I had the pleasure of meeting Mark Shay for the first time in 2004 when I first discussed with him the wonderful work he had done at EDU Directories, building indispensable resources for the education abroad community (at StudyAbroad.com) and for graduate school applicants (at GradSchools.com). Education Dynamics also recognized the great work that Mark and his team had done and acquired EDU Directories shortly thereafter.
I had the pleasure of meeting Adam Miller for the first time in 2007 when he visited me to tell me about the 'Tripadvisor for study abroad' that he was building. It is perhaps hard to imagine now, but the idea that a website would allow students to publicly review an education abroad program still had a whiff of danger about it in 2007. We have a general principle at Ledra that transparency will increase over time, thought Adam was headed in the right direction and made a nominal investment in their angel round as sign of our support. It turned out that Mark Shay had also invested in Abroad101 for similar reasons and so, over the years, Mark and I have had many opportunities to chat about Abroad101 and the future of information dissemination in education abroad.
Adam and his co-founders did a great job, Abroad101.com went on to be the leading review site in the education abroad space and others have since followed. It is fair to say that it is no longer a controversial concept that students will make their voices publicly heard about their academic experience, both on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and on specialized review sites like Abroad101.
Today, I am excited to announce that we have acquired Abroad101 from the Westonian Group and that Mark Shay has joined us to further develop Abroad101 into a platform focused on transparency in education and, in time, hopefully an excellent resource for outcomes assessment.
We have a long road ahead of us in this regard. Education abroad and education in general are beset by inconsistent data, inconsistent standards and even inconsistent theories about what is valuable to be measured in the area of outcomes assessment. Mark, fortunately, is an experienced hand in the education abroad field and I have confidence, after we take some time to ensure a successful transition, that he will work with all stakeholders in the field to accomplish these objectives over the longer-term.
For us, our interest comes from our general focus on reducing the barriers to international education. Our university, the University of Nicosia, was visiting international fairs in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas decades ago, at a time when internationalization was still a glimmer in the eyes of many institutions. Education is a much more international field now, but technology still only plays a rudimentary role.
We think this will change over the next decade and technology will help usher in a golden era of international education and we will try to do our part to help that. As some of you know, since 2006, we have been offering a free software platform, AbroadOffice, to the study abroad/exchange offices of universities to ensure that IT costs are not a barrier to effectively serving students. There is no direct benefit to us, but I believe that, indirectly, all educational institutions, including ours, benefit from lowering the barriers to internationalization. We view Abroad101 as sharing an conceptually similar philosophy, in terms of providing free tools to educators and students and I hope it will help, in its small way, in breaking down the barriers across borders and countries.