Curricu.me [kuh-rik-yoo-mee], admittedly, usually takes a little coaching to pronounce correctly. But there is a story behind how it became to be and why it is named that way.
In 2012 I was working as a business analyst for a consulting company called Capgemini. My primary project was a global Salesforce CRM integration for a pharmaceutical company based out of Germany. So I’d head to JFK on a Sunday night, grab a few hours of sleep during my flight over the Atlantic, land in Frankfurt on Monday morning and head to the office. Although I disliked the long periods of travel, I learned a lot at “Cap” and enjoyed almost everything about this work and the people I worked with.
But I knew that traveling consulting wasn’t long term for me. My favorite job (still) that I’ve ever had was mowing lawns as a teenager, because I liked being responsible for how my clients felt about their lawn after I was done. I wanted to create my own thing and be responsible to the end customer, instead of being buffeted by the quarterly needs of a larger company (revenue this quarter, profit the next quarter, ad infinitum).
It was around this time that edX.org and Coursera were just starting up, and I took my first Coursera course called “A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behavior” from Dan Ariely at Duke. I remember the course mostly being a series of journal articles and some AMA style “office hours”. I’d download the articles and read them during my commutes, and I think I submitted one question to the AMA that didn’t get answered. But simply the concept of taking a college-level course in an interesting topic by an academic that I admired was thrilling to me. It felt like a cheat code that now some of the top courses from Duke, Harvard, MIT, Stanford and more were being given away for free to anyone who had the drive and perseverance to really absorb them.
Thus, the first idea for curricu.me was born and it is why the name is curricu.me. The original website was an aggregation website much like Class Central today, but with the idea that individuals or organization could package up “curriculum” of various courses and share them. A startup who can’t afford to buy or build their own courses could package up a leadership class from Stanford, an Excel class from Udemy, and a public speaking class from Harvard. Not only was this education now open and online, but it was coming from some of the great educational institutions in the world. This was the first homepage:
There were many reasons why this original idea never flourished. For one thing, as soon as a model like this starts making money off of someone else’s content then it is in perilous legal territory. But we never got as far as making money, so problem averted. The immediate reason why Curricu.me pivoted is that when I started talking to companies about this idea the gist of the response was, “Hmm, I like it. But I need a specific course now around my particular business process” (“answering phones” was one request I remember from someone who worked in a talent agency). So people started hiring me to spin up LMS systems for them and build courses. This led me to Open edX as a new, modern and open-source LMS. And the first course I ever build was a public health course for SGU which is no longer active, but someone gifted me the old press release.
A lot changed in between the original concept for Curricu.me and the launch of that first MOOC. And even more has changed in the 10 years since that first course. That rapid pace and immense promise are what make me most excited to see what the next 10 years brings.