Grow the audience now, monetize later

“With more than 1.5 million people having registered for courses through Coursera, Udacity and edX, the demand for the novel online offerings is undeniable. But while demand appears to be high, none of these three organizations—two of which are for-profit companies that will be expected to generate money for investors and the other of which is a nonprofit that will be expected to stand on its own feet eventually—currently has a business plan.”

The following are some of the ways in which experts speculate that the recent crop of elite online learning efforts could make money:

  • Charge a fee for a certificate
  • Act as headhunters for employers
  • Sell student performance data to employers
  • Refer failing students to other learning services
  • Start charging for services around their learning material
  • Charge for assessment by a person
  • Charge a premium for networking opportunities

And I’ve always believed that “Grow the audience now, monetize later” is a great business plan in the Internet era. Silly me.