Online learning service preparing kids for the 'real world' sees surge

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The coronavirus pandemic has made online classes an all-too-familiar experience for many students, and it has also given parents a closer look at what their kids are learning – or not learning – in school. 

Online learning service Juni, which launched in 2017 offering "real world" courses beyond the traditional K-12 offerings, is benefiting from both phenomenons.

Online learning service Juni offers courses not typically taught in K-12 schools. (Juni)

Juni CEO and co-founder Vivian Shen told FOX Business the vision for the online course platform's curriculum came from her own experience. The Silicon Valley native said she did not take her first coding class until college, and felt like her K-12 education had not prepared her with critical technical skills.

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Shen went on to become a software engineer at Google, but said it always stuck with her that she felt "totally unprepared" for the gig. Now, she and co-founder Ruby Lee have built a slate of specialized course offerings appealing to students seeking to bridge what Shen says can be a "huge gap" in educational opportunity.

Years before COVID-19 shut down schools across the U.S., Shen said she heard frequently from parents who were really concerned that their kids weren't getting enough attention in school or that they were being taught things that were outdated. After the pandemic hit and more kids began learning online, Shen says she began seeing waves of new students enrolled by parents "whose eyes were opened up to, unfortunately, how underserved their [kids] were."

Juni CEO and co-founder Vivian Shen (Juni) (Juni)

A majority of Juni students attend public schools, and take courses after school or on weekends. The online service also offers special programs during the day for homeschoolers, and has seen significant growth from kids that attend private schools. The typical age range of students is 8 to 18 years old.

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Beyond coding, Juni offers classes such as robotics, machine learning, investing, personal finance and entrepreneurship. Starting later this week, the company is also rolling out a "future of" curriculum with offerings such as cryptocurrency, climate change and cybersecurity.

Shen says she often hears parents compare their kids' Juni courses to extracurricular activities, and many see the classes as an investment.

Kids working on tech project (Juni) (Juni)

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"For us, our vision really is to have the students prepared for the future, to have the tools to solve these really big problems," Shen told us. "So, I would not be upset if down the line, our students decided that they didn't even need to go to college, or they wanted to kind of go out in the real world and just start their careers."

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