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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Karen Francis, CEO of Academix Direct (Part 5)

Posted on Sunday, Apr 20th 2014

Karen Francis: To that end, we are paying a lot of attention not just to the individual course certifications but series certifications. edX is leading down this path. One of the next things that we’ll be introducing on our site in the next couple of months is the ability to upload your certification and then attach it to your official transcript. You might go to high school and you have a transcript from your high school. You don’t want to go to college the way that other people might think about it. You know which skills you want and you want to be able to prove to an employer that you’ve mastered it. You will be able to take that certification and attach that to your official transcript.

Sramana Mitra: You are maintaining consumer records on their certifications and transcripts?

Karen Francis: We are allowing the registered user to collect what they want.

Sramana Mitra: As a portfolio?

Karen Francis: Yes, as well as partnering with a company called Parchment, which actually transmits the transcripts. That’s their business.

Sramana Mitra: I spoke with another company called ProctorU. Are you familiar with ProctorU?

Karen Francis: No, I’m not.

Sramana Mitra: These guys are doing proctoring online for online examinations, which is one of the issues. For instance, edX is working with Pearson to do their proctored courses. These guys are focused on pure online proctoring.

Karen Francis: There are all kinds of ways to do it. You can use the way you type as your personal fingerprint.

Sramana Mitra: Also camera and actual proctors monitoring. They are necessary pieces of the puzzle for online education to come together.

Karen Francis: It’s really not as new as it seems, in that, there are online universities that have been doing it for a long time. Western Governors University is an example. It’s an online master’s program. They have gotten the ability to make sure that the person taking the test is actually the person taking the test. They validate it all the time. There are a lot of things that might have been out there that people weren’t aware of, because it wasn’t in their line of sight.

Now, what’s happening with online is that so many more people can participate in this even if you don’t have a college degree or a skill. Here’s a great example. My father-in-law is 89. He is a Stanford graduate. He travels the world. That’s what he does now.  He reads voraciously. He takes courses before each trip. He says to me, “Why don’t you have the great courses on your site?” The great courses typically have video with phenomenal content. We’ll soon have them on our site. Jack’s 89 and he’s a different kind of learner, but now he can take his iPad and take the content with him.

Sramana Mitra: I hope that when I’m 90, I have that kind of stamina. Who do you consider as competitors for your main revenue generating business?

Karen Francis: There are several competitors who do what we do. We all do it in different ways.

Sramana Mitra: Is HotChalk a competitor?

Karen Francis: No, HotChalk is a customer. They go and find universities that have not been online and help enable them to come online. Part of that is helping them find students for the newly enabled online program. We don’t get involved in bringing the content online. We’re much more of the marketing partner.

Sramana Mitra: What about Hobsons?

Karen Francis: Not really. Hobsons owns a division called Naviance which does something similar to Parchment. We’re happy to partner with them but haven’t come across them as much. Hobsons is more of a traditional university market. We’re working with a broader array of people – not just traditional colleges.

This segment is part 5 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Karen Francis, CEO of Academix Direct
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