Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and Berkeley are doing it.
Companies, both big and small, are doing it.
Solopreneurs are doing it.
And bloggers have been doing it … they just haven’t been making any money at it.
It’s a trend that Copyblogger saw coming … in fact, Brian built a course to teach it way back in 2007. (And he built a number of successful businesses on the same principles before that.)
“It” is online education — and it’s gone from being an interesting sideline to a major social and economic trend.
This trend’s going to be around a little longer than planking or Pinterest. Because there are some very solid factors underlying the shift to online education … and they’re only getting stronger.
Online education is at a tipping point. And that’s awesome news if you’re a Copyblogger reader. Let’s talk about why.
Online education is now a juggernaut; more than 6.1 million current college students took a Web-based course in fall 2010. Nearly a third of students have taken one during their college careers. ~ Boston Globe
Traditional education is in trouble
The traditional model of “get a degree and land a sweet job” just isn’t working any more, at least in most professions. I’m still a big fan of universities — but we have to face the fact that they’re quickly becoming a pricy luxury.
Students are looking for other ways to learn what they need to learn — without the six-figure price tag.
“Normal” people live online now
Is your mom on Facebook? Mine is. And the weirdest thing about it is … it’s nice. It lets me keep up with what she’s doing, and share the exploits of my charming
I first got online in 1989. But the internet doesn’t belong to weirdo early adopters like me any more. The internet, assisted by the smart phone, is woven into our lives like it never has been.
That means that normal people — not just web junkies like you and me — are willing to consider online activities that never would have occurred to them before.
It means they look at online education and think, “Hm, I would do that.”
The world is changing faster than traditional education can evolve
Almost every aspect of our lives is changing. Business, socializing, church, family life.
All that change is coming faster than we can handle. We all need help with some aspect of the change that’s swirling around us.
Which means if you can master some element of the changing world, and stay on top of it, you can help customers do the same.
Great businesses are built by solving tough problems. And mastering change is one of the toughest problems we all face … every day, and in every aspect of our lives.
Traditional education has a tough time with this. If you want to study ancient Greek, you should be set. (And more power to you, because I think that is cool.)
But if you want to study technology, nutrition and fitness, marketing, communications, or any of the other myriad ways people make a living, you need the latest information.
Online learners are … well, learning
None of this would matter if online education didn’t work as well as face-to-face learning.
But it appears to actually work better.
In a 2009 report based on 50 independent studies, the U.S. Department of Education found that students who studied in online learning environments performed modestly better than peers who were receiving face-to-face instruction. ~ Mashable
Online learning allows students to go at the pace that’s right for them. When online education is well designed, it gives plenty of opportunity to not only absorb the theories in the material, but to discuss it meaningfully and put it into practice.
Students can replay “lectures” if they need to. They can interact with other students online in ways that far surpass traditional classroom discussion.
Even something as simple as being able to “attend class” when you’re at your most refreshed can make a huge difference. (I am pretty convinced that I learned exactly nothing from the few 8:00 a.m. college classes I attended.)
So is there still room for the small entrepreneur?
The rise of the “big guns” in online education is actually awesome news for the small (or micro) business wanting to get into an education-based model.
The big players are showing more and more people every day that online education is real education.
That we don’t have to shuffle into a physical room with an instructor physically present to learn.
That we can take the very best education and make it widely available, instead of limiting it to a few hundred people at a time.
That we can learn at our own pace, on our own time, when and where it’s convenient for us.
Harvard and Berkeley will continue to do a brilliant job teaching law and microbiology.
But you may very well be able to do an even more brilliant job teaching small business tax planning or vegan sports nutrition.
Or pet-sitting. Or crochet. Or how to get a novel published.
Where to go if you need some help with that
You might remember that I mentioned that Brian Clark taught a course around this very idea, back in 2007.
That’s Teaching Sells — a comprehensive course in how to build an online education business. It takes your passion for creating smart, interesting, useful content, and wraps it into a business model. (Actually, there are 10 business models in the course, but who’s counting?)
You can learn a little more about what Teaching Sells is (and isn’t) here: What is Teaching Sells?
And if you’d like to learn a lot more (as well as get tons of free advice about how you can start taking advantage of the online education trend), sign up for the Teaching Sells email list.
We’ll send you articles, special reports, an invitation to a live webinar … and of course, we’ll let you know more about how to join us inside Teaching Sells, if that feels like a good fit for you.
Catch you there …
About the Author: Sonia Simone is co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media, and a co-creator of Teaching Sells. Get more from Sonia on twitter @soniasimone