Ludlow initially approached Barry Nalebuff – a Yale economics professor and the co-founder of Honest Tea – who was his professor and faculty advisor at Yale. Professor Nalebuff came on as the lead investor, and was joined by a diverse and accomplished group of angel investors that includes a Pulitzer Prize winner, experienced tech investors, and two additional Yale professors. Legal services for the funding round were provided by the law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, and Rosati.

Preceding its full launch, the site opened a public beta in late January. While the company’s goal was primarily to test the site in a live environment and get early feedback, the site experienced rapid viral growth due primarily to visitors sharing the site on services such as Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, and StumbleUpon. The site attracted more than 68,000 unique visitors in January and 200,000 unique visitors in February, with 50% of visitors coming from outside of the US, representing 207 different countries.

Visitors have reported a wide variety of uses for the site. Students have used it to supplement existing coursework, educators to study the teaching methods of other instructors, and lifelong learners for personal enrichment. Of particular interest have been the large collections of business, computer science, and engineering lectures, which have been utilized by professionals and job seekers.

Over the next six months, the company will integrate a variety of tools intended to harness community intelligence to complement the existing content and offer a rich learning environment. The first such feature is an A-F grading system that allows users to rate the quality of each lecture. Coming soon is an innovative Q&A system, which will allow visitors to ask questions about a video to be answered by other users.

Academic Earth plans to grow its content base significantly over time, drawing on open licensed content and direct partnerships with sources including additional universities, think tanks, conferences, government agencies, and educational television programs.

Academic Earth plans to introduce a monetization platform with the goal of making the production and distribution of educational resources sustainable at a time when many university programs are facing budget cuts. The company will offer content providers the option to host content on a completely non-commercial basis, or to share revenue generated through targeted marketing of educational goods and services.

More information about university efforts to provide free educational resources on the web can be found through the Open CourseWare Consortium (http://ocwconsortium.org), and at the websites of Creative Commons content producers including MIT OpenCourseWare (http://ocw.mit.edu), Open Yale Courses (http://oyc.yale.edu), Berkeley Webcast (http://webcast.berkeley.edu), Stanford Engineering Everywhere (http://see.stanford.edu), Stanford eCorner (http://ecorner.stanford.edu), Harvard Professor David Malan (http://cs.harvard.edu/~malan) and Princeton UChannel (http://uc.princeton.edu).

Among the 60 full courses available on the site are:

Social Sciences:

  • Introduction to Psychology (Yale)
  • Financial Markets (Yale)
  • Game Theory (Yale)
  • Climate Change: Law and Policy (Berkeley)

Sciences:

  • Physics I: Classical Mechanics (MIT)
  • General Chemistry (MIT)
  • General Biology (Berkeley)
  • Human Anatomy (Berkeley)

Humanities:

  • Introduction to Ancient Greek History (Yale)
  • The American Novel Since 1945 (Yale)
  • Introduction to the Old Testament (Yale)
  • Milton (Yale)

Mathematics and Engineering:

  • Introduction to Computer Science (Harvard)
  • Introduction to Biomedical Engineering (Yale)
  • Linear Algebra (MIT)
  • Multivariable Calculus (Berkeley)

CONTACT: Richard Ludlow, +1-209-409-3836, media@academicearth.org

SOURCE Academic Earth


Source: newswire



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