Some e-learning-courses already have got million students enrolled, and great reviews. But it is not about how much money you spend. The course I benchmark in this post show what it actually means in practice claiming that e-learning is not about “digitalized learning”. The learning points go far beyond what we historically even cared about.
There are several reasons why the course called “Science of Everyday Thinking” on EdX, is unusually interesting. Already hundreds of thousands of people have enrolled, and it has got lot of really good reviews. But it is not primarily about what the course is about, and neither on how much money they spent on it. I belive it instead is about how they themselves understood what they were up to when they developed it.
They definitely also seem to have understood what e-learning is really about – something fundamentally different than “digitalized old-fashioned-learning”.
You find the course in the middle of the picture below. With purpose the picture is taken the way people see courses when they scroll the EdX-site and think about enrolling into a course. It is the course with the logo of a person looking right into your face. It is made by the University of Queensland, Australia. Are we surprised it is not made by a traditional, and already globally well-known, brand on the market?
An obvious reason why this course has been very successful, is that it is really well produced, and yes; they must have had a fairly good budget for developing it. Producing the videos you find in it, must have costed them something. Adding to that: Managing to include everything from not that globally well-known, but interesting, academics in the course, jointly with “rock-star-people” like Daniel Kahneman and the Mythbusters…a really smart and interesting idea. A Nobel Prize winner, together with TV-show-stars, jointly with you and me; who would not like to take such kind of course?
The basic underlying story-line within the course, where we follow a teacher and his pupil along the road into learning, is also an unusually cleverly developed pedagogical idea, for being an e-learning-course of today. It includes us as e-learners, to be compared to other courses that fairly often tend to exclude us instead. They use an old trick for getting us involved, but it works.
Taking the course becomes nearly like when we, many years ago, in a somewhat mysterious way, could follow the main character in the book/movie “The Name of the Rose”. It was no coincidence that the story about the young monk following the old monk in that book/movie, became the big global break for Umberto Echo, the author behind it (just to mention one example in history when this pedagogical trick have been used before). That book is one of the best-selling books ever, more than 50 million copys.
Having that said, there are obviously lot of reasons why this course has been successful, and there are lot of things to learn from benchmarking it in detail. If you have time; I suggest you to do just that.
But instead of doing all that here, there are two small specific issues I would like to direct your attention to, just because we might call them “small” – but they actually matter a lot. In the world of e-learning these two small matters, even matter tremendously lot. And in this particularly course, these two small things are unusually easy to see, if we look for them. It is also two small details that we very rarely even spend more than 5 minutes on, while doing off-line-education.
It is about the name of the course and its logo.
The name of this course is “Science of Everyday thinking”. It is not called “Cognitive science”, which I guess it could have been called instead.
The name of a course tells the potential audience something. If you call it “Cognitive Science”, it tells the audience something like this: “This course is about a kind of academic discipline, that you probably do not know, but just so you know.” If you instead call it “Science of Everyday thinking”, it tells the audience something like this: “This course is about something that you can have use of every single day, and just so you know: it is even based on science”. It makes a big difference.
As far as I know there is no “Science” called “Everyday thinking”, and that is one of the points here. It is a fishy name for a course, partly because of just that fact. But still it is actually not fishy at al. Make sense somehow, but not really, so we become curious, and then we click on it, and then maybe enroll.
If you want people to enroll in your online course, call it something that makes people click on it. In the digital space there is suddenly gazillion possible courses to take, so why should they take your course? The title is one of the few ways to even be noticed in the digital space.
However, do not fool them to click. That would only back-fire later. But call it something far better than what from your own point of view makes sense. Call the course something that makes sense, from their point of view. Call it something that gives them a reason for caring. I mean the student/customer.
Everyone working in the field of Cognitive Science knows how to spell “Cognitive science”…but the course is not for them, right? They already know the topic. The course is for the ones that do Not know the topic.
It is very likely that names of academic disciplines have no specific meaning to average people. It is just like a car; to most people the inner life of the engine is not the reason for buying a car. The inner life of the engine is mostly only of importance to the people developing the inner life of the engine. Academic terms have meaning for us who happen to be academics, but we rarely give courses with ourselves as the potential students. Same goes for all occupations that might be interested in giving a course, consultants for instance.
Now, the logo for this course is just as face, and two eyes. How does that relate to the course-name? Well, you tell me. But that is also the point. It catches your eye, doesn´t it (compare with logos around it)? The logo adds something more to the name, just like pictures does, in good marketing.
Good marketers know that if you combine a picture and words, there should be a reason for it. If you cannot come up with a reason: don’t even do it.
