Back in 2017, a startup called Coursetune began selling software tailored to a specific niche: designing course. How that company grew and changed says a lot about the growth of online programs in higher education.
The biggest change for Coursetune happened last week, when Academic Partnership, a company that helps colleges set up online degree programs, bought a course-design company. (Sales price not disclosed.) Academic Partnership says it plans to eventually offer Coursetune software to its customers as a free feature, but Coursetune will also continue to operate as an independent unit and does not currently make any significant changes to customers.
There are other key points for Coursetune along the way, says CEO and co-founder Maria Anderson, who earlier in her career worked as an assistant professor, director of learning design at Western Governors University and an Adtech consultant.
When she first started the company, she said the emphasis was on helping professors “tune” their courses so that students were learning key points, which could be used to document accredited course quality. “We called it CourseStune because we wanted to constantly improve-fine-tuning the curriculum ज as it was used and developed,” says Anderson.
But it was not a feature that the teachers and administrators of the college were most excited about. Instead, customers were interested in the ability of the tool to help in the “map” course to document what skills and objectives are taught in each course of a major or college degree program. So Coursetune added more energy to the curriculum-mapping functions over time.
This aspect is also of interest in academic partnerships, says Amanda Smith, the company’s chief educational services officer, as such mapping can help ensure the teaching skills needed for the job are taught. “Our goal is to increase access to affordable and workforce-ready programs,” she says. Coursetune, she adds, “helps professors show that they are teaching what they want to teach. And it helps students see ‘what’s in it for me’.
Some professors, especially in liberal arts curricula, have backtracked on the broader tendency to emphasize the detailed learning objectives emphasized by the courses, as they make the curriculum too instructive.
But with more and more colleges launching online degree programs, many students are working harder to convince students that the courses will create marketable skills.
Coursetune has approximately 50 customers, mostly in high-end but some in K-12 and “some corporate clients,” says Anderson. It has about 26 employees, all working remotely.
Some of the education management systems that colleges already use have features that help professors and administrators to articulate clear objectives. But Anderson says no competitor has focused so much on course-mapping. “It’s not a school-selling thing on LMS and so she’s not a major driver of the business,” she says.