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If you’re unfamiliar with 2tor, this may do the trick. Today, the education startup is announcing that it has closed a $26 million Series D round of financing, led by an affiliate of The Hillman Company, WestRiver Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank Capital, with participation from its existing investors, which include Bessemer Venture Partners, Highland Capital Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Novak Biddle Venture Partners, and City Light Capital. The startup’s significant new infusion of capital brings its total investment to just under $97 million, making it one of the highest-funded education startups in the country — if not the top dog.

So, what is it about the four-year-old 2tor that has attracted this kind of heavy investment? Well, for starters, in spite of growing by leaps and bounds over the last few years, online education is still kind of a joke. Traditionally, it’s been seen as the source of simple (or ineffectual) micro-correspondence courses designed to be supplemental to — not a replacement for — on-campus education. Well aware of the unexceptional quality of many online educational programs, 2tor was founded in 2008 to take the long-view: For online education to become more than just an afterthought, the job would require more than a good idea and some sexy technology.

Rather than point and laugh at higher education, the startup set out to partner with universities to build, administer, and market their own online degree programs, collaborating with institutions to create digital education programs that would not just be equivalent to in-classroom education, but perhaps even better. To do this, 2tor has endeavored to supply universities with the tools, expertise, capital, and global recruiting necessary to lift up online ed by the bootstraps.

Specifically, 2tor has been partnering with graduate-level, degree programs to provide technology platforms that help institutions extend the classroom experience. So far, the startup has partnered with USC’s Rossier School of Education for their online Master of Arts in Teaching degree, as well as the Masters program for Teaching and Social Work, Georgetown’s nursing program, UNC’s MBA program, and today they’ve announced the addition of another program: UNC’s Master of Public Administration. (With plans to go after another eight or so degree programs.)

To give these programs a viable digital educational platform, 2tor developed a web-based infrastructure that enables professors to share materials with their students, provide lectures and interactive lessons, student support service, social interactivity and more. On top of that 2tor has been moving into mobile, releasing an iPad and iPhone app this year that gives students the ability to participate in live, synchronous class sessions via webcam — from anywhere, via 3G or 4G networks. Last month, 2tor added support for Android.

When we last spoke to the startup, it had grown to a staff of more than 370 and had over 3,500 students participating in its first three degree programs, hailing from 30 different countries. And because its mobile and web combo platform gives graduate students access to stuff like an interactive whiteboard, along with the ability to flip through the deck of a slideshow, split off into a break-out session with other students, then hop back into a live webcam class, is a pretty serious upgrade for online education programs.

Of course, it’s not easy (or cheap) bringing institutions on board, especially with the stigma that’s surrounded online education, and that’s much of the reason why we’ve seen 2tor raise nearly $100 million in funding. As Co-founder Jeremy Johnson told us, 2tor has been investing as much as $10 million in each program it creates. Customizing the platform for each program, working with faculty to get them on board, designing intercampus social networking, and synchronous video capabilities has required significant capital investment.

And so far it’s been working. CEO Chip Paucek and COO Rob Cohen tell us that its first three programs have seen nearly 50 percent adoption of 2tor’s mobile apps, and the online programs are collectively seeing a retention rate of over 80 percent. Obviously, with the amount of capital 2tor puts into these programs, it’s in a sense not a surprise, but these programs are being judged by the same criteria with which one evaluates on-campus, in-classroom education. From class size and student-to-faculty-ratio to retention rate and how, for example, graduates of the USC Teaching program place after completing the program.

This allows the programs to keep the same admissions process they have for on-campus education, applying the same criteria for selection to online degree candidates. That, in and of itself, is largely unheard of in online education. Both Cohen and Paucek said that their wives are participating in 2tor’s programs at these institutions, and report that the digital courses are “hard.” And in that way, the startup is on a mission to create online student experiences that graduates talk about as if they’d been living on campus for two years — even if they were living in Siberia the whole time. Not only that, but ensure that the program is just as rigorous.

2tor has also begun to launch a fleet of microsites intended to become online resources for teachers across the country, regardless of level. Certificationmap.com, for example, is a guide to teacher certifications and lays out the steps necessary to becoming a teacher in each state in the U.S., while Teach.com offers info on teacher salaries, prep work, how to teach abroad, etc.

We’re beginning to see a lot of startups take flipping the classroom more seriously, and from digital textbooks to online education, there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening in the space. 2tor is taking just one approach, and so far, it seems to be working well for them, but higher ed is the low-hanging fruit, next, it will be interesting to see if this formula can be applied to undergraduate degrees, then high school, and on and on. The trick is maintaining the quality, and 2tor may be proving that if startups aren’t willing to take the long-view, and get the necessary capital backing, it’ll be an uphill climb.

For more on 2tor, check ‘em out at home here.

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The gates were up, training facilities were open and NFL players went back to work.

Now, they need to get ready for the season in a hurry.

After a lockout that lasted 4½ months ended Monday July 25, 2011 with an agreement between the NFL and its players, teams’ facilities were buzzing with activity. Players all around the league were allowed back in to meet with coaches, work out, take physicals and receive playbooks.

Teams were also allowed to sign their drafted players and undrafted free agents, and negotiate with free agents in what will likely be a flurry of activity unlike what the league has ever seen.

