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The Fools of Academia

One man’s belly flop is another’s bonanza!

January 14, 2014 By Denny Hatch
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With a college undergraduate degree costing up to $50,000 a year, I am fascinated by MOOCs—Massive Open Online Courses that are free. Stanford Professor Sebastian Thrun enrolled 160,000 students worldwide in his artificial intelligence course.

According to Tamar Lewin's "After Setback, Online Courses Are Rethought" in The New York Times, the entire MOOC concept is now considered a total flop. That's because a recent study revealed on average half of the online registrants never viewed a single session and only about 4 percent completed the course.

4% Completion! That's Dazzling!
Compare it to a direct marketing continuity program. A 4 percent completion is A HUGE SUCCESS!—in this case 6,400 graduates!

Here's the obvious business model. Offer the course for free. Students who complete the course can take a proficiency exam online and receive official college credits. Charge: $30 per credit. Number of credits needed for an undergraduate degree: 128.

Benefit to the student: Total cost of an undergrad degree $30 x 128 is $3,840 (vs. $200,000 + transportation and living expenses at a brick-and-mortar college).

Benefit to the online school: If 50 percent of the 6,400 completers go for the degree and the course is worth 3 credits ($90), that's $288,000 revenue.

At what cost? One professor, a cheapsy-weepsy TV camera and operator in the back of the classroom.

Record the thing, make it available 24/7 and the revenue is automatic—forever!

It's beautiful! Note the photo of hotshot, expansive Professor Thrun in the media player at right. He is showing off his newfangled Google glass (cost $1,500). No doubt it enables him to perpetually look up his rear end.

Takeaways to Consider

  • Before declaring any test a failure, rethink the business model.
  • Automate your fulfillment and you have perpetual income.
  • In the case of Professor Thrun, he has a gorgeous list of 160,000 smart people. Many of them no doubt already have college degrees and should be open to all kinds of offers.
  • My suggestion to Prof. Thrun: Read my farewell salute to Axel Andersson, who made a personal fortune building Europe's largest home study school, the Axel Andersson Akademy.


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