Five years after its inception, AllLearn, Yale’s joint e-learning effort with Oxford and Stanford universities, which offers courses over the Internet, is expanding its global presence as it begins to reach out beyond alumni from the three schools to offer courses to high school students.
AllLearn has had over 10,000 students from around the globe enroll in its online courses, which are authored by professors at Yale, Oxford and Stanford, since its launch in 2000, AllLearn president Kristin Kim said. The program is moving beyond its original audience of alumni from the founding institutions to offer services to the general public, including business and government employees. The high school component of AllLearn will become available this summer with a course by Yale professor Michael Milburn titled “Mastering the Essay.”
Yale President Richard Levin, who is also AllLearn’s chairman, said he is pleased with the progress the company has made since its inception. From its start, Levin said he has viewed AllLearn as an experiment and will continue to look for ways to widen its audience.
“I think we’ve learned a lot form the experiment,” Levin said. “While I believe we’ve produced some very high quality courses, we’ve learned that it’s hard to generate large audiences sufficiently from these courses from just the alumni of the three partner schools. So we’ve reached out to attract broader audiences through affiliating with universities and through finding other organizations that might have an interest in making courses available to members.”
AllLearn officials are currently in talks with other academic institutions to develop additional courses, AllLearn managing director Dan Colman said. The company already has created some relationships with other universities in order to advertise its course offerings to their alumni, Kim said.
AllLearn now offers about 60 courses — up from about 20 five years ago — and about 35 of them have been developed by Yale faculty, Kim said. Some of the most popular classes include writing courses, as well as Yale College Dean Peter Salovey’s course on the emotional intelligence theory in psychology and a new course by Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge and other divinity professors that analyzes Dan Brown’s novel, “The Da Vinci Code.”
English professor John Barkin, who has taught three writing courses for AllLearn including a week-long intensive course on writing sonnets, said he has enjoyed the Web-based interaction between his various students. He said his past students have included a professional in the music business who graduated Yale in the 1930s, a psychotherapist from London and a physician from the Middle East.
Barkin said he took some time to get used to the online medium, likening it to being “a blind man at a cocktail party.”
“But, I think, like being blind, after a while the important thing becomes the medium of writing,” he said.
Association of Yale Alumni director Jeff Brenzel said AllLearn has been praised by many Yale alumni, even if he would like to see more Elis enroll in the company’s courses.
“It certainly met the expectation of first presenting some very high-quality offerings, and the people who have taken the programs have given it very high marks,” Brenzel said. “We’d like to see more people taking them, but the people who have taken them have really liked the programs.”
AllLearn has received some subsequent investments beyond its initial $12 million startup, but operates on a budget that is smaller than many other online education ventures, Levin said. AllLearn is one of the few online ventures of its kind that has weathered the Internet boom and bust, he said.
The most lucrative online educational programs tend to offer widespread degree-granting programs. Levin said there are no plans for AllLearn to begin offering courses to be used toward a degree, but he left the door open for future plans.
“It’s not impossible, but not currently in our plans,” he said.