Home > Uncategorized > Anonymous Academy: A Whitepaper

Anonymous Academy: A Whitepaper

Hey everyone, I’ve come up with a new project that will need programmers and web designers. The whitepaper follows. Comment away!


Anonymous Academy

Crowdsourced Education for the Masses

I. Concept

To create an independent, decentralized, and anonymous educational platform for lifelong learning. The project will draw on the expertise of anonymous professionals in various fields who will be compensated with bitcoin, an anonymous digital currency. The students will also be anonymous, providing a situation where neither student nor teacher will be able to identify the other. This level of anonymity will allow for a frank exchange of views, and will also allow for education in topics not ordinarily possible due to government restrictions (such as advanced computer security techniques, nuclear engineering, or advanced organic chemistry). The unique bidding system will ensure that the professors work for the students, not the other way around. It will be in a professor’s best interests to offer an excellent curriculum, so that more students will want to take her courses in the future.

II. Goals

To reach 100 students by the end of 2011, with 10 professors teaching a variety of subjects. The website should be in beta by this time, with a full-scale deployment planned for the middle of 2012.

III. Methodology

A) Site Design

The site will be designed with a full range of audio, video, and text interaction mechanisms. Students and professors will be able to log-in to the site to access these services. The videos will be keyed to specific users’ YouTube accounts, audio will be stored on our own server. Eventually, we would like to move the YouTube content to our own hosted solution as well, but at the beta stage, YouTube will be sufficient. Text communications will be handled through an in-house email, forum, and chat system. Professors who wish to offer live classes can use GoTo Meeting or a similar service to hold classes.

Anyone will be able to sign up for an account with us for free. However, each class offered will carry certain fees. Those fees will be determined based on the bandwidth and storage requirements of the course, the tuition rate the professor is charging, plus a small administrative fee to maintain and improve the service.

Classes will be offered based on what people want to teach, and what people want to learn. The academy should act as an education marketplace, with professors placing bids to teach various courses, and with prospective students signing up for those courses as they become listed. When a professor bids on a course, she will include her non-identifying qualifications, the curriculum, the minimum students needed for the course, and any other information she thinks will be appealing to prospective students. The students will then be able to sign-up for the course offering by making a down-payment on tuition. Up to any point prior to the course being launched, a student may withdraw his deposit. Once a course has launched, the deposit is non-refundable. All tuition payments will be held in escrow by the academy until the course is completed. At that point, the professor will be paid, and course evaluations will be posted by the students.

B) Payment System

The academy will be using a bitcoin payment API provided by Mt. Gox Merchant Services. One advantage of this system is that it also allows users to send us payments in USD, if they so choose. All the user will need to do is set up a Mt. Gox account to handle their payment. We will be notified that the user has paid via a url callback system that Mt. Gox has established. From that point, our server back-end will be able to process the callback and denote that the user has indeed made a payment. In the case of tuition payments (currently our only offered service), the student will then be confirmed as registered for the course for the purpose of meeting the course minimum set by the instructor.

C) Marketing Strategy

The academy will be marketed as an alternative to traditional formal education. Our emphasis on placing students’ needs above those of professors or administrators will help to grow our student base rapidly. In addition, professors want to be freed from the political realities of the university system, where course offerings are all too often based on administrative funding decisions, rather than on students’ needs. The academy will allow professors to teach an unlimited number of students, and will liberate them from strict grading constraints which they have had to put up with. In addition, a professor will be able to set her own pay, based entirely on market demand for their services. Not only will professors be paid more at the end of the day, but they will know that they are providing a service that students really want. Students similarly will be placed in a position where they can design their own education based on what they want, at whatever price they can afford, at whatever speed they choose.

Specific outlets for advertising may include online forums at Kahn Academy, banner ads at UnCollege.org, Facebook ads, and Google ads. We will also be engaging in grassroots marketing at universities across the country; paying students of the academy in exchange for hosting “dropout” parties at their local institutions. By utilizing a mixture of traditional and guerilla marketing tactics, our client base will boom.

D) Profit Model

The academy will make a small administrative fee on all tuition payments in order to continue improving the service. This fee will be a percentage of the tuition charged for a course — not a flat rate. Thus, as the service grows, the profitability will grow. As profits swell, more programmers can be hired from our user community (who were educated through our service). As we hire more programmers, the service will improve. An awesome cycle.

IV. Startup Costs

Startup costs will be confined to the purchase of servers, programmers, and advertising. The entire project could be launched on shared hosting for under $5,000. As demand increases and we approach a full-scale launch, profits from the beta period will be used as seed-stage funding for growing our infrastructure.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Beau
    June 7, 2011 at 1:09 am

    I really like the idea. I couldn’t find any other way to contact you so I guess a comment will do If you guys need any help with marketing send me an email, I would love to work on/with this project.

  2. June 13, 2011 at 8:55 am

    This level of anonymity will allow for a frank exchange of views, and will also allow for education in topics not ordinarily possible due to government restrictions (such as advanced computer security techniques, nuclear engineering, or advanced organic chemistry)

    I don’t think that there are government restrictions on the study of any of those proposed curricula components you mentioned. I think that you could actually apply for and receive very generously funded (in that famed fiat currency the $US dollar) stipends, along with full scholarships for study in the latter two, and plenty of coursework in the former.

    Anonymity has a disincentivizing effect on study. There is truth to the saying
    Civilization began with the crack of the whip
    impolitic as it may sound. Try raising a child without any discipline. I’m not suggesting whips for children. Nor am I suggesting that students of age sufficiently advanced to study organic chemistry are children. I’m just saying, is all. Risk and reward is a powerful motivator.

  3. February 17, 2012 at 4:09 am

    I LOVE the idea!!!…It’d be a true liberation. I wish I could help you out, specially in the technical aspects, but I’m afraid I don’t have the expertise due to the frustration of the formal education o.O

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