The coronavirus pandemic has made online lessons an all-too-familiar experience for many students, and it’s also given parents a closer look at what their kids are learning — or not learning — in school.
The online learning service Juni, which launched in 2017 and offers “real-world” courses beyond traditional K-12 offerings, benefits from both phenomena.
Juni CEO and co-founder Vivian Shen told FOX Business that the vision for the online course platform’s curriculum came from her own experience. The Silicon Valley native said she didn’t take her first coding class until college and felt her K-12 education hadn’t prepared her for essential tech skills .
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Shen later became a software engineer at Google, but said she always kept in mind that she felt “totally unprepared” for the gig. Now, she and co-founder Ruby Lee have built a list of attractive specialty course offerings for students looking to fill what Shen says can be a “huge gap” in educational opportunity.
Years before COVID-19 shut down schools across the United States, Shen said she heard frequently from parents who were genuinely concerned that their children weren’t getting enough attention in school or that they were taught obsolete things. After the pandemic hit and more children began to learn online, Shen says she began to see waves of new students signing up from parents “whose eyes were opened to, unfortunately, how point them [kids] were.”
The majority of Juni students attend public schools and attend classes after school or on weekends. The online service also offers special daytime programs for homeschoolers and has seen significant growth among children attending private schools. The typical age range for students is 8 to 18 years old.
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Beyond coding, Juni offers courses like robotics, machine learning, investing, personal finance, and entrepreneurship. Starting later this week, the company is also rolling out a “future of” program with offerings like cryptocurrency, climate change, and cybersecurity.
Shen says she often hears parents compare their children’s Juni classes to extracurricular activities, and many see the classes as an investment.
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“For us, our vision is really to prepare students for the future, to have the tools to solve these really big problems,” Shen told us. “So I wouldn’t be upset if at the end of the day our students decided that they didn’t even need to go to college, or that they kind of wanted to get out into the real world and start their career.”