Born from Student Protests, Canadian Startup clssy Wants to Make Education Accessible

Montreal-based educational startup clssy is eyeing a successful 2013 with hopes of unlimited local classes and Canada-wide expansion.

22-year-old CEO Jordan Saniuk founded the company in the summer of 2012 with the hopes of providing an alternative place for learning. It came amidst a backdrop of protest and widespread dissatisfaction with the educational climate in Quebec.

“A lot of money is being spent and people are questioning what exactly they’re getting for this investment,” Saniuk told Techvibes. “In starting clssy at the time, people could really get on board and understand that learning shouldn’t be restricted to only those who can pay a certain amount.”

The company’s mission is to provide “a place for in person learning outside of the university setting, providing open and accessible education through free or low cost classes.” To date they’ve had over 300 students registered in 50 classes, through a community of teachers who have as much as 30 years teaching university-level courses or none at all.

Saniuk cites several reasons why his brand of classes can appeal to people besides cost and the social experience of coming to a class. Attending a university program can be intimidating; some degree programs offer little flexibility in term of electives; professionals, middle-aged or even seniors can learn a new skill; and of course the perennial headaches that accompany failing postsecondary education standards.

It wasn’t always easy though, as attracting both teachers and students proved difficult in the beginning: “You can imagine having a website with no classes on it and obviously no students,” said Saniuk. “It was a tough place to start.”

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Six months later and things are looking up. Come to one of several multi-week programming classes for as little as $10 per hour, assures Saniuk, and people will see the value. The site currently offers classes in web programming, cooking, languages, writing, fitness and more.

An example could be the two cooking workshops taught by Sel Noir Cuisine’s Adrian Copeland, a well-known vegan chef in Montreal. Within a few hours of offering the class they had over 50 registrants and a waiting list.

Dissatisfaction may not be a momentary fad in both Montreal and Canada. While the protests have died down, discontent among modern educational value is still prevalent.

“Even if it’s quieter it still exists,” said Saniuk. “It’s almost impossible to find a student who says, ‘I really support what the university is doing with their funding, I think they’re doing everything in an open manner and everything is accounted for.’”

But criticism exists for these kinds of initiatives. Can students be officially credited? Is their money worth a teacher who is passionate but carries no experience? In short, yes according to Saniuk. Like some of the courses now being offered through Udacity and Coursera in the United States, accreditation can be achieved in the future.

In the mean time Saniuk says he truly wants to disrupt education. He claims that he only wants the company to stay revenue positive so he can continue to keep the classes accessible and for a low cost.