Mixing Digital Business with Education — User Generated What?
For the past two weeks, we have been running presentations and workshops on education in the cloud and digital education in creative industries. I’ve also been going to a variety of conferences, including heading today to Billboard FutureSound in San Francisco.
At last night’s event, several of us began to compare notes on all of the digital learning companies that we see launching. One of our advisers, on the investment side, said that he had two companies just pitched to him yesterday.
What are the barriers to entry in this business, now that you can perch your new learning environment on flexible cloud-based tools and infrastructures-in-the-cloud? Audience?
For many years, I have taught part-time at UCLA. Every year, friends have come to me saying, “What I really want to do is teach.” I have told them how much it pays (and they are taken aback), and they still want to do it. UCLA does get picky, and has turned down many fine VPs of divisions of companies because they lack both the right credentials and teaching experience. UCLA Extension provides a wonderful alternative, within their structure and fine teacher training, for a lot of this content to get out into the professional worlds.
Now we are mixing the abundance of User Generated Content with all of this unmet teaching demand. I spoke with two start-ups last week. Each is “allowing” the teaching faculty for their programs to invest all of their own time and recording energy to create their classes, and “only” taking 50% of the revenue for letting them teach on the platform. Other older entities are more gracious to the teachers (some keeping 15-30%), but all of these seem to put the production risk onto the eager teacher with no guarantees or advances. Many seem to offer deals to learners with deep discounts to drive continuing interest in the platform.
There are some great programs that do have nice revenue streams for the teachers online. The newer models, mixing new abundance into education, seem to be taking willing content producers and promising them lights to shine.
Perhaps I’ll be less cynical when I see review structures come out and customers not flock to the next new freemium educational product.