San Francisco: Offering a twist on the learn-from-anywhere convenience of Internet classes, a new university is asking freshmen to take a large leap of faith, Z News reports.

Minerva Schools of KGI, a radically experimental university in San Francisco, is sifting through applications for its first class, starting this fall. The school is an alliance between Minerva Project, a venture-backed for-profit company, and Keck Graduate Institute, one of California’s Claremont colleges.

The school launches just as studies are questioning the efficacy of Web teaching. In California, a high-profile program run by San Jose State University and startup Udacity, was suspended after officials found that failure rates for online students were much higher than for traditional learners.

Last month, the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education released a study showing that only about 4 percent of those who register for an online course at Penn complete it. The courses are free.

The field nevertheless remains one of the hottest for startups. Minerva has raised $25 million from Benchmark, a leading venture-capital firm. Others with VC backing include Coursera, Udacity and 2U, which have raised $85 million, $20 million and $101 million respectively.

… Minerva says what it plans to do is different.

“Technology can be used in a much more effective way in higher education than has previously been the case,” said Stephen Kosslyn, Minerva’s founding dean and the former dean of social sciences at Harvard.

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