Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interview with Burck Smith, Founder of Straighterline

Here is an interview conducted by Keith Hampson that gives a nice overview of how Straighterline reduces the cost of college education. It is reprinted below:

Burck Smith is CEO of Straighterline. Full bio.

Q: Burck, can we begin with a high-level description of Straighterline?

Straighterline provides very affordable, very flexible, very well supported online general education courses for college students. These courses have been reviewed and approved by the American Council of Education’s (ACE) Credit Review Service, by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), and by numerous regionally accredited colleges. Students can get real college credit at any college that will award credit for ACE recognized courses or from one of Straighterline’s partner colleges. Straighterline does not offer financial aid, but the prices are so affordable we don’t think we need to. We charge $399 per course or $99 per month + $39 per course.

Q: In 1995, Eli Noam, a Columbia University professor, wrote an essay entitled Electronics and the Dim Future of the University. Noam suggested that the Internet (remember 28.8 modems?) would enable major sources of instructional content, particularly textbook publishers, to emerge as serious competitors to traditional universities. He noted that textbook publishers had the experience, content, and infrastructure to produce online education that was far superior to, and less expensive than, what was possible from traditional universities. Is Straighterline evidence that Noam had it right?

site_titleThe modern University is too complex an entity to simply be replaced by content providers. Where Noam had it right is that, where the university experience is primarily about instructional content, then publishers and companies like Straighterline can complement and compete with them. So, students working at a distance, as commuters, in extension programs, and in courses that do not build strong communities (like most general education courses) will benefit from offerings like Straighterline. Straighterline providers greater differentiation in the educational experience for students/consumers.

Q: For a relatively new company, Straighterline has generated a great deal of attention. Kevin Carey’s article in Washington Monthly defined SL as a sign of innovation in an otherwise, staid sector. Others, though, have been less kind – particularly faculty. Concerning the latter, what I find particularly interesting is that the criticisms rarely, if ever, focus on whether the courses in question offer better educational value (i.e. learning outcomes). Instead, the criticisms concern matters such as the threat to employment of academics, accreditation policies, protection of university brands, and the involvement of “corporate plunderers” in the (apparently) “pure” space of higher education. How do we get the discussion to focus on educational value? Is the growth of new, innovative models in higher education dependent on evidence of educational value?

In most industries, new technologies increase value to the end-user – improved quality, reduced cost, or both. However, education has focused only on expanding access. Costs to the end-user have actually increased. I find it impossible to have a discussion about quality without also including cost. For instance, a $1000 course with a 90% pass rate has a cost-per-pass of a little over $1100. A $500 course with 75% has $666 cost-per-pass. Which is the better course? In other industries, the dynamics of a free-market typically incorporate the value benefits of new technologies. However, education’s price points have been protected by artificial regulatory barriers created by accreditation, a byzantine articulation system, and significant subsidies in the form of state budget allocations, federal financial aid and grants, and non-profit status. Without a more rigorous discussion about cost and a better definition of what the product is, innovation will remain difficult.

Q: There are a number of companies now offering what we could term “full service” for online higher education. Organizations like Embanet, Colloquy, and Compass Knowledge provide schools with marketing, program development, enrolment management, technology, and even instructor recruitment to clients wishing to jump start their growth in online ed. Why did you choose another approach?

First, start with the assumption that online education is much, much cheaper to deliver than face-to-face education. Now, add the fact that colleges have almost no incentive to lower their tuition levels. Suddenly, there is a very large difference between the cost to provide a course and the price paid for the course. Third parties can now provide services to colleges, make a profit, and the college will retain at least its original profit level. Because of the profit, this has become a pretty crowded space. Straighterline’s approach is to make the price of course delivery resemble more closely the cost of course delivery – thereby delivering the cost benefits of online education to students rather than being taken by colleges and third party distance education providers. Ultimately, this is where a more rational market would evolve to.

Monday, November 9, 2009

ACE Approval Means Thousands of Colleges Accept SL Courses!

In October, Straighterline’s courses were reviewed by the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Credit Recommendation Service. All nine of Straighterline’s credit bearing courses were given approval. This means that any college – and there are thousands – that adheres to ACE’s recommendations will now accept Straighterline’s courses for credit. To get college credit at Straighterline’s prices, do the following:

  1. Ask the college in which you wish to enroll whether they award credit for ACE recognized coursework.
  2. If the college does, then sign up and pass a Straighterline course.
  3. Sign up at the ACE Transcript Service and pay $40. Have the service forward your Straighterline results to your college of choice.
  4. Alternatively, if your college will not award credit for ACE recommended courses, you want to expedite enrollment, or save $40, then consider one of Straighterline’s partner colleges. All of Straighterline’s regionally accredited partner colleges have agreed to accept Straighterline courses directly.

