2U: Higher Education’s Biggest Accomplishment

After learning about the use and benefits of the Cloud, as well as experiencing these through the use of AWS in our final project, I thought I would share with the class the infrastructure of the company I worked for this summer as it is similar to the features of the Cloud. I worked for 2U (previously known as 2tor), which is a company that partners with top 25 universities, such as Brandeis, University of Southern California, and Washington University in St. Louis. 2U brings these schools’ undergraduate and graduate programs online so that students can earn degrees from anywhere in the world.

What makes 2U so unique to other online education websites, such as Pheonix.edu or Coursera, is 2U’s advanced technological platform. 2U’s platform can be accessed by anyone from any part of the world with Internet access. So, a student can earn a Georgetown University Nursing degree while learning in Australia. The platform acts as a virtual classroom in which it is a video chat session with up to 20 people allowed in the chat at the same time. Each person’s box in the chat is labeled with their name, including the professor’s. On the side of the session, there is a space for the students and professors to chat with each other via typing, in addition to the speaking abilities of the session. The platform also allows for the professor to break up the students into different “rooms” and have them work in groups, perhaps, and then bring everyone back together. Along with the ability to view all the people in the session, there is also a spot for professors to upload lecture slides and go through them with the students along with their lectures.

The platform feels so “real” and similar to a live classroom, that past students have actually formed relationships via the platform. 2U is even able to celebrate the first engagement between two students initialized because of their platform.

2U’s interface also has a place for professors to upload their lectures from each class so that students can access them at later times. 

I think 2U’s interface is similar to capabilities of the Cloud as it is shared access to information from anywhere in the world. 2U is continually praised for its advanced technological platform. I can only imagine what they will think of next with the increasing advanced in technology in today’s society.


A screenshot of a lecture going on using 2U’s online platform.

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4 Responses to 2U: Higher Education’s Biggest Accomplishment

  1. lzaima says:

    After seeing the screenshot, this seems really cool! How professional and rigid is the structure and requirements to each course? Some of the problems with free and open online classrooms is that there lacks a consistent schedule like there would be at a university. If the professor has to create and abide by a set schedule, then that’s great. The interfacing seems very personable and gives the impression that you are a part of a class, not just in a class. Also, how open is the curriculum? In my mind, I could see a miscellaneous class like “StarCraft 101” (sorry, I’m a geek) being popular. It can bring many smart minds and high-skilled gamers together to teach people how to become better at games. While this may seem silly on the surface, but how is it any different than taking golf lessons?

  2. mfrohman says:

    I guess I did not clarify in my original post enough- the classes are not free. 2U offers the interface to earn a real degree from the universities it partners with. It is bringing higher education online. The professors and curriculums are provided solely by the universities, meaning there is a rigid structure, schedule, and curriculum for each class. A student utilizing 2U’s services can literally earn their UNC Chapel Hill MBA (a presumably difficult degree) online while living in Thailand. However, the price is not free. Though it is cheaper than enrolling in non-online classes at the actual university. Depending on which class it is, I am sure there is opportunity for class discussion and collaboration, but that could be possible in any class, regardless of it being online or not.

    • lzaima says:

      Ah, I see. Regardless, the interfacing for class lectures is very well laid out and is probably the best I’ve seen of an online course system yet. I see this being extremely useful for students who are studying abroad, but may want or need to take a necessary course or courses at their home University without physically being there. There is a lot of work to be done before this actually happens, but it’s food for thought.

  3. mfrohman says:

    It’s funny you say that- 2U actually just launched their “Semester Online” program this past Fall in which 2U has partnered with specific undergraduate programs and allows students to take anywhere from 1 class to the restricted amount of credits allowed during a semester. I’m not sure if I clarified this in my original post either, but before the Semester Online program, 2U had only partnered with universities’ master programs. The idea to partner with undergraduate programs as well was in the talks when I worked there this past summer. One of the issues that I heard being discussed was exactly what you just brought up. 2U executives feared that the program would do poorly if every student that enrolled for the online class only took 1-2 courses, while abroad, for instance. Seeing as I do not work there anymore, I suppose they overcame this fear and have confidence that the undergraduate partnerships will succeed.

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