What is the Minerva Project?

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If you haven’t heard about it yet, you probably will soon. The Minerva Project is hoping to create the first Ivy League online university. Now let’s stop right there because their model doesn’t fit what they, and probably you, would refer to as a traditional online university. While all classes will be taken online, students will gather, live in, and rotate between dorms placed around the world during their time as a student. This original approach to online education and their unique line of thinking doesn’t end there.

Some other highlights of Minerva – named after the Roman goddess of wisdom – include a plan to have tuition fees at less than half of what other elite American universities charge, to have their graduates be future thought leaders uniquely prepared to pursue and solve global problems, and to have campuses around the world to ensure a culturally diverse and enriching experience.

Sounds cool, but it hasn’t opened yet. In fact, their first full class is more than two years away, starting in September 2015. So what are they doing until then? First, they have the Minerva Academy, “an elite society of educators dedicated to promoting and rewarding innovation and excellence in teaching.” This academy is busy building an education plan for the online university while also recruiting future members. This leads to the second part of the Minerva initiative: awarding the first Minerva Prize.

The Minerva Prize is no ordinary prize. In May of 2014, they will award $500,000 to a “distinguished educator who is driving innovation to deliver extraordinary student learning experiences for the 21st century,” as well as induct them into the Minerva Academy. This honor will become an annual prize for great educators.

And finally the Minerva Project stays busy building their image through public relations and their online university through employees who, like their future students, hold education at the highest level.

This task is huge and is a lofty goal, but one that others have stepped behind. The Minerva Project has already raised $25 million in funding. Their founder, former CEO of Snapfish Ben Nelson, has said that Minerva will be “offering the best education possible.” And best of all, for them at least, is that it is for-profit.

So while I’m still curious about exactly how the Minerva Project will unfold, they’ve given themselves some good direction and funding to get there.

Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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