ACE’s approval is one more “seal of approval” for Straighterline. In addition, the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) – a national accreditor recognized by the federal Department of Educatoin – said that Straighterline’s courses meet or exceed its standards for online course quality. Lastly, all of Straighterline’s partner colleges have reviewed Straighterline courses and also determined that they meet or exceed their standards for course quality.

Straighterline Gets Noticed!

Over the last three months, Straighterline has made quite a splash. First, Kevin Carey wrote a feature article for the Washington Monthly showing how Straighterline’s approach to course delivery can save students thousands of dollars. Then, Business Week said the same thing. Not to be outdone, Forbes and the Christian Science Monitor mentioned Straighterline. Finally, even the New York Times linked to Straighterline.

Why all the attention? For years, nay decades, people have lamented the rising cost of college. Despite the lamentations, tuition continues to rise and rise. Further, with federal stimulus money leaving higher education at the end of the ‘10 - ‘11 school year, expect double digit tuition increases across all public higher education. Further, the return to a college degree seems to be decreasing as well. As the recession lingers and college graduates are unemployed or underemployed, the value of a degree as currently constructed must be questioned. Lastly, students’ and families’ ability and willingness to take on student debt has diminished. These three trends create an environment where a service like Straighterline –- affordable, online college courses that are as good or better than those delivered by traditional colleges – is a ray of light in an otherwise dismal industry.

Straighterline’s courses cost as little as $99 per month plus $39 per course – dramatically less than even the community college option. Further, these prices are completely unsubsidized! At a public college, the college receives state funding, federal grant money and subsidized loans in addition to the tuition and fees that they charge. If Straighterline can offer better courses at a fraction of the cost without government subsidies, where is all that money going?

The Advantages of StraighterLine Over CLEP

From February, 2009…

No one likes to waste either time or money. So why do both when it comes your college education?

For example, if you take the CLEP (College Level Examination Program) series of tests to gain college credits, you first will have to buy any required textbooks or other study materials needed to prepare in advance, which can easily add $100-$200, or even more, to your expense per course. Study guides are recommended for preparing for CLEP courses too – those will run you at least $35 each.

When you feel you are ready to take the CLEP test for your course, there is a fee of $65 per test – or $120, nearly double that, if you want to take a paper-and-pencil test – along with an administrative fee of $15-$20 most CLEP test centers charge per test. And some test centers restrict testing to students admitted to or enrolled at the institution, so you may have to drive longer than you anticipated to find a test center that has open enrollment, plus perhaps pay for a place to park – that can be another $15-$20 right there with today’s gas prices and parking costs.

Also, since there are no educators to assist you in case you have questions regarding the study materials, you may become so confused in your studies that you have to take a preparation course, thus adding to your waste in expenses and creating an extra demand in your schedule to attend. That can run you another $100 or so. Finally, if you do not pass your CLEP, you have to wait at least six months and pay the course and administrative fees again to retake the exam – another $100 right there. Obviously, we are talking serious time and money here, heading towards four figures in fact.

In contrast, here at StraighterLine (SL), a new, innovative online educational system, we offer basic introductory college courses at a flat rate of $399 per course, and our e-books cost a minimal fee, usually somewhere near half the price of most other college textbooks. More importantly, we have certified E-structors to offer one-on-one support to students online 24/7 – whenever you have a question about what you are studying, someone is ready and able to assist you. And it does not cost you anything for that service.

Additionally, when it comes to taking your course assessments, there is no specific test center that you have to find and attend at a certain starting time, or any restriction on how long you may take it (most CLEP exams limit you to 90 minutes). In fact, there is no limit at all on what day or time you take our exams, just as long as it is within the six-month window for the course.

The benefits of SL over CLEP – and all other introductory college programs, for that matter – are many, so to learn more, visit and discover the advantages we provide in making entry-level college course affordable and convenient.

Staying Motivated in Studying With StraighterLine

From January, 2009…

College challenges students to perform to the highest standard in every class to prepare them for the rigors of the professional world. That is the popular general belief for most of us, that the educational experience offered in a university setting promotes accountability and preparation in students.

But a study by the National Survey of Student Engagement ( of nearly 380,000 randomly selected freshmen and seniors at 722 four-year colleges across America discovered that about 20 percent of those surveyed said they frequently come to class without completing readings or assignments. What’s more, many of those students say they mostly still get A’s.

Sad to say, these findings support other recent studies that suggest a gap between what college professors expect from students and what students actually perform. By extension, it is safe to say it suggests a gap between what society at large expects from students and what students actually perform. That can have tremendously negative effects for future generations, if it occurs.

Thankfully, most students still possess the motivation to learn their materials in depth rather than take it easy with their studies. For those who are – as well as for the parents of youth who feel their children might need to be more accountable in their college learning habits – the easy answer to remedy this situation is StraighterLine (SL), a new online educational solution.

