Eren Bali – Taking Education Out of the Traditional Classroom

The economic downturn of recent times has shifted the focus back to education. Many working professionals are going back to school to learn a new skill or to advance their career. Majority of these students are between 35 and 45 years of age. Education is no longer limited to the period between birth and graduating from college. It is a continuing process, and is required for success in every career. Online education is making a big impact in this field. Many public and private universities are offering internet-based degree programs to working professionals. Many educators are also creating online platforms for professionals and students to learn new skills and concepts for free.

Eren Bali graduated from Middle Eastern Technical University, Turkey with a double degree in computer science and mathematics. He was a bright student, who won several awards during his school and college years including a silver medal in the International Mathematical Olympiad. He co-founded his first company during the last year of his college. The company created 3-dimensional real estate models of houses and buildings that were under construction. He was also the founding engineer and Director of Engineering of SpeedDate.com, one of the largest online dating sites in the world today. The company’s strength grew from 0 to 10 million users within 2 years.

Bali went on to work on a project supported by the Turkish Government to create a virtual classroom where European mentors taught Turkish entrepreneurs. He was fascinated with the idea of online education while working on this project. He hoped to democratize education by creating a website where anyone could teach or learn anything. These ideas lay foundation for Udemy. He soon moved to Silicon valley, California and joined the Founders Institute. Here, he met Gagan Biyani. They both worked on the initial plan and layout of Udemy. They tried to raise capital for their project but were rejected as many as 30 times.

Udemy was launched in May 2010 without any outside investment. Within 2 months, they were able to create 2,000 courses and 10,000 users. Bali and Biyani went back to raising money for their startup. This time they could secure one million dollars within one week. All the money was invested to create a comprehensive website that helped instructors create courses by uploading videos, power point presentations, PDF files, audio files and zip files. The instructors can also create online discussion boards to interact with the students. Students, on the other hand, can take courses in a wide variety of fields including business, academics, healthcare, arts and technology. Majority of the courses are free. However, some instructors may charge between $5 and $250 to learn their course.

More than 200,000 students have participated in various Udemy courses over the years. Its success has been acknowledged by mainstream national and international media. Bali hopes to make education accessible to everyone. He understands the importance of sharing knowledge in today’s world, and wants to use the internet to bring about a revolution in the field of education.

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