Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Postsecondary Success

The Minerva ProjectThe Minerva Project, a for-profit higher education venture founded in 2011, is here to redesign the college experience as we know it.

This bold idea to transform the traditional higher education system came as a response to two trends: 1) the belief that traditional liberal arts education has strayed from its purpose of developing critical thinking skills and 2) advances in new educational technology.

Minerva used the educational transformation framework to define and narrow their value proposition and, ultimately, achieve an end-to-end redesign of the traditional liberal arts education by offering rigorous online courses focused on critical thinking skills and a global residential experience.

Students enrolled at Minerva don’t attend traditional lecture classes or live on traditional college campuses. Instead, Minerva has decoupled the student experience by offering students a global residential experience that enables them to live in seven international cities throughout college, while attending small, interactive, online seminars.

The virtual nature of lectures enables Minerva to choose faculty from around the world with a wide array of experiences and offerings. This unique faculty model also provides instructors with the flexibility to develop creative curriculum and courses.

Minerva takes this model one step further by ensuring curriculum and learning outcomes are designed around four critical thinking skills. Progress in meeting these skills is then used as measurement to determine students’ grades.

By lowering tuition costs and eliminating student quotas, Minerva has been able to appeal to a broader student population. Tuition is $10,000 per year and admission is offered to all students who adhere to Minerva’s rigorous standards, which are determined in two online assessment tests.

In the fall of 2014, 28 students began their college journey as part of Minerva’s founding class. And in September 2015, Minerva will launch its first full freshman class of nearly 100 students. This progress is in part due to the revolutionary vision behind this higher education model, but also notable faculty and board members, $25 million in seed funding, and dynamic institutional partners.

With Minerva’s great success and innovation, also raises questions for the future, especially around scalability brand recognition in this highly competitive market. For Minerva to succeed it will need to enroll 7,000-10,000 students over all four years and demonstrate students’ academic and professional achievements.

Minerva’s success may in fact redefine higher education, especially as other organizations emulate its model and as online educational resources continue to grow.

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