#Journo100 Finalist: WiredAcademic’s Paul Glader

To highlight the wide diversity of journalism innovation projects proposed by our 100% Journalism finalists, we’re running short Q & As with our ten finalists.

Higher learning has suddenly found itself in the crosshairs of venture capitalists and startup entrepreneurs. MOOCs—massive open online courses—are taking the academy by storm, putting online for free (in most cases) classes you’d ordinarily need a high SAT score and a ton of cash to access.

Paul Glader, a  former Wall Street Journal reporter, wants his company, WiredAcademic, to become the authoritative voice on what users need to know about taking free college courses online.

The following is an excerpt from a Q&A with Glader, edited lightly for clarity.

What is WiredAcademic?
WiredAcademic started as a blog site by myself and Elbert Chu, who was working with me on some journalism projects. We basically spent the last year blogging about education innovation and digital learning, learning about this industry more in depth and approaching it as business journalists.

At WiredAcademic we want to create more transparency in the online education space and the education innovation space. With our classroom product, we want to do the same thing: create more transparency by empowering students to rank and review all of the great massive open online courses that are out there. We think that will improve the quality of both the courses and the institutions.

Tell me about the project idea you submitted to the #Journo100 Challenge.

Our idea is this microsite called Classroom. After studying the space we see that there’s a problem with the open course movement—the massive open online courses—or other sorts of online courses, online degree programs… and the problem is that there’s a lack of transparency. There’s a lack of good information that’s really generated from the users and by third parties.

What we want to do and what we think will really help users is to be able to have a microsite where we provide some content about the providers and about the courses and empower people who are taking these courses and searching for these courses to rank and review and to sort [them]. We’d love to create a Yelp or a TripAdvisor in the online education space starting with a very narrow section here which is these free online open course providers. The MOOCs as we call them.

How are users and consumers currently getting their information?

There are a lot of sites out there that are called “lead generators” and their sole aim is to direct students to particular schools that are paying them a lot of money, so it’s essentially advertising. It’s a little bit deceptive. So we’re trying to do something entirely different. At WiredAcademic one of my mottos has been that we want to sort out the good the bad and the ugly going on in the education space.

Why would a University that normally costs  thousands of dollars give away its classes for free?

That’s a good question and it’s an ongoing debate in this space. These universities like Princeton and Harvard that are involved in this, they started being involved for two reasons in my mind. One, they’re not sure where technology is going and so they’re scared to not be involved in this. They have to figure out how to get it right, for their own students in the future and for their brands. The second reason is that some of these schools have huge endowments and so this is essentially branding and a public service or charitable endeavor for them. And because all their peers are doing it. You know, Stanford’s a leader right now, and MIT…and so Harvard and Princeton sort of have to join the bandwagon.

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About Sarah Erickson

Sarah comes from a background in multimedia journalism and scholarly research, recently joining Ebyline as the Content Manager. She graduated from the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC and is a proud Trojan. Fight on!