If you take one of the entry-level or developmental college courses available from us at SL, you will find that you cannot avoid completing the assignments if you want to pass them successfully. You are responsible for finishing what is assigned to you, and you will not be able to progress further in your studies without doing so. There are no large classes where you can hide and become “invisible” to your teacher while giving less than your best efforts.

As for course content, it has been reviewed by a highly certified education team from our parent company, SMARTHINKING, the leading provider of online tutoring and academic support. The team has analyzed and adopted course material supplied by McGraw Hill, a respected name in college course content. Once you pass one of our rigorous courses, we have several partner colleges willing to accept the credits you earn with us, and these credits may be transferrable to other colleges as well

There are many other advantages we at SL provide to all students who want to learn introductory college material in a process that will always hold themselves accountable for their success or failure. Visit to discover how our program will motivate you into earning – and deserving – the college degree you always wanted.

How StraighterLine Makes Two-Year Degrees Easy and Affordable

From January 2009…

Among its many worthy charitable efforts, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation ( has set a goal of doubling the number of low-income young adults earning a postsecondary degree by age 26 in the United States. Postsecondary degrees include any education after graduating high school, and one of the foundation’s strategies involves plans to make obtaining a two-year degree easier, quicker and more affordable than at present.

We at StraighterLine (SL), an online education solution, believe that we can serve as a primary component of accomplishing this goal, since these are the same objectives we kept in mind when we created SL. Regarding affordability, our entry-level courses are available in two pricing programs – purchasing individual courses at only $399, or buying the StraighterLine for $99 program, where a $99 per month subscription with no additional start-up costs includes unlimited access to any and all courses one at a time. Our e-Books cost nearly less than half what other college textbooks covering the same material charge. And because our courses are all online, our students do not have to shell out cash for parking, transportation, activity fees, and many other expenses associated with traditional bricks-and-mortar colleges.

The ease of use of our program fits into the foundation’s goal quite effectively. Once a student logs onto our Web site to take any course, he or she can begin studying it immediately. There is no need to wait for a starting semester date, as some other sites require. Since our courses occur via the Internet, they provide the students with the power to choose whenever and wherever they want to study. For students with an irregular work schedule or family to care at home at odd hours, this is a godsend for their ability to obtain a two-year college degree.

Once students start a SL course, it is up to them to determine what length of time is best for them to absorb the lessons in each course. If so inclined, they can finish and take the final exam to earn credit weeks, even months earlier than students using a traditional college semester to study. For motivated students, this is a huge advantage over traditional college learning techniques.

We do not claim that SL will be the ultimate solution for the two-year degree strategy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as we offer only developmental and entry-level college courses. However, we have several regionally accredited partner colleges where students can receive credits and easily transfer their studies, and credits may also be transferable to non-partner colleges that recognize our partner’s courses as equivalent programs. We provide the incentive to encourage these students to pursue their degrees on their own terms.

There is so much more that we offer all college students at StraighterLine. Visit for a complete description of all of our courses, requirements and the many benefits of our unique education model.

StraighterLine and College Affordability: Making the Grade

From December, 2008…

Forty-nine of 50. That’s the number of states in the U.S. with failing grades in higher education affordability, according to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.

The Center published the findings in its “Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education” study, which grades states in six categories. But none proved more dramatic than the affordability section, which provides grades based on the percentage of average family income it costs to attend college.

Consider the aforementioned statistic for a moment. Every single state in the union, save for California’s grade of C minus, was deemed unaffordable. It’s a startling trend, and one that we recognized some time ago. The rising cost of getting a solid education has unreasonably outpaced students’ ability to pay them.

Contrast this year’s findings with those of 2000, when only three Fs were handed out. What happened?

Students today are facing mountains of debt that only seem to grow. The average cost of a college degree doubled between 1997 and 2007, according to the College Board. And the Project on Student Debt reported that the average level of debt from a college education is now around $21,000.

StraighterLine, our online educational system, was founded as a tool to help balance the fulcrum of college affordability by shifting the power balance back toward students. It’s the “competing markets” response to ballooning higher education costs. Through StraighterLine, students can complete a six-month general education course for just $399. They may also elect to try our “StraighterLine for $99” program, which offers the same course for only $99 a month.

Students can, upon completion of a StraighterLine course, choose to receive credit from one of our six regionally accredited partner colleges. Any credits earning may also be transferable to non-partner colleges that recognize StraighterLine’s partner’s courses as equivalent programs. The combined costs of either approach will save students thousands of dollars. Refreshing, isn’t it?

So, college seekers living in a flunking-grade state – that’s pretty much all of you, right? – check out your options. You might find an affordable alternative that can provide a great education without drowning you in debt.

