Saving arts education…by going online?

A startup company is using a custom-built learning platform to offer cutting-edge arts courses online—often for credit—at a fraction of the cost of traditional college courses.

arts-education-onlineAs higher education pivots away from the liberal arts in favor of more career-focused degrees, a new online learning platform is hoping to fill the vacuum by offering low-cost arts courses online—for credit or otherwise.

Kadenze, which went live on June 16, launched with 22 courses that range from Web Coding for Artists to Reinventing the Piano, taught by some of the leading names in their fields.

“The goal of Kadenze is to bring together the leading institutions and universities in the world that are teaching arts curriculums and help them put their courses online,” said Ajay Kapur, CEO and cofounder of Kadenze, which has signed agreements with 16 colleges to date, including Princeton, Stanford, and UCLA.

Underlying the development of the Kadenze platform is a recognition that the soaring cost of traditional higher education is forcing students to choose degree paths that offer a significant return on investment. “Being an engineer or a doctor, you have an opportunity to get a great job and a salary that can support your expensive education,” explained Kapur. “In the arts it’s a serious problem, though. If you’re a jazz musician, a painter, or a dancer, a very high tuition bill and student loan are just crippling.”

While Kapur believes that 80 percent of what is taught at an art institution should still be taught on campus, the online environment is an ideal way to allow students to fulfill their first-year course requirements—at a fraction of the cost of traditional college. Seven of the participating schools, including the California Institute of the Arts and School of the Art Institute of Chicago, are offering college credit for their Kadenze courses for $300, $600, or $900, depending on the number of units.

“We’re really trying to build that first-year experience where students can learn the key assets for their particular field and then apply to college, maybe with a semester done,” said Kapur. “Our goal is not to replace the university; it’s to get people prepared for it while also reducing the costs.”

(Next page: Enrollment structure and “the three Ps”)

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