Pessimism about education is easy to find. Sebastian Thrun is a pretty persuasive antidote, and the funding seems to be following.
On Thursday, Udacity is announcing a $15 million venture-capital round led by the ubiquitous Andreessen Horowitz. The new infusion brings its total raised to date to $21.5 million.
Udacity, which is frequently mentioned along with other new-wave education startups like Coursera, is pursuing a vision that has some fresh elements.
First, the company is out to reach hundreds of thousands of students at a time around the world, a goal that really wasn’t technically or financially feasible until recently.
Second, the courses are free, at least for now. (Udacity gets some of its revenue by finding employees for tech companies, Thrun says).
Third, as Thrun stresses, Udacity is bringing a different style of pedagogy. It is not simply putting boring, linear lectures on the Internet. Students learn by solving problems and getting instant feedback on how they performed–by doing, rather than listening, Thrun says.