With lots of money, a businessman offers a new virtual university that aggregates what is already online.
Michael J. Saylor was early to the free online-education market. In 2000, Mr. Saylor, then a dot-com billionaire as chief executive of a business-intelligence company called MicroStrategy, promised to give $100-million to open a new Web portal that would provide quality education for the masses at no charge.
That plan got derailed, though, when he lost $6-billion of his fortune in a single day of stock trading during a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. The online-university project was sidelined.
These days, Mr. Saylor is back. Not only has he rebuilt MicroStrategy, but in the past few years he has also channeled his still-prodigious wealth into changing higher education.
He compares traditional teaching to "giving people thousands of rubber mallets and asking them to drill a hole through a mountain." He said, "We need nitroglycerine."
His "nitroglycerine" is Saylor.org, a nonprofit online university he backs as sole trustee of the Saylor Foundation. Saylor's model is to offer students a free, one-stop shop for self-paced college courses. Saylor.org aggregates free content offered by open-source providers like MIT OpenCourseWare and Open Yale Courses, and groups it so that students can pursue a continuous sequence of courses in a major.