What I write here (both in this post, and in general on the blog) does indeed impact traditional education from K-12 through grad school, but it also fundamentally impacts the market for lifelong learning, and by extension, the way that any business can interact with and engage its customers and prospects. Ignore what follows at your own risk.
The Education Disruption
First, let’s look at a couple of recent announcements. These are among many such items that have agitated the waters of academia lately.
Edudemic highlights Teach2013, a new effort by the online learning platform/marketplace company Udemy to entice experts of all shapes and sizes to offer their expertise to the world – using the Udemy platform, of course.
While it seems unlikely that Bill Gates or Seth Godin will show up to teach a course, what’s noteworthy here is not whether Udemy will succeed with this particular campaign, but the fact that the company’s ploy is both possible and reasonable. It’s difficult to disagree with the perspective of Dinesh Thiru, vice president of marketing at Udemy:
It’s amazing what a good instructor can do with an HD camera, a mic, and some basic video editing software can do. We live in a new world where experts are building incredibly high-quality online courses with technology that often costs less than $200.. You couldn’t empower millions of experts to teach the world before this happened – the barriers to teaching online were too high. But that’s all changed now and that’s why 2013 is going to be the year of the online instructor.
Yes, I am quite biased on this point – what Thiru highlights is essentially the entire foundation for Leading the Learning Revolution. If you buy into this perspective, though, and you are an expert or have access to experts (e.g., as a training firm or trade or professional association), then there is a huge opportunity here. (See also: On online learning site Udemy, quarter of approved instructors earn $10k or more)
[By the way, Udemy is one of the platforms I mention in The Learning Revolutionary’s Toolbox, which you can get for free by subscribing to e-mail updates.]
New Platform Lets Professors Set Prices for Their Online Courses
Along similar lines, the venerable Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article on Professor Direct, an platform from StraighterLine that empowers professors and other experts to basically disintermediate (remember that old word?) traditional colleges and universities by going straight to students. The company has apparently been putting a great deal of effort into establishing transfer credit for its courses and a big part of its value proposition is that students can save “up to 90%” on the costs associated with traditional college – certainly a compelling claim these days!
The Business Opportunity
I’ve already highlighted the business opportunities this kind of shift makes possible in my earlier post on “the other fifty years.” I do want to re-emphasize a couple of points here, though.
The first is that – as I think we all understand at this point – neither education nor learning end with the completion of college or university studies. We all have to be active lifelong learners these days if we expect to thrive, and the tools mentioned here – as well as others like them – create a tremendous opportunity for serving that lifelong market. Not only that, they are setting expectations within that market – the same people who are learning on Udemy, or Professor Direct, or any university online program now, will expect to be able to learn in similar ways throughout their careers.
The second is that this not just territory for traditional education providers and institutions. The whole point is that the old playing field has been cleared and leveled. Any organization, any business, an entrepreneurial individual now can – and, arguably, must – use educational content and experiences as a way to engage a target audience. This is among the surest ways to create the value that will lead to attention, conversion, and an ongoing relationship – regardless of whether you actually charge for it.
I believe, as Dinesh Thiru puts it, that this is the year of the online instructor, but I also believe it is the year in which educational marketing approaches trump pretty much any other approach. I also believe fast movers will be disproportionately rewarded. Will you be among them?
P.S. – Did I mention that Leading the Learning Revolution: The Expert’s Guide to Capitalizing on the Exploding Lifelong Education Market is now available?