In a pretty amazing PR coup an Israeli entrepreneur, Shai Resef, managed to get worldwide publicity including notably in the New York Times, for his new education based start-up the University of the People. The article makes some grand claims and glosses over the fact that the plans are mainly speculative at the moment as nothing has really launched and there remain many hurdles to overcome (not least the issue of assessment and accreditation).
The growth of the open learning is undoubted (with the UKs own Open University a leading player with initiatives like OpenLearn and its iTunesU content) but despite the claims in the article I believe peer-to-peer learning remains unproven in many ways (though I do believe it is a useful concept and one that will only become more popular over time) and the reliance of a mish-mash of retired professors, MA level students and volunteers as a kind of virtual faculty does not sound hugely thought out as yet (though there is probably a workable solution in there somewhere) .
Mr Resef does have a history of running successful education themed web businesses, including his current start-up Cramster.com an online homework support network, so he well placed to have the skills and contacts to make this happen.
I’ll be watching this one closely as its an idea I’m really interested in and I think there is a business to be built around the rise in open education that also widens access to higher education, I’m just not quite sure this is it yet.