CourseArc: A Case Study in Course Design, Ecosystem Leverage, and Persistence

Image courtesy of CourseArc

Approximately ten years ago, Katie Egan met and hired Bethany Meyer, a fellow UMBC alumna, to help with her consulting business. The two set out to build quality, customized online courses for a variety of clients. Katie was the experienced instructional designer; Bethany was the engineer and web developer. Along the way, they realized that they just might be able to build and scale a platform that would allow instructors to more easily design and launch their own online courses. The task for Katie and Bethany was to avail an affordable, easy-to-use, secure and standards-compliant platform for launching online courses in K-12, postsecondary, and corporate learning. Enter CourseArc.

The Challenge and Opportunity of Online Course Design

Millions of hours have been spent designing and launching custom online courses using a full spectrum of medium and methodology. Of course, we’ve not been learning online for more than about two decades, so the research is sparse but reliable. According to a recent study by the Online Learning Consortium, over 6 million students have taken an online course, and roughly a third of all postsecondary students take an online course in their formal course of study. However, many institutions remain on the sidelines when it comes to broad adoption of online coursework. Why, you ask? Quality. Ease of adoption. Faculty pushback. You name it. But what if there was a SaaS template that would allow an instructor to launch a course over a weekend?

Ever mindful of the gap between the laws of Moore and Murphy, the CourseArc team believes the greatest, near-term sector opportunity is in corporate training but that postsecondary is a close second and K-12 more situational but a long tail.

“Companies are looking for ways to build compliance training, on demand learning, onboard new employees, and offer professional development. Our tool allows them to do all of this without needing expensive outside resources.” — Katie Egan, CourseArc CEO

Ecosystem Leverage

What’s great about the CourseArc team is their connectedness to and utilization of the amazing strengths of an evolving edtech ecosystem. First, consider that both co-founders are alumnae of UMBC, Katie in instructional design, Bethany in information systems. They have known each other and worked together for ten years, four years ago launching CourseArc. They have been awarded capital from Maryland TEDCO and the Anne Arundel VOLT Fund and have leveraged the multi-layered financial services of M&T Bank. They are members of Betamore and TU Incubator and are actively seeking seed investment and customers who see their ability to execute. Do what you can with what you have where you are — and then some.

Persistence in building a scalable company

Startups are every emotion you can drum up — all experienced in the same week, sometimes the same day. The best startups require a hard fought solution to a massive problem. The dogmatic persistence of goals, objectives, and near term wins is a given. If you’re a woman, recent immigrant, or person of color, the headwind is often stronger. But that has not stopped the CourseArc founders from winning and persisting. While they have experienced hurdles in funding and lack of resources, the team has persisted in finding a healthy, recurring customer base with happy end users who are more easily, more cost effectively producing quality online coursework.

If we teach today’s [learners] as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow. — John Dewey

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I am an edupreneur, edtech investor, and teacher-coach located in Baltimore, MD. As the director of TU Incubator, I help support Maryland’s largest cluster of edtech companies.

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