Omnicademy, an online firm that helps universities to syndicate courses to other colleges, is the Louisiana Technology Park’s newest tenant.
The Tech Park’s Admissions Committee voted Wednesday to accept the company. Omnicademy’s chief executive officer is Stacey Simmons, founder of Redstick International Animation Festival, the nation’s largest animation festival.
Omnicademy’s platform allows institutions of higher education to collaborate with one another to provide courses to students anywhere, Simmons said during a presentation to the committee.
“Say you’re Southeastern Louisiana University, and you have to cut your entire French program for budgetary reasons, but you still want to offer French. You can syndicate that course from (the University of Louisiana at) Lafayette, LSU, Tulane, whoever has it,” Simmons said.
Under the proposed business model, a student will pay a $300 technology fee, which covers the cost of offering the course, she said. Omnicademy will get $180 of the total; the professor $45; the college offering the course credit gets $50; and the other school gets $25.
Simmons said Omnicademy is uniquely positioned to offer some relief to public universities.
Those universities are trying to figure out how to balance their budgets against increasing enrollment and competition for faculty, while funding from state governments is being slashed, she said. In 1990, state funding accounted for 60 percent to 70 percent of their budgets; in most cases, state funding is projected to fall to 25 percent or less over the next five years.
Syndicating the courses will also help students by allowing them to complete their degrees more quickly, Simmons said. Its often difficult for students to secure spots in more advanced courses, which have limited space, so the students end up taking filler classes instead of those needed to complete their major.
The problem is one reason that it takes longer than four years for many students to complete their undergraduate degrees, she said.
Simmons said Omnicademy is in talks with the Texas A&M University system, the University of Texas system and the university system in Georgia.
The company has also been approached by the University of California system, she said. The University of Cairo, which has 250,000 students, is another possibility.
The school brings in U.S. and European professors for one-month teaching stints, and then the professors have to keep up with students by email, Simmons said. Omnicademy could make that task much easier.
Omnicademy plans to raise $750,000 in funding, she said. The company has already secured $500,000 from the South Coast Angel Fund and expects to close on $50,000 in the next week from a private investor, whose names she could not disclose.
Eddie Ashworth, chair of the admissions committee, said Omnicademy may need to adjust its business model, which projects a gross margin of 32 percent.
“You’ll play with pricing model and figure out where you are,” Ashworth said. “But I think at the end of the day, you’ll have to come up with some pricing that will allow you to have a bigger piece of the pie.”
Simmons said the company has some other possibilities for generating revenue, including tapping the continuing education market.
Omnicademy expects to exit the Tech Park in three to five years, Simmons said. The company has already fielded a call from a potential buyer, even before Omnicademy has signed its first contract.