How teaching-rockstars already changes the name of the game

The Beatles very likely could play around with their own record label EMI more or less the way they wanted, if that was what they wanted. We have not seen this phenomenon evolving in the world of e-learning…yet. However, here is an example in this direction and what we already today can learn from it.

There is a great movie called “Wag the Dog“. It is about the difference between who, and what, we might assume a narative to be about, and who, and what, is actually running the show far behind. It is a great movie I recomend you to see.

In the world of music it has always been possible to “wag the dog”. Big rock-stars have done that with their own record labels for long. It is because they have become bigger in the eyes of end-customers, than what the label that is helping them have.

Beatles must therefore on one hand have been loved by their own record label EMI when they were at the top, but on the other hand they probably was a bit disliked also. How to control a big rock-star, if you are the record label?

We already know that the same goes for the educational business. That is why we all already know, that if you for instance get a Nobel Prize for some kind of research you have done, you very likely can knock on the door of your boss (a dean perhaps) and ask for a salary raise, and you probably also would get it.

This also means that if you, already before e-learning became something, was a global rock-star in some sense, you can levereage heavily at this moment due to e-learning. You can increase your already existing position even more so to speak.

Andrew Ng is in many ways an already existing global rock-star. He has a professorship in AI at Stanford, and he is also known for previously been heading AI-units, not only at Google but also at Baidu. On top of that, he is actually very nice, I have met him. He is also definitely knowledge about AI, if that is of your interest.

So, there is a reason for him being one of the really big global rock-stars in the field of AI at this moment. He is qualified for it, without doubht. I personally would claim him being worth such kind of “title”.

At this moment you can find several course on the topic of AI at different global digital platforms, like for instance Coursera, that is held by Andrew NG. Several of them are also extremely successful, with over, or close to, one million of students enrolled. Here is for instance one of them, it already has 2.8 million (!) students enrolled: Machine Learning with Andrew Ng.

But, from a pedagogical point of view these courses are really not that impressing. If you wanted to be tough towards Ng; you could even call them close to “terrible”. Several of them are just close to a situation with him sitting back home just talking directly into his own laptop-camera. Still people enroll, and still people do find them great.

Well, they are actually great!

My own suggestion for some conclusions here is;

– If you already know your topic very well, and already have become known for your “content”…then you can make really great e-learning, and become sucessful on it, without caring that much about “how good” it could have been, if you did care.

– Content in e-learning, if it is really great that is, can nearly always outperform the form for it. But examples of the opposit is less easy to find. As always when it comes to education: We have to start with the content.

– Great content can at the same time be made even better, if using knowledge about what constititues great e-learning. But bad content is really difficult to make better, no matter what you do with it. It is exactly like marketing: Marketing can make a good product much better, but never fix a very bad product.

– We will see far more “teaching-rock-stars” evolve on the globe than we have seen so far. And this will matter a lot, concerning how the future of this industry will look like. It will even matter tremendously lot.

And I do wonder: What could happen if Andrew Ng at this moment decided to use a least some of the profit he gets from these already existing e-learning-courses, in ordet to develop the next editions of them in a pedagogically challenging way?

Would he then get 10 million, even more, students per course, and then gradually other teachers on the globe working in the same field, soon would have no students left at all? Or could even get 20 million students per course?

Then try this way of thinking in other fields of knowledge to. What kind of future for the business landscape of education do you then see infront of you?

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