The Disruptive Change of StraighterLine

From November, 2008…

Clayton Christensen is a proponent of disruptive change. That sounds intimidating, but it really just means the process of incorporating innovation into your business that can radically alter your work procedures yet ultimately provide you with an edge over your competitors. Christensen is applying this business principle to our educational system in the belief that even though we have computers in most schools now, we otherwise have maintained the status quo in our basic approaches of instruction, and it is not producing markedly better results. In his opinion, disruptive change is positive and essential for America’s students for us to be competitive in the global economy in the future.

In this recent interview ( Christensen, author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns, mentioned some new learning solutions up through the college level that reflect his beliefs and is affecting – or should we say disrupting – many venerable incumbents, including the Harvard Business School.

“Online universities are another great example that is booming,” he said. “University of Phoenix is leading the way here. Finally, another product has just come out from SMARTHINKING that they call StraighterLine that could really change the labor model in education in very disruptive fashion that could allow for far more one-on-one time for students with teachers.”

We at StraighterLine would love if what Christensen predicts becomes a reality. When we envisioned StraighterLine as an online tool offering introductory college courses at affordable prices, we made sure to incorporate our parent company SMARTHINKING’S tutorial assistance program as part of what we offer. Any student enrolled in a StraighterLine course can access a live tutor who will personally guide him or her through the questions they have about their course until the student arrives at the answer on his or her own.

This benefit is available 24/7, something that virtually no other college student in America can enjoy right now during their studies. It leads our students to a quicker and better way of absorbing their educational materials than they do at most colleges or even other online universities that force them to wait for the professor to respond to their query for hours or even days. That is the kind of disruptive change we need in college education to compete these days in our ever-changing world.

StraighterLine has many other “disruptive change” features that make us stand out from other educational options available to students beginning their college studies, including our subscription-style “StraighterLine for $99” method of payment where our students can pay monthly to access all our courses, with no start-up costs and no minimum or maximum time limit for course completion. For more information on how we are leading the wave of future studying, visit and discover how our innovations can lead to your college degree swiftly and affordably.

Working at Your Own Pace – The StraighterLine Advantage

From November, 2008…

It has been the accepted standard operating procedure for years now for those attending college – you schedule everything else in your life around your classes for that semester, not vice versa. But nowadays, thanks to the convenience of online learning, you can make your class schedule fit your needs and not the requirements of a university.

We at StraighterLine, a new online solution, believe we offer the best possible options for setting your own pace of studying introductory college courses. No other online system matches us for flexibility in several areas. We have constant on-demand course availability – you can take any of our classes at any time you want. If you do not feel like starting your studies in August for the fall semester or January for the winter one, as with most traditional bricks and mortars programs (and many online ones), you can begin earlier or later than those dates. If you want, you can begin studying immediately if you like once your payment is approved.

As for how long you need to study, you are not locked into the traditional schedule of four months or so for each class. If you are a quick learner and have the time and energy to progress as fast as you want to take your final exam within a few weeks, you can do that. If you prefer a more leisurely stroll through your materials, you can do that as well. We have two ways to do that, in fact:

· Take our individual courses at only $399 each, and you can study them up to six months, or

· Try our “StraighterLine for $99” program, where a $99 per month subscription with no additional start-up costs includes unlimited access to any and all courses one at a time, and no minimum or maximum time limit for course completion.

And when you do choose to study, there are tutors available 24/7 for live, one-on-one instructional support should you have any questions about your materials. You do not have to wait on a professor or track down a teacher – the assistance is there for you any time, day or night, weekday or weekend.

We have many other advantages over both traditional colleges and other online programs besides convenience of study. For more details on them, visit and discover how easy and affordable it is to obtain high quality, better supported, and lower cost required college courses online, on your schedule.

Transfer Student Rates and StraighterLine

From October, 2008…

Some 50 years ago, if you were a student who transferred from a two-year community college to a four-year university program, you would have been regarded as an exception to what others were doing. Not anymore. Studies show that such transfer rates are increasing each year. Indeed, some top academic institutions such as George Mason University receive more community college transfer students than incoming freshmen.

The reasons vary on why this trend is growing. For some students, it is to save money (it generally costs less to do introductory general education courses at two-year schools). For others, it is convenience (community colleges generally offer more nighttime courses, which helps those who are working first shift). And several simply do not want to start their studies immediately under the standard practices of taking four to six courses per semester. Often, it is a combination of all of these factors.

Whatever the conditions involve, for students who plan to transfer credits to a four-year program, there is an easier and less expensive way even than two-year community colleges. StraighterLine (SL) is an online educational system that lets you set your own pace and your own schedule to study required courses needed for an undergraduate degree. We charge a flat fee of just $399 per course, and you do your studying whenever you want on your computer, with online tutors available 24/7 should you need assistance.

