Kadenze’s March Toward Online Art Education, 1 Year Later

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Image credit: Kadenze

While online education companies offer engineering, programming and business skills, one company wants to make sure that the fine arts isn’t being left behind.

Some 100,000 students currently take to Kadenze, an online arts education platform, every month for classes ranging from machine learning for musicians and artists to audio programming.

Launched in June 2015, the Valencia, Calif.-based company offers 50 classes from flagship schools like Columbia and Stanford. It’s slated to add another 20 courses this month, boosting its catalog to about 70 courses.

Anyone can take classes from these schools for free or pay $10 a month to participate in the class, turn in assignments and actually earn certificates and college credits. Sixteen of the 50 classes are currently eligible for college credits from schools like California College of the Arts and Cornish College of the Arts.

Joining the MOOC party

As formal college education becomes more unaffordable, online education has become a popular alternative or supplement. And because not everyone can afford college, education businesses in recent years have vied to transform accessibility gaps into opportunities.

And the business is growing: Babson Survey Research Group’s 2015 Survey of Online Learning shows the number of higher education students taking at least one distance education course in 2015 grew by 3.9 percent compared to the previous year.

Traditional universities and colleges have joined the market, too, offering their own online courses and programs and investing in online education. Arizona State University, for instance, now offers some 140 online degree programs, growing from 400 online students to 20,000 in the last six years. Public institutions saw 147,169 new distance enrollments in 2014, according to Babson.

Online classes tend to cater to big name schools, with many Ivy Leagues were already working with providers like Coursera, but it seemed like boutique art and music schools “were not invited to the party” to create online classes, says Kadenze Founder and CEO Ajay Kapur.

Some schools Kapur talked to have been resistant to online education, unsure of how in-person learning can be replicated in a virtual environment, especially in art disciplines.

“10 years ago, [Kadenze] probably couldn’t exist without the technology,” Kapur says.

Competing startups like Coursera and edX also offer free and paid online courses and certifications to the masses via partnerships to produce content for online classes.

While funding amounts and investors is not yet public, Kapur says Kadenze has raised more than $5 million from investors “who believe in change in education.”

How to scale quality content

Like Coursera or Udacity, Kadenze sees mostly post-college students on the platform looking to advance their skills. Especially popular are the creative technology areas, according to Kapur.

“It goes beyond Adobe and Autodesk, the obvious ones,” he says.

In creating its technology courses, Kadenze targeted the creators of technologies built for artists, whether it’s programming languages for artists or physical computing. Learning from the makers of these technologies and getting certified by them appeals to people, Kapur says.

Like many education startups, Kadenze is working to scale its business model. Launched in Valencia, Calif., the company partners with 20 some institutions to offer courses in everything from concert technology to programming for the visual arts.

In November 2015, Kadenze also released Kannu, a learning management system tailored to help arts and media schools.

Several hundreds of thousands of students take courses on Kadenze right now, and the platform sees about 15 percent increase in enrollment every month, Kapur says. There will be about 70 classes available after the new ones are added next month.

As the company grows, Kapur is thinking about how to keep teaching its partners to produce course material without sacrificing quality content. Kadenze partners with universities to turn their existing course content into online formats.

The startup has also started producing their own online courses. The first class is called “Creative Applications of Deep Learning with TensorFlow.”

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