Broncos owner Pat Bowlen​ issued a statement Monday afternoon thanking fans for their patience throughout the duration of the lockout. “Although the offseason was unsettling for everyone, this agreement will ensure the continued growth and prosperity of this league well into the future,” said Bowlen, co-chair of the league’s Management Council Executive Committee. “I am thrilled that it is finally time to turn our attention back to the game that all of us love.”

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Cincinnati Bengals safety Rico Murray puts on his helmet at the start of their second practice at NFL football training camp, Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Georgetown, Ky. (AP Photo/Al Behrman) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Employees and volunteers for the Miami Dolphins, including one dressed as former coach Don Shula, stand on a downtown Miami street corner Monday, July 25, 2011. NFL players voted to OK a final deal Monday, days after the owners approved a tentative agreement, and the sides finally managed to put an end to the 4Ë -month lockout, the longest work stoppage in league history. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady throws during NFL football training camp in Foxborough, Mass., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Philadelphia Eagles running back Noel Devine puts his hands up to catch the ball during NFL football training camp at Lehigh University, Friday, July 29, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Detroit Lions punter Nick Harris kicks during practice at NFL football training camp in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #

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Gwynne Chapin, foreground right, hands an ice cream cone to Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Bryan Hall (68) from her truck as his teammates wait in line for their orders following NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Owings Mills, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) #

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Houston Texans' Mario Williams cools off during the first day of NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

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Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler looks to a throw during NFL football training camp Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) #

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver O. J. Murdock reaches for a pass around a goal post pad during a drill at NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Houston Texans running back Steve Slaton's gloves cover his eyes while catching a pass during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

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An unidentified Miami Dolphins fan waits for the start of NFL football training camp in Miami, Monday, Aug. 1, 2011. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter) #

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Green Bay Packers' Chastin West (11) and Green Bay Packers' Jordy Nelson catch balls during NFL football training camp Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (15) throws during training camp at the Denver Broncos football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) #

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Buffalo Bills fan Joe Hart dressed as "Superfan" walks to an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey) #

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Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Jorrick Calvin holds on to four balls that he caught as he watches for the next one to during a catching drill at the NFL football team's training camp at Lehigh University on Thursday, July 28, 2011, in Bethlehem, Pa. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez wipes his brow while signing autographs after an NFL football training camp in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer) #

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Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald hangs on to the football during drills during afternoon practice at Cardinals NFL football training camp Sunday, July 31, 2011, in Flagstaff, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) #

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Denver Broncos Knowshon Moreno (27) gets in extra work catching passes from the jugs machine after the morning session at camp August 1, 2011 at Dove Valley. John Leyba, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans guard Ryan Durand knocks down a blocking dummy during NFL football training camp on Saturday, July 30, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. Watching at right is wide receiver Nate Washington (85). (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Unrestricted free agent Nick Barnett wears his Superbowl ring while talking with Buffalo Bills coaches during an NFL football training camp in Pittsford, N.Y., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/David Duprey) #

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Mary Steinkraus, from Germantown, Wis., watches the Cleveland Browns practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Berea, Ohio, Sunday, July 31, 2011. Steinkraus is the aunt of Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Oakland Raiders defensive tackle John Henderson, left, has his helmet adjusted during NFL football training camp in Napa, Calif., Saturday, July 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) #

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Adrian Clayborn, left, and tackle Derek Hardman, right, work out for the first day in pads during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Kansas City Chiefs fan Natalie Canon, 9, poses for a photograph by a Chiefs mannequin during the team's NFL football training camp in St Joseph, Mo., Friday, July 29, 2011. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton is all smiles as he stretches with the team during practice. The first day of Bronco's Training camp took place today July 28, 2011 at the team's headquarters at Dove Valley. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Detroit Lions receiver Rashied Davis (82) watches as teammate Stefan Logan, left, walks on his hands during a break in practice at NFL football training camp in Allen Park, Mich., Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Keenan Clayton, left, gets a head butt and an ear full from defensive coordinator Juan Castillo, right, during the morning session of NFL football training camp at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa. on Monday, August 1, 2011. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Denver Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno (27) catches a pass during training camp at the Denver Broncos football training facility in Englewood, Colo., on Monday, Aug. 1, 2011.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) #

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Denver Bronco quarterback Tim Tebow is mobbed by media after practice. The first day of Bronco's Training camp took place today July 28, 2011 at the team's headquarters at Dove Valley. Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans wide receiver Kenny Britt works out during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

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Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton signs autographs after practice at the NFL football team's training camp in Spartanburg, S.C., Sunday, July 31, 2011. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) #

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St. Louis Rams full back Brit Miller participates in a drill during NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, at the team's training facility in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) #

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Washington Redskins tight end Chris Cooley removes his cleats after the NFL football team's training camp practice on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2011, in Ashburn, Va. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) #

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Houston Texans wide receiver Jeff Maehl, left, is tripped up by cornerback Antwaun Molden (28) after catching a pass during the first day of their NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

NFL Back To Work After Lockout

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Tennessee Titans quarterback Paul Ratliff plays with his son Johnny, 21 months, and Elle, 2, back right, after NFL football training camp Monday, Aug. 1, 2011, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey) #

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Houston Texans players run to a practice field during NFL football training camp, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2011, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) #

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