Keep the learning system sustainable. Create a knowledge marketplace.

By on March 1, 2013 in Thoughts from the CEO with 0 Comments

This post originally appeared on EdTech Digest

The increasing number of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the education space proves that there is, no doubt, a wealth of great content and knowledge online today. At the same time, we’re seeing elite universities partner with MOOCs at a furious pace. Just last week, the American Council on Education (ACE) agreed to certify five Coursera classes for college credit. Despite the clear energy of this movement, there’s an imbalance between benefits to the learner and benefits for the expert. In order to deliver an effective, quality educational experience at scale, both experts and students need to be incentivized to participate in the knowledge exchange.

Like any economy, in order to be sustainable both the supply and demand sides have to benefit from the transaction. In education, we see so many inefficiencies where teachers feel like they’re being underpaid and students feel like they are overpaying for the education they are receiving. We see an opportunity to recalibrate the system to bring better equilibrium to the market. How? One way is to create a marketplace where students and experts consume and provide knowledge at their own pace and each party benefits from the exchange. We’ve already seen the collaborative consumption business model transform industries from hospitality (Airbnb) to transportation (Lyft), and we believe that education is ripe for similar disruption.

At my company, we are working to build out a “knowledge marketplace” where everyone that participates can benefit. In this marketplace, subject matter experts will have the means to share their knowledge with the world and interested learners can consume that knowledge at their own pace – anytime, anywhere. Not only does this model reward experts for sharing, but it also allows us to build a repository of fresh content in a sustainable and scalable way.

What is a knowledge marketplace?

We see it as an online resource where students and teachers can share and access the educational content they need anytime, anywhere. From our perspective, this means providing a wealth of quality content through a variety of delivery channels that match the learning styles of our students. Resources include courses, flashcards, tutors and the online support that students require to achieve their goals. The marketplace structure allows experts who contribute their knowledge to our community to be compensated accordingly. Ultimately, this mutually beneficial relationship between the user and content creator enables our company to scale to meet the expanding interests of our learning community.

How does a knowledge marketplace work? 

We can envision extending the knowledge marketplace principles to many different education tools and digital services, and have started by rolling out the knowledge marketplace in two of our learning tools:

1)  Anyone with subject matter expertise can become a Course Hero Tutor and charge for their services, one question at a time. Recognizing that the relationship between student and expert continues to evolve, we seek to create an environment where students and experts can consume and provide knowledge at their own pace. Unlike traditional tutors, who may be tied to office hours or standard work schedules, these tutors are available around the clock to make difficult concepts easy and understandable. Likewise, our tutors aren’t locked into a weekly schedule and can contribute as much time as their current availability allows.

2)  We also provide an easy-to-use tool for developing paid courses to deliver an engaging educational experience and publishing it to our website. By offering subject matter experts the opportunity to monetize the course they create for the site, we are able to reward the best experts and offer learners the highest-quality content with engaging gaming dynamics such as interactive quizzes and badging. In the end, teachers of all forms can share their expertise with the world, and we connect students with their high quality content.

What’s next?

Education opens up new opportunities and enriches lives, and we are committed to fostering a sustainable environment where knowledge can be exchanged and accessed by interested learners around the world.

Demand for online educational resources is clear and even extends beyond traditional academic subjects. A recent survey of more than 1,800 Course Hero users shows an appetite to hear from experts outside of academia – with 50.6% of those polled expressing interest in taking a course from an industry leader and 31.5% interested in learning from a successful executive. Users were particularly interested in taking courses that are built on tangible skills – with 44.2% interested in pursuing online business courses in areas such as marketing and business software and 35.4% interested in technology courses on topics including web programming and mobile app development.

The knowledge marketplace opens up the opportunity for experts outside of traditional teaching roles to be rewarded for sharing valuable insights while also enabling learners to potentially turn their interests into tangible job skills. We’ve already seen MOOCs make the overall education system and the job market more efficient by marrying quality educational content with the flexibility, scalability and access afforded by the Internet. Similarly, other digital educational resources have the same transformative potential.

At our company, we believe that by incentivizing experts, we’ll be able to scale the number of experts and valuable content we have to teach students utilizing all of our learning tools including study documents, Q&A, flashcards and courses. This will allow us to offer even more content, more resources and more subject categories to meet growing student demand. We’re excited to be changing the way that people learn for the better.

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