Most importantly, we at SL partner with accredited colleges to receive your final grades, and we use that relationship to assist you in gaining admission to that college where you will be awarded credit for your work. You can also transfer your credits from that college to another institution should you choose to do so.

We at SL combine all the advantages of two-year community colleges while removing some of the disadvantages, and we have not even mentioned the costs of driving to and from the college, finding a place to park and paying for that space, extra fees, and so on. With all this in mind, why not try us? Visit to learn more about what can meet all your educational needs conveniently and affordably.

StraighterLine After or During High School

From October, 2008…

Online education is becoming a fact of life for many of our youth nowadays, and not just those who are home schooled. Twenty-six states now have statewide virtual schools for children in grades K-12. Total enrollment nationwide is estimated to be 1 million students. The Florida Virtual School, established by the legislature in 1997, is the largest online public school program, with enrollment of 54,000 this year. Clearly, already a substantial number of children in America use online education, and there is every indication that the total will be increasing as the years pass.

With the convenience of online education, some young adults might find it daunting to continue their education by having to attend a traditional bricks-and-mortar college. Where is the freedom to study what they want, when they want it? What about the costs they will find in having to buy books, lab items and other study materials for these courses, not to mention other fees colleges charge for their services? Is there any better way these concerns can be addressed so that they will not be discouraged in pursuing a college education?

We have an answer for these questions – StraighterLine (SL), a new online educational tool that offers entry-level college courses available for credit. SL is perfect for students wanting to continue to study online after their high school graduation. It helps with the transition into traditional college learning while at the same time providing all the conveniences online education has available – and then some.

Once a student enrolls in SL, our courses can be accessed online at any time for any length of time. Our courses have no fixed start dates nor due dates for exam times, so if a student is wanting to learn faster than average and take the exam for his course in weeks rather than the typical months spent on a course each semester, that can be arranged.

As for our instruction quality, material from the internationally known and respected textbook publisher McGraw-Hill has been redesigned and adapted for SL’s unique format by the Education Department of SMARTHINKING, the parent company of SL. All members of that department have at least a master’s degree in education. Any materials needed beyond what is online cost a fraction of what other college textbooks charge. We also have one-on-one tutoring available 24/7 if a student needs immediate assistance.

Courses completed through SL can be awarded college credit by regionally accredited partner colleges. Student-earned credits may also be transferred to non-partner colleges that recognize our partner college’s courses as equivalent programs, including ones that offer their upper-level courses online, if the student prefers to keep learning that way.

To learn more about what StraighterLine has to offer, visit and see how we can keep your children interested in online education after having received a high school diploma, while saving you money at the same time.

International Students Can Enjoy Online Education With StraighterLine

From October, 2008…

The idea of online education was once treated as a novelty. Today, many companies and even governmental bodies regard it more as a necessity. And that applies not just to the United States either.

For example, there are many joint partnerships between computer companies, schools and governments overseas in educating their youth. Success stories have emerged from countries ranging from Chile to Rwanda creating a national learning network in every school.

Despite these accomplishments, many countries still do not have the resources to support higher education learning online. According to one source, affordability is the biggest barrier to these international students pursuing higher education. But it does not have to be this way.

We at StraighterLine (SL) believe that we can provide a viable option to international students due to our unique online offerings which include affordability as one of its key points. We partner with colleges to allow to students to receive credit for introductory general education courses in English composition, college algebra, basic accounting and macroeconomics. Each course costs the same flat fee – only $399 – and the e-books used with them typically costs less than half of what traditional textbooks do as well. Given the current economic situation, the increased purchasing power for international students makes SL a real bargain indeed for them.

And with our partnerships with several accredited universities and colleges, these students will find that the credit they earn will help them enroll in those institutions quickly and conveniently to finish their undergraduate degrees. Because our setup drives these students to American schools of higher learning, we benefit the U.S. economy with an influx of educated learners from overseas willing and able to spend their time and money here.

This is only one way StraighterLine provides advantages to those involved in the program. To learn many more of them, please visit, and learn how StraighterLine can be the shortest distance between you and your degree.

StraighterLine and the Growth of Online Education

From September 2008…

The increase in online college educational courses in recent years has been so expansive that the figures astound even some leaders in the profession. Take a look at these numbers:

  • Almost 3.5 million students were taking at least one online course during the fall 2006 term, a nearly 10 percent increase over the number reported the previous year.
  • The 9.7 percent growth rate for online enrollments in recent years far exceeds the 1.5 percent growth of the overall higher education student population.
  • In Minnesota alone, online enrollment shot up 50 percent in 2007 as compared to 2006.

