Some years after Google Play and AppStore was created huge numbers of apps was also developed. Some good, others terrible. But it does not look like that anymore. The ones remaining have become great. A lot of them are also very profitable. Here is the reason why the same thing will happen in the e-learning-space.
How many e-learning courses exist on the globe, right now? Thousands? Millions?
No-one actually knows.
But we can at least know that a large university may have a few thousands of courses in their original portfolio. We also can know that a MOOC of the type Coursera is likely to have at least about 2000 courses.
Then add actors like Edx, FutureLearn, Udacity, Udemy, OpenEdu, Xuetang, LinkedIn Learning (former Lyndia), NPTEL, Edraak, Miriada etc – it could become a long list and we can debate what actors that actually should be called a MOOC or not, but that´s besides the point here.
A reasonable estimation can then be that in the MOOC world there are at least 10,000 courses. And that´s only the MOOCs.
The world of E-learning is far bigger than the sum of all MOOCs.
How many of these courses are more or less the same course, but with different teachers and different providers behind? Also difficult to know.
But if we look at one of the MOOC platforms, we can conclude that in many cases; at least a dozen “duplicates” can be found. Add the other MOOCs and then get, maybe 50.
In my own original field of knowledge, marketing, there are far more courses in the MOOC space than that. Could there in total even exist more than 500 similar digital marketing course on the planet at this moment? I really don´t know. But it would not surprise me if it actually did.
What do we know about the market and the cost for e-learning?
We know that the whole world of E-learning has jumped a few steps forward due to Corona. We know that the number of digital courses available online has increased significantly. Nearly all universities have for instance gone digital. At this moment thousands and thousands of courses have become digital. With 25 000 universities on the planet and 2000 courses each, it would actually result in the mind blowing number 50 000 000 courses – just as a mind stretcher.
But some might have been made in haste, maybe this past week.
So, we also know that a lot of people that at this very moment happen to stumble on E-learning for the first time, and happen to stumble on one of the poor courses, will draw the conclusion that e-learning is terrible.
But then they we are missing the point.
The thing is this…
There are also, already today, digital courses that have upwards, or even more, than one million students. On average, not many students pay, but it is enough that maybe 5% of one million students pay $ 50 and the revenue will be huge, just for that course – tremendously huge actually.
Is it possible to imagine a terrible course getting so many students? Well, maybe. With a big marketing budget we sometimes might fool some of the people. But we rarely can fool all of the people, all of the time. So, marketing can not be the only answer to why some courses have become that big. Some of them just have to be great.
When doing an online course we also have a cost-structure. Roughly it is looking like this: 1. The teacher – actually; content provider 2. The script, the story – if we even have one that is 3. Cost related to technology – hardware, software etc.
What do we know about the future cost trend for the technology needed, such as cameras, lighting, software etc? That cost will continue to fall in line with Moore’s law, while the technology will become better, and more user-friendly. Soon, if not already; a teacher will not need a studio to create their own e-learning course. A smartphone can do.
It´s nearly only the time spent by a content provider that remains to care about.
Well, the cost for possible marketing, and the cost in order to make a person “knowledgeable enough” so great content can be added into the course, is not included here – for another post to discuss.
The point is that the margin for a course that has upwards of one million students is great, even huge. At the same time: a cost that was low already from the start, will become lower pretty soon.
That is the situation we are in already today.
Suppose you are a teacher right now who does a “pretty good” course and who has maybe a million students and who pays the amount I mentioned: what is the surplus used for?
Certainly, a lot of that surplus goes to mass “other”, such as stock dividends or subsidization of other activities, or to salary increase for the teacher. But it´s also possible that much of the surplus goes back to course development. Then that the teacher can do an even better course going forward, and thus get even more students than the previous course had.
It is enough to count very roughly to realize that the development budget that this teacher would get could be big, huge.
At the same time; the yearly development-budget that many traditional universities of today have for developing courses are actually often far lower than an external person might assume. Most often it just comes down to time the teacher spends on it.
But the previous course could now go from being “pretty good” to being great – bring perhaps in the real movie-producers, real actors, spend several years developing it, whatever.
What will happen to bad courses that have been digitized right now, when students discover that there are good, and bad, duplicates? In time, bad courses will be closed down. No one wants, or can afford, to run courses without students.
Darwin will, sooner or later, knock out that kind of course.
All this happened on the app-market after a while – when the smartphones arrived. In the beginning lots of apps was developed. Some of them good, others bad. But today the bad ones are gone while the great ones can earn quite a lot of money. Darwin played out after a while, so to speak.
It´s actually quite uninteresting right now to care about the quality we might feel that the digital education world is providing. What is interesting to care about is how tremendously good the world of digital education will become during the upcoming years.
Share perhaps this post with someone that don´t find existing e-learning courses good enough.