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Researching Online Education - Union Square Ventures: A New York Venture