10: The future of online education (part 1)

Happy Monday,

Hope you’ve had a great weekend.

In today’s newsletter, I want to talk about the future of online education. This is part one of a two-part series.

It’s an expansion of a tweet I published last week:

Let’s dive in.

The future of online education

Institutional-level education isn’t going away anytime soon

First, I want to clarify that the future of online education will not take on one form. 280 characters limits you to posting black & white takes.

In reality, there’s nuance.

My prediction is that online education will evolve in many different directions.

Institutional education will continue for longer than people want it to.

But these institutions will need to adapt.

This is already happening. You can take courses from Stanford on platforms like Coursera for no cost.

The problem? You don’t get any of the signaling/credential benefits that institutions provide. (In exchange for a significant amount of money).

Employers don’t care if you’ve taken a free Coursera course on statistical analysis—even if it’s from Stanford. They want to see that you have an actual degree from Stanford.

My hope is that this signaling issue subsides over time. But institutions will try damn hard to hang on to it because it’s one of the only reasons you’d pay them (at this point).

Read The Case Against Education by Bryan Caplan for more on the signaling problem.

Platforms & aggregators will continue to grow

Platforms like Udemy, Maven, and others will experience growth.

There will continue to be different platforms for different types of education: 

  • Udemy for low-cost, mass-market courses 
  • Maven for cohort-based courses 
  • ? for high-ticket, in-depth accelerators that take 12 months to work through 

My prediction is that you’ll see an unbundling of these platforms.

Instead of going to Udemy to learn graphic design, you’ll go to a niched-down version of Udemy, which only sells low-cost courses on graphic design.

Instead of going to Maven for a cohort-based course on marketing, you’ll go to a niched-down version of Maven, which only sells cohort-based courses on marketing.

Solo educators with entrepreneurial bent will do well

The solo educator who… 

  • Has expertise in the topic/skill they’re teaching… 
  • Can teach well (good communicator, empathy, can break down and simplify topics)… 
  • Has an entrepreneurial bent/business mindset/sales ability… 

Will make more money building their own thing than in any traditional teaching role. Especially if they own their content and build a committed audience.

Aside from actually building the shovel (e.g., building a platform like Udemy or Maven)—which has a higher potential payoff but low chance of success—I think the solo creator-educator route is where the biggest opportunity is.

That’s the high-level picture of where I see this space going.

I have more thoughts around this, but it’s an email newsletter, and I don’t want it to be 3,000+ words.

In next week’s issue, I’ll dive into the four specifics of where creator-led education is heading: 

  1. Atomization 
  2. Action-based 
  3. Community-centric 
  4. Reputation-driven 

Until then, have a great week.

-Sam

P.S. I want to change the name of this newsletter from Modern Capitalist to something else (the current name is cringe). Any ideas?

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