These impressive statistics indicate that the already considerable demand for online education will only become stronger in the future. We at StraighterLine (SL), a new online educational resource, believe that we are an excellent tool to meet this growing field, for several reasons.

First, SL provides students with the basic entry-level courses in English, math, science and business that most institutes of higher learning require for any degree. And it does so at a much more affordable rate than them – just $399 per course, plus e-books and related study materials that cost on average half of what you would pay to buy them at an average college bookstore.

Our courses compare favorably in terms of quality to what you will find at colleges and universities too. We use the highly respected McGraw Hill course content that has been adapted exclusively for our use by the well-trained education department at SMARTHINKING, our parent company. The content receives further review from members of our Partner Colleges who award credit to our students for their coursework.

Also, when a student has a question about the material being presented, there is an educator available to answer their questions immediately online any time of the day, any day of the week. Good luck finding any online course from a college or university that will perform the same way.

For more information on how we are your best option for online education at the introductory college level, visit and learn how we can be the shortest distance between you and your degree.

Why StraighterLine Is An Excellent Alternative to Entry-Level Courses At Colleges

From September 2008…

The first year of college is a difficult one for many students to handle. The new surroundings can be dizzying to absorb, along with all the new material that must be learned. Unfortunately, some colleges and universities, particularly larger ones, make this daunting situation even worse by establishing entry-level courses with less-than-ideal circumstances for learning lessons.

Oftentimes, entry-level courses are taught by teacher assistants (commonly known as TAs), whose training is not the same as full-fledged, academically certified instructors. Yet first-year students often have the most questions and require the most assistance in college. How does learning under less-qualified teachers help them in their studies?

Frequently there is little time for individual attention to students in these courses from the TAs. Surveys indicate the average first-year class in college holds around 46 students, with some lecture halls handling literally hundreds of students per course. For high school graduates who have been used to being in classrooms where the teachers knew their names and faces, this can be disorienting. And for adults pursuing educational opportunities to advance their careers, it can be a depressing reminder of how detached and faceless their workplaces are.

How do you avoid this possible dilemma for your first studies into higher education? Simple – enroll online with us at StraighterLine (SL), a new online education tool. We at SL offer basic introductory courses supported online educators reviewed under a highly selective screening process. These educators are available 24/7 for one-on-one tutoring as needed for our students – whenever they have a question, they can ask it online and receive assistance instantly from an SL educator, with no delay in getting a response. No other online college educational system can make the same claim.

These are just some of the advantages SL has when it comes to studying required courses needed for an undergraduate degree. To discover more, please visit us at, and learn how StraighterLine can be the shortest distance between you and your degree.

Tuition Increases – No Problem With StraighterLine

From September, 2008…

According to the College Board, college tuition costs for the last school year (2007-2008) increased 6.3 percent, far outpacing inflation. More specifically:

  • At public four-year institutions, in-state tuition and fees averaged $6,185 for in-state students, or $381 more than 2006-2007, a 6.6 percent increase, and $16,640 for out-of-state students, or $862 more than in 2006-2007, a 5.5 percent increase.
  • At private four-year nonprofit institutions, tuition and fees averaged $23,712, or $1,404 more than last year, a 6.3 percent increase.
  • At for-profit institutions, tuition and fees averaged $12,089, or $703 more than last year, a 6.2 percent increase.
  • Even at public two-year institutions, tuition and fees averaged $2,361, a $95 or 4.2 percent increase.

These sort of yearly tuition hikes have become standard at many institutions of higher learning across America, and there is no sign they will be ending, even as the economy weakens. For students entering these colleges, this means in order to address the rising costs, they will have to either pay it themselves, look for higher loans, or simply delay or even decline attending any post-secondary school for education. All of those prospects are bleak, both in the short term and long term.

However, there is another way to circumvent these growing and oppressive prices while receiving high quality entry-level college courses – StraighterLine (SL), a new online educational system. We at SL stress affordability as one of our assets, and by carefully managing our costs by eliminating wasteful and unnecessary expenses, we are able to offer introductory courses in math, English, accounting and economics for the low price of just $399 per course.

Beyond some extra materials like our e-books, which cost nearly half as much as regular textbooks, there are no other payments you will need to make if you choose to take courses from us. Your fees can be under four figures per semester while others take the same courses and pay tens of thousands of dollars – now that is a real educational bargain.

There are many other incentives we offer at SL, too many to explain right here. For a full explanation of how we allow you to earn quality college credits at bargain prices, visit, and let us show you how tuition increases need not be a deterrent for you to start your college education with us.

Course Content Offered By StraighterLine

From September, 2008…

Have you ever attended an event, spent a considerable amount of time and money learning details from it, and then found that the information you received was useless to you? That is one of the big fears people have regarding any educational opportunity, and we at StraighterLine (SL) are determined to make sure it does not happen to anyone who enrolls in one of our general education college courses.

