AllLearn, a joint online learning initiative of Yale, Stanford University and the University of Oxford formed in September 2000, has closed its operations due to financial difficulties.

During its five years in operation, the New York City-based Alliance for Lifelong Learning, Inc. offered noncredit courses authored by Yale, Stanford and Oxford professors to more than 11,000 students from at least 70 countries, AllLearn President Kristin Kim said. The initiative, which stopped offering courses in December and officially announced its folding on its Web site last week, is still in the process of formally closing down, Kim said.

Yale President Richard Levin, who served as AllLearn’s chairman, said he thinks that while the participating institutions learned what is necessary to manage a successful distance learning program, they were unable to make the project financially viable.

“We are disappointed that we weren’t able to find a way to make this successful economically,” Levin said. “[But] we learned a lot, and I think it will serve us well in the future.”

The program mostly attracted students interested in liberal arts, and popular classes included those with a focus on writing, religion and psychology.

Levin said Stanford and Yale opposed expanding the initiative to include courses for high school students or offering courses for credit, but he said he thinks for-credit courses may have made the initiative more lucrative, since the universities could have charged higher tuitions.

Yale spokeswoman Helaine Klasky said in an e-mail that the University has no current plans to revive the initiative in the future and that the reasons for discontinuing operations were purely financial.

Still, the decision of the AllLearn board to close the venture came only after discussion of all other possibilities, Kim said.

“We’re proud of the accomplishments, but we also recognized the economic reality of a business venture,” she said. “The board, like any prudent board would do, considered an array of options. The final decision, based on economics, was to close the venture.”

Stanford Dean of Continuing Studies Charles Junkerman said providing further education to alumni of the three institutions was a greater motivation for AllLearn than making the initiative as profitable as possible.

“The real question was not, “How can we make money?'” Junkerman said. “I think the worst thing for them would have been to search for ways to make money.”

Junkerman said the institutions enjoyed the collaborative nature of the initiative and hope to seek ways to continue collaboration in the future. Stanford may eventually resurrect parts of the initiative in some form, he said.

As of March 2005, AllLearn offered about 60 courses in total — up from about 20 in 2000 — more than half of which were developed by Yale faculty.