Online education – bad business?

Online education – bad business?

Should your university invest in online education? You might, but remember; Technology is changing everything

Technology has disrupted and changed many businesses over the last years. Some are changing rapidly and others so slow you almost don’t recognize it. If we look at how media has changed over the last years it started slow, noticia_104351and now many of the existing media corporations are merging and scaling down to meet the new digital reality. A closer look at Netflix, Amazon, AirBnB and Über gives us a hint on what is going on. They are large global companies that focus on technology to provide the service they are offering, and they are all “that one” company that has captured most of the customers in their business.

When large companies accomplish the magic of establishing their platforms as the preferred marketplace for their goods they make it really difficult for other competitors to reach potential customers. When you have goods to sell, you want to show your merchandise at the place where customers are most lightly to find them. And the other way around, when you are looking for something, you want to go to the place where you are easiest to find and most lightly to get the best deal. But what does all of this has to do with education? Well, I think there might be some really big changes ahead in how certain types of education is provided.

The winner takes all (or at least most)

A lot of services are being redesigned and offered digitally, and I can’t see any reason why education should be spared. The largest online university today is Coursera.com with more than 15 million students (https://www.edsurge.com/news/2015-08-25-coursera-charts-course-for-international-expansion-with-49-5m-in-series-c-funding).

Screenshot - Coursera.com

Screenshot – Coursera.com

If we take a closer look at how they are gaining superiority in the online education marked, its obvious that they will be a fair competitor in the race of being the preferred platform. Both providers of education and students will gain from this platform for some time.

Further down the road

Just like Netflix is a great way to distribute movies and series from several providers, Coursera distributes online courses from different universities. But what happened to Netflix? Through their technology they got exclusive information about what their customers wanted, and they were able to tailor their own productions to these exact needs. At the same time this was a way for Netflix to better their business model (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-25/netflix-set-to-make-more-shows-of-its-own-including-handler). They started making their own series. At some point, when Coursera start making their own online courses, they are able to challenge the quality and brand of the traditional universities. At the same time they gain control over the content and are able to build a stronger business model.

Finding your niche

When investing in online education, be prepared for the future and find your own path to success. Online education is a global market, and every player in this business needs to find their focus to stand out. What separates your online offer from the other global providers? What makes your product stand out for your consumers?

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This article was written by

Advisor in edtech and innovation at BI Norwegian Business School. Focusing on how technology can enable both incremental and radical change in higher education.

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