The basic structure for the SL courses comes from SMARTHINKING, Inc., the parent company for SL. SL uses the widely employed and respected McGraw Hill course content that has been redesigned and adapted for SL’s unique format by SMARTHINKING’s Education Department. This department consists of highly-trained educators with years of experience in Internet-based instruction, mostly in specialized fields, and all have at least a master’s degree in education, with the majority holding a Ph.D.

In addition to course design, SMARTHINKING’s Education Department manages and oversees education-related operation for the delivery of SL courses. This includes certifying tutors who serve as the live instructional component for our courses (for more on them, read our “Selection Process for Tutors” blog). The department has successfully overseen more than a million online student-tutor conferences as well.

Students who complete any course will receive actual college credit granted by a regionally accredited partner college. This is not like other programs such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) or Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Educational Support (DANTES). Our partner colleges review our courses to make sure they meet the same internal requirements for academic rigor and integrity that they provide. In fact, when SL students select their courses, they also select a partner college where their records may be forwarded. In turn, the partner college awards credits for coursework once it is successfully completed and the student enrolls at the partner college.

Therefore, if a student passes a StraighterLine course, that course will count as credit with one of StraighterLine’s partner colleges. There will be no hassle in trying to argue the legitimacy of what you have achieved online – indeed, it can count as part of your educational experience at that member college.

So consider enrolling in one or more of the SL online courses for yourself, or for a member of your family or a friend, if you so desire. You can be certain if you choose one of our offerings that the instruction you receive will be anything but a waste of your valuable time and money.

The Chronicle of Higher Education Notices StraighterLine

From August, 2008…

Almost every profession has at least one publication recognized as an authority on dispensing news and information regarding the latest trends and happenings. For academia, that publication is The Chronicle for Higher Education. And we here at StraighterLine (SL) are pleased that the publication recently profiled our newly launched online educational service in a fair and professional manner.

In an item that ran June 17, 2008 in “The Wired Campus” section of its Web site, The Chronicle for Higher Education noted that we offer our online introductory college courses and connect students “to accredited colleges who will accept the courses for credit” through our parent company, the online tutorial service SmartThinking. It discussed our benefits in terms of cost (“The courses cost $399 each, which includes 10 hours of time with a tutor. If students need more one-on-one help, they can pay extra for more tutoring.”) as well as flexibility (“The online courses offered by StraighterLine are self-guided, and if students run into trouble they can summon a tutor from SmartThinking and talk with them via instant messaging. Students turn in their assignments or papers to tutors for grading as well.”).

The story generated immediate follow-up comments, both pro and con, within a day of its posting, with some educators complaining of how we could replace them via outsourcing. That is a vast overstatement of our goals, not to mention our power. SL is not taking over what instruction occurs at traditional “bricks and mortar” universities for any non-introductory level courses. If anything, we encourage students to attend them, as we partner with colleges and universities and drive our students to those institutions if they want to receive full credit for their work.

We are simply another option for prospective students to consider when studying their introductory coursework. The first year in college often can result in students dropping out entirely if they find themselves detached from their courses, and in many cases in today’s world, they encounter teaching assistants (TAs) rather than qualified professors instructing them in a classroom with hundreds of other students. In contrast, our personalized, convenient touch (our tutors are available 24/7 to answer questions one-on-one) is designed to encourage their interest and inspire them to be engaged and perform well at their end-of-semester evaluation. The fact that several accredited universities and colleges already see merit to this approach indicates they believe we are a help and not a hindrance to their students’ educational experience.

There is much more to StraighterLine than just what we have explained here. To discover all of our features and benefits, visit and learn how we can be the shortest distance between you and your degree.

StraighterLine A Good Partner to Colleges and Universities

From August 2008…

StraighterLine: A Good Partner to Colleges and Universities

The concept StraighterLine (SL) employs is one that is designed to serve as an online educational tool driving students to our partner colleges and universities for future studies once they have completed our introductory courses. That concept is a rather revolutionary one right now, we admit, but nonetheless several accredited institutes of higher learning have joined us and will accept credits from our students who successfully complete our courses.

Why are they doing this unprecedented step? Because there are quite a few benefits that we provide our partner colleges and universities. They include the following:

1) We serve as a start-up online infrastructure for colleges looking to access their students away from campus. Let’s face it, particularly for smaller institutions, it is challenging to find the time and money to establish courses online that can provide the same level as what you will find in a traditional classroom.

But if they team with us, we at SL can provide them with a bridge to enroll future students by having our students select a partner college at the start of their study and having that student’s information reported to that college. The institution receives a new degree seeker while SL pays it an administrative fee for awarding credit – a win-win for the partner college. Our partner colleges and universities also receive additional presence and exposure on the Internet via mentions and links on our Web site, a big free promotional advantage to prospective students and their families that should not be discounted.

