2U, Inc.

"With Salesforce as a backbone, we’ve created a platform that’s providing amazing educational opportunities and outcomes to students who normally wouldn’t have them."

James Kenigsberg
Co-Founder and CTO

The university of anywhere

Thanks to the growing availability and power of online tools, the dream of earning a degree from a prestigious university has become more attainable than ever.

With more and more nonprofit universities and colleges looking to offer this flexible and exciting learning opportunity, a platform was needed that could efficiently bring a high-end education to the digital world. One of the top companies filling this need is 2U, Inc.

2U’s cloud-based software-as-a-service platform provides schools with a comprehensive solution to help attract, enroll, educate, graduate, and even place students in real-world, hands-on learning experiences as part of their degree program.

With 13 partners (and counting), including Yale, Northwestern University, University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, and Georgetown University, 2U is delivering the world’s best online degree programs worldwide.

“There’s a preconceived notion that online education isn’t very good,” says Co-Founder and CTO James Kenigsberg. “We knew an online education could be great if we supported universities with tech services that offered our No Back Row approach of live face-to-face classes, dynamic course content, and learning experiences in their own communities.”

A new course

However, even before its 2008 launch, 2U recognized the need for a partner to help make its vision of exceptional online learning a success.

“I was looking for a flexible, scalable, and easy-to-use platform to facilitate everything from admissions to graduation and beyond,” says Kenigsberg. “We didn’t just need a piece of technology, but an adaptable tool and framework that we could utilize in multiple ways.”

2U found that partner in Salesforce, though not in the usual way.

As Kenigsberg explains: “Campus management software has very specific functions for brick-and-mortar campuses. We wanted to do something totally new. One product we reviewed actually required us to buy Salesforce licenses because it was built on Force.com. I thought, ‘We should just get Salesforce and build our own product on top of it.’ Seven years later we have 1,400 licenses.”

Major flexibility

2U has found Sales Cloud to be incredibly adaptable to its specific needs.

“Sales Cloud is the foundation for our educational services and admissions process,” says Kenigsberg.

Senior Salesforce Developer Luke Cushanick explains further: “We’ve actually relabeled ‘Opportunities’ in Sales Cloud as ‘Application.’ Our custom online application system feeds data into Sales Cloud, which creates a record that we share with our partner universities, so they can make an admission decision. Once that decision is made, for us that’s the equivalent of a closed opportunity. And if the student is accepted, we’re able to very easily convert that into a student record in Salesforce. We can help a university keep everything from when a student is first contacted to their career placement in one record.”

Helping students apply themselves

2U also uses Salesforce to extend white-glove service to its partner universities’ prospective students, differentiating the company from other online learning enablers.

“Other online application systems don’t provide admissions teams with visibility into how a student is progressing with their application,” explains Kenigsberg. “We have full transparency, so we can assist students as their needs arise. For example, if we see a student stuck on an application for three weeks, our admissions team can reach out and provide support or other helpful resources. With Salesforce, we make sure our students’ experience is top notch from the beginning.”

A higher degree of service

2U relies on Service Cloud to ensure that its white-glove service philosophy also encompasses its 24/7 support centers, which caters to students and faculty.

“We’re very much a customer-first organization,” says Kenigsberg. “Our support agents live in Service Cloud. It gives us a 360-degree view of our partners’ students, their needs, and their full history with us, which is invaluable.”

2U also recognizes the evolution of modern students and their ever-changing needs.

“Service Cloud’s phone and live-chat features work really well for that extra personal touch,” says Kenigsberg. “We also help our university partners offer a self-service portal on their websites to provide an experience that’s tailored to the needs of each student.”

Additionally, 2U’s service team is using Chatter to better connect and support partners’ students and resolve customer service cases faster.

“We use Chatter heavily for operations,” says Kenigsberg “It’s really had a big impact for us, so we’ve expanded it. By adding Chatter, we’re offering an even more complete set of options for customer service.”

Continuing education

As 2U grows, it’ll continue to define success by the number of lives it impacts.

“Our future plans are to continue executing on our mission,” says Kenigsberg. “We want to remove the word online from online education, because what we’re providing is a great education. With Salesforce as an ally, I know we’ll be successful in accomplishing that mission.”