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Renaissance University

Exceptional online education that money can't buy.

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Who is the target audience for your idea and how does it reimagine the cost of college?

Humans don't value things unless it is hard to obtain. Online education is cheap and easily accessed, that's why it's perceived as less valuable by students, employers, and society. Therefore, Renaissance University's online education is closed and only accepts students based on intangible qualities; the application process is difficult and rigorous, it can only be completed with effort and time. This completely removes money from the equation yet still creates high perceived value.
  • Brief

Renaissance University's online education is closed; it only accepts students based on intangible qualities for success - completely removing money from the equation. This is counter-intuitive against the usual 'open course' of online education where everything is easily accessible and cheap. The fact that it is too easily obtained is what makes it not valued by students and companies alike. Renaissance University flips the equation upside down. 

Student Applications

The application criteria for acceptance is based on a student's adaptability, response to adversity faced in life, proactivity, enterprising mentality, etc. It has rigorous and difficult application process that can only be accomplished with effort and time. This levels the playing field where coming from a high-income family does not put you any further ahead. Everybody has the same amount of hours per day. That is something that cannot be changed by money or society. 

Teachers, Courses, & Curriculum 

  1. SET ONE (WHY): The online video courses will be created in collaboration with successful entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates, etc. The opening will be a recorded video narrated by this entrepreneur as it sets the tone for why the material is important. It is the mindset part. 
  2. SET TWO (HOW): The tutorials, class interaction, workshops will be apply the concepts in most MOOCs today of interactivity. This will be the learnings of how you do what you need to do. 
  3. SET THREE (WHAT): Applying the work is the best way it is learnt. As online courses are virtual, Renaissance University will partner with startup accelerators around the world and connect students with startups where they can learn to apply their knowledge. This also increases their work experience and network that normally lacks in online environments. 


  • The Renaissance University is closed. You can only be accepted by putting in time and effort into the application process displaying your drive to succeed.
  • As the application process rigorously tests a student's motivation, and makes it difficult to enter, this increases the likelihood of the student graduating once they begin. It is more valuable to the student. 
  • Materials are created and collaborated on with successful entrepreneurs, this increases perceived value of material. 
  • Partner with startups and accelerators around the world to provide for mutual benefit. Startups receive free help. Students receive network, experience, and applied learning in the offline world. 


The goal to remove money from the equation (or at least make it less important) is to make the landscape more equal; running with the concept that the most valuable things in life, money can't buy. That is, if even the richest kids can't get into this school by buying their way in, it will increase perceived value of this online education, and students will be more motivated to graduate. 

Potential Ways To Cover Fees

1. If a student does not pay any fee, then during the course of their education, they must work for a startup that would be sponsoring their cost. In a way, they are working to gain experience but at the same time paying off their fee via the sponsoring company. The issue would be to get a sponsoring company, which is why the application process would be rigorous and focused on motivated individuals. 

2. Similar to number 1, a large corporation (or group of companies) sponsors a batch of students together. Say 30 students, then these 30 students during the course of their education work on solving problems and improving the large corporation's business. 

3. I don't like this one, but the price could be offset by donations, so they are scholarships. 


Renaissance University does not create ground breaking content, it is changing the perception of online education. It does this by applying human psychology to increase the perceived value of its education; this makes students value it more and strive to graduate, the 'closed/exclusive' nature of it makes it more valuable to future employers/companies, and its association with startup networks makes it content more relevant to the real world. 

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Speak to startup entrepreneurs, accelerators, etc. if they would be interested in lending their partnership and reputation to co-create the material. Create a landing page and see if students go through the rigorous application process.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

For accepting applications, what would be some good criteria to measure a person's intangible skills for success, and how would that be evaluated.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Olive Grey

I think online courses will work just fine; however, universities will have to maintain quality control to ensure courses don't turn out to be fluff. Also, how will schools verify who is actually taking the online course? I can see many students putting in the time and effort and others hiring someone to do so on their behalf. And is the technology truly good enough to deal with all of the interactive work that is now required in today's university environment? Plus, will professors be compensated for all of the extra work required to create and manage an online course?
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