Often I write about how EDU lead gen is being battered by the current administration and the stock market. Today, I wanted to take a slightly different perspective which is more of a long term view.
For the past 10 years for-profit EDU companies have had to fight against some major issues to validate what they were doing was real. They had to fight against people not having broadband at home, no computers at home, and not understanding what studying online was. Why was I supposed to pay $30k for an education where I never got to meet the professor or my other classmates?
Broadband is almost in every home in the US, computers are everywhere and more importantly people are connected via mobile devices.
But people are still unsure about the quality of an education online and if the for-profit schools are “real.”
One of the greatest things to happen this year was a major initiative by the Obama Administration to actually spur more innovation in the Education sector. This has lead to a series of education start ups and new learning models which are introducing online education to gigantic numbers of people much quicker than any online school.
Sites like Udemy, Udacity, Coursera, KhanAcademy, and Skillshare are all introducing online learning to people who were not in the core demographic of for-profit schools.
What is this important?
First, mass acceptance is vital to legitimize any industry.
Second, these sites are attacking the spectrum of online learners from two ends, the young folks and the older folks who went to traditional schools in the past.
The fact that kids are getting more involved in online learning is great. The folks who are over 28-30 years old who are now trying online learning just happen to be the same people who are hiring these days.
The biggest outcome of the boom in online learning is that employers are now starting to see more of this in the workplace, see the quality of education and experience it for themselves.
This is a major boost for the for-profit sector. If more employers are willing to hire graduates of the online schools this will help them reduce their loan default rates and hopefully increase their graduation rates.
What happens now?
In the coming months you will see many of these free and pay for courses platforms continue to explode. This will lead to a short term erosion in the for-profit sector’s target pool of candidates. Long term there are many potential outcomes.
1) The for-profit schools use these platforms as lead gen tools. The people on these sites self identify that they are life long learners. Perfect candidates for long term degrees.
2) The for-profit schools offer lower cost single course offerings and make their degree a-la-carte oriented. This may face some accreditation issues but this maybe more in line with what the students/customers want.
3) The continued increase in technology penetration into the home will invariably increase the target market for the for-profit schools.
Personally I think 2012 will be a flat year for the online schools but going into the next 24 months, I think you are going to see massive growth, acceptance and product offering changes from the for-profit sector.