2) We focus on courses that are often difficult for colleges to administer effectively. Entry-level math, science, business and English courses can be a challenge for institutions to accommodate the needs, as the majority of their incoming students want or need them and yet there are not enough qualified professors to teach them. So, universities and colleges often must use teaching assistants (TAs) to instruct larger-than-normal class sizes essential information. The result is too often failure and dropouts as students become disillusioned with the way their first courses.

With SL, colleges and universities do not have to worry about these drawbacks, as we provide our students not only the materials they need for the introductory courses but also online educators available for one-on-one tutoring to our students 24/7. In other words, students will have high-quality teaching ready anytime at their fingertips, thus making it much less likely for them to detach themselves from their courses and completing them successfully.

StraighterLine offers so much more, not only to our partner colleges and universities, but also to our students, of course. For a full guide to what educational opportunities we provide, visit and learn more about us.

The Changing Face of Higher Education

From August 2008…

Afraid that there might be some sort of stigma attached to taking college courses online, that they somehow will not count as “real” credits as opposed to ones earned in classrooms on campus? Think again.

Recent surveys have shown not only that online courses are growing in popularity, but also that employers consider them a valid background for continuing education. For example, one survey found that 85 percent of employers representing a variety of industries across the United States believe that online degrees are more accepted today than they were five years ago.

This attitude stems in part because online college courses fill a need to handle adult learners. Adult students over the age of 24 now account for roughly two out of every five students enrolled in degree-granting institutions. For those who are at least 30 years old in this group, they are likely to be married and have several children to raise. That situation makes time a valuable commodity, so the traditional avenue of attending class in person is not as appealing to them as working on the Internet whenever and wherever they desire. More importantly, many adult students say they are satisfied with the education they receive online as well. With ease of use and satisfaction for students and acceptability among their employers, online education is truly on the move.

As part of this changing face of higher education, we at StraighterLine (SL) are proud that we can offer high-quality required introductory courses through our online educational system. We offer a way to study our courses that is flexible for the needs of adult learners yet meets the requirements for transferring any credits earned to colleges and universities. Our prices are quite affordable as well – a flat rate of $399 per course.

The options offered by us at SL are plentiful and expanding as fast as the online education field continues to grow in popularity and acceptance. To learn more about them all, visit us at

The Selection Process for Straighterline’s Online Educators

From August 2008…

One common misconception we hear about using online educational systems such as StraighterLine (SL) is the doubt that the basic introductory college courses we offer do not involve “real” teachers. People usually ask the question along these lines: “How do I know that the person teaching the lessons has any real credentials?”

We respond by telling potential clients that SL’s parent company, SMARTHINKING, Inc., employs certified tutors who are seasoned educators, most with advanced degrees in their fields. Drawn from among college faculty, graduate students, high school teachers and retired educators, all of these prospective “e-structors” must first pass SMARTHINKING’s rigorous real-time, online training program that focuses on both technological skill and online instructional practices.

Tutors also must collaborate with SMARTHINKING colleagues and participate in on-going development exercises held throughout the academic year. The E-structor® Certification program involves a combination of self-paced online modules, interactive sessions with veteran tutors and meta-cognitive exercises. In their online practice sessions, tutors undergo an orientation to their respective technology platforms and then work with academic coordinators and veteran tutors, who assume a variety of student roles. Simulated tutorial exercises represent diverse situations and student needs that typically are encountered throughout the semester (for example, scenarios involving English as a Second Language students). Upon completion of the training program, tutors must demonstrate competence in specific content areas, competence in online communication and instruction, and an understanding of the values that drive our practice.

The credentials our tutors possess are the same as or better than those of most university departments. Indeed, a variety of publications from professional journals to have assessed and documented the quality of our tutors, ranging from the 2003 book Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction: Principles and Processes to an article in the winter 2007 edition of Technical Communication Quarterly on “Online Teaching and Learning: Preparation, Development and Organizational Communication.” Further, studies from a variety of colleges have shown that the use of SMARTHINKING’s tutors results in greater student success.

These tutors are available online 24/7 to encourage students with constructive criticism; help students identify areas for improvement; involve students in discussion and problem-solving strategies; and treat students with respect. They do NOT provide students with answer or perform their assignments; review and correct errors without active participation of the learners; or comment on grades or predict a possible grade. In other words, they perform the same duties as any other college instructor.

We at SL are more than happy to discuss the qualifications of our tutors with you – please ask us for more information, if you like. We believe that we are offering students the best college courses of general education online, and the people select and constantly review for high standards as our educators are one of the main reasons why we at SL feel this way.

To learn more about StraighterLine, visit and learn how we can become the shortest distance between you and your degree.