Carnegie Mellon company to offer courseware customizable with learning analytics


Acrobatiq will offer customizable online courseware, consulting services and learning analytics products to educators.

Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative (OLI) has been a pioneer in online education since 2001. It began offering free and open online courses that could assess student outcomes years before the words massive, open, online and course assembled into a catchy acronym or “learning analytics” became a common buzz phrase.

But for the creators of Carnegie Mellon’s new subsidiary company Acrobatiq, OLI was just the beginning.

“The work done by OLI and CMU has laid a great foundation,” Eric Frank, the company’s CEO said in a blog post last week. “The time seems right to take it to the next level, and Carnegie Mellon has formed Acrobatiq for this purpose. Through Acrobatiq, we will be able to scale up capacity to serve more learners and institutions, accelerate innovation, and ensure financial sustainability from revenue versus a reliance on grant funding.”

Acrobatiq will offer customizable online courseware, consulting services and learning analytics products to educators. The company will create new courses to run with OLI as well as expand the capabilities of existing courses, according to an announcement.

The goals for Acrobatiq, Frank said, are not to simply lower costs or improve access – though they are challenges he said the company finds important.

Instead, Acrobatiq is after improving course quality and learning outcomes.

See Page 2 for how Acrobatiq hopes to change education for the better, without disrupting it. 

Much of the team behind Acrobatiq is being siphoned from OLI, including two of the platform’s founders. Other team members hail from New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Toronto. The company’s headquarters is located in Pittsburgh’s South Side.

When Acrobatiq begins to roll out its services this fall, it will not interrupt any existing agreements institutions have with OLI , Frank said.

In some ways, the company is part of a larger trend of educators and college administrators trying to get ahead of the “disruption” coming from the educational technology sector (for-profit companies like MOOC provider Coursera, for example). If there are problems in higher education, they argue, then let the solutions come from higher education, too.

The team members behind Acrobatiq are not “disruptors,” Frank said on the company’s blog. In fact, the term seems to leaves a bad taste in the CEO’s mouth.

“It’s become fashionable to wear “disruption” like a badge of honor,” he said. “Most who do either have no idea what it means, or worse, seek to tear down without building up. We believe that higher education will solve the hard problems from the inside out.”

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