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Subject:  Re: Online learning Date:  11/8/2012  9:39 PM
Author:  tamhas Number:  65437 of 96942

Seems to me that there are two big watersheds here:

1. Will the MOOC courses be graded and recorded in a way that allows attendance at a course to mean something beyond personal enlightenment? Clearly, the software being used in many cases is capable of testing, so it is not unthinkable that one could get a grade, but in order to handle, say, 20,000 students in one class, the testing can't be very profound, limiting the depth of the qualification that one could accept. It brings to mind the on-line versions of the drivers courses which one takes to get a ticket erased from one's record ... expectations are low for how much people really take away.

2. What are the real channels for monetizing? There are really two players here - the software providers and the course providers. The software provider clearly needs to get paid or they aren't going to participate, so there is a potential investment opportunity if one thinks that one company is going to dominate. I don't yet see any moats, however. The course provider can decide to do a certain amount of this just as a part of their marketing or public service budget, but we need to recognize that courseware development is expensive. Would the astronomical enrollments we see so far be maintained if people started charging? What happens when it becomes more established and thus there are multiple options for nominally the same content?

It isn't hard to construct some value propositions here, but there also a lot of speculation related to it really working in a significant monetary way.

FWIW, I was project director and coauthor of several self instructional units including computer simulated laboratories which were developed under NSF funding and some parts of which used for a surprising number of years. The unit on genetics was remarkably *better* than typical classroom instruction in not only conveying concepts, but in making students into good scientific problem solvers in the domain ... not the usual result of a unit in genetics! Moreover, teachers reports were that students were better scientific problem solvers and had greater mastery of unrelated domains following the use of our materials. So, I am a big believer in the potential for good on-line, self instructional material ... but I also know personally, how hard it is to do well.
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