Change sometimes comes in threes, as it has for Josh Pierce. First, he rebranded his Austin, Texas-based startup to Acadeum. Then, Pierce and his wife had their first child, a boy, earlier this month.
And now, the company that helps groups of colleges—a “consortium” in Acadeum parlance—share online courses has raised a new round of funding to support its marketing efforts and woo more schools to its digital course-sharing consortia. “Our goal is to be the biggest open network,” says Pierce, the company’s CEO.
Acadeum, formerly called College Consortium, has raised $7 million in a Series A round led by Lumina Foundation. Rethink Education, LearnStart and Socratic Ventures also participated. Pierce changed the name because people mistook his company for an actual consortium (which it is not).
Founded in 2016, the company aims to bring online courses to colleges, with a focus on those that haven’t yet launched any. Acadeum creates groups of colleges, called consortia, to share their online courses among each other so that they can save on costs associated with a starting new online course or program. Popular courses on the platform cover general education subjects for Spanish, psychology and algebra.
Some consortia are organized by geography, like ones for the independent college associations in Kansas and Georgia, for example. Others are grouped by type of school, such as a consortium for Council for Christian Colleges and Universities members.
Acadeum has more than 150 different consortia, Pierce says, and has served about 6,000 students across 250 schools—about 80 percent of them private independent colleges. Schools can belong to more than one consortia.
Consortium member schools use the Acadeum platform to let their students take online courses offered by other colleges. The platform facilitates the exchange of academic resources, student and enrollment data and financial payments. It also shows students which courses count toward credit at their school.
Students who want to take a course offered by a member in their institution’s consortia pay a fee, set by the college that developed it. This fee is generally $200 a credit hour; more specific pricing depends on each school’s needs and circumstances. Acadeum takes a small fee from each enrollment placed through its platform. It also charges a license fee for implementation and maintenance.
The company claims these online courses have saved students about $17 million than if they had taken their on-campus equivalent. Colleges, meanwhile, have generated $8 million in new revenue from offering their courses through the platform.
The latest capital infusion will go toward hiring marketing and sales professionals. The company has 14 full-time employees.
While online education isn’t ubiquitous yet in higher education, a March 2019 report from conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute shows greater interest in these courses.
Between 2012 and 2016, the number of students enrolled in at least one online course increased by a million to 6.4 million students. Total college enrollment decreased during that time from about 21 million students to about 20 million.
During that same period, the number of degree-granting institutions to offer online courses grew from 70 percent to 76 percent. Almost all public institutions offered at least one course online in 2016, and more than two-thirds offered at least one program exclusively online.