If your logo just tells the same thing as the text already does, you easily just oversell, and thereby loose, not gain, potential students/customers. People even tend to dislike when we tell them the same thing over and over again. You can do better than this.
Or, if you put a logo on the course that just is a picture, like any picture, then the picture is actually not needed. It could even be counter-productive and lead people to think in the wrong direction. For instance they might start thinking that you actually did not care about them that much, because you were not willing to spend on finding a nice logo for them.
The point by a name and a logo is what happens in the potential customers/students head when the sum of the text and the picture is noticed.
What does happen in your head when you watch a picture of someone looking right into your own eyes and then says something like “hi, this is about the science of everyday thinking”?
Now, scroll back and look on the picture above and watch it again, and at the same time; remember that millions of people, not only you, watches that picture. What could make you click somewhere, and why? Then, compare your own answer to what would happen if it instead would have been a potential classical logo and the text “Cognitive Science” in that picture.
I bet my head of that the name and the logo for this course definitely mattered and helped more people to enroll into this course than otherwise (maybe they got thousands of more people that way, and such an amount of people will matter). I am also heavily convinced that the learners behind this course did spend time on this matter. They cared about the logo, and the course name.
But if we think of it a bit more; the logo and the name is not only about “sales”. It creates something more in the head of the customer/student than making us enroll. It sets the agenda for the whole course, and thereby you also, if you are a student in it, perceive it in a different way. The whole “customer journey” relates to how that journey starts.
The logo and the name matters far more than only being about getting people to enroll.
If you call something “Everday thinking”, and people enroll because of that, that is also what they will expect you to deliver. That is what they will look for, and that is the perspective they will use when later on evaluating it.
In some sense we might claim this; the only thing these course-producers seem to have used is…knowledge from the field of marketing. From a marketing point of view: Everything I have said about logos and names here is just common sense. But; you rarely come up with the idea of calling a course like this, then also delivering it that way, unless you are like this and see your own topic in this way. In that sense I do not believe that the people behind this course used marketing people that in the end of their development-process just came up with a catchy name and funny logo.
Instead I believe that this name and this logo is more or less just a natural consequence of who the people behind the course actually “are”, and how they themselves actually sees this topic. They probably see their own topic, Cognitive science, exactly in this way. Maybe they therefor did not even use professional marketing-people (who am I to know?).
Really good marketing often just use who we actually are down under. Might sound very easy, now when we see it, but knowing who we are can actually take decades to find out. Never underestimate good marketers.
What we easily forget when doing e-learning is also that competition is tremendously high, just because we have entered the digital space. It is even gazillion times higher than when doing off-line-education. Comparing off-line education to online-education is like comparing life on earth to life…probably on the moon. Why take your specific course when there are so many others on Edx, even thousands of possible courses to take digitally instead? Take a look on the picture again. There is already thousans of possible courses on Edx that you can chose from.
But competition in the digital space is actually even far bigger than that. Why even take a course, when you for instance can head for a YouTube-clip instead, or a book on Amazon, or Netflix, or just a video-game?
Then consider this; How big space, physical space I mean, do you actually have in order to convince someone to enroll in an e-learning-course? I mean the space given to you on a screen. It is just more or less as small as a thumbnail, right? Look on the picture above, again.
There is a reason why books on Amazon, nowadays, in average, have covers looking more or less like a poster, and not as a traditional paper-based-book-cover. With such a small area possible to show possible customers on a screen, that you have on an e-shopping site, like a thumbnail, it has to be possible to perceive it.
The logo for this course, a face and two eyes, is rather easy to see at a distance. How about the other ones surrounding it? Can you see what they show, and what do the tell you. Remember: We still talk about millions of people watching it.
All this means that if you take care of your course-name, and spend time fixing your logo, it can make a really big difference.
By the way; Isn´t this also a great case showing how much better education is gradually becoming, compared to the old “non-digital model”? Who, out of all existing “teachers” on the globe, did actually care even more than five minutes on a thing like a course-name and a logotype in the old days? Very few of us, right? And why did we not? Because in general we did not have to. We got people to enroll anyway. Competition, at that time, was not even close to what it is today in the digital space.
On the other hand: the potential upside on the market was neither as big as it is today. Very few educators tried to become global. I mean: Who could even dream of getting a million students in one single course, let´s say like 20 years ago? Nowadays, we actually can get that number of people engaged. And that ones that know how to do it; they will leverage tremendously lot in the future.
Could actually E-learning be something fundamentally different from doing traditional learning off-line? Could things we are not used to care about while doing education suddenly become of tremendous importance, if we want to become successful when heading for e-learning? Could it be worth taking care of you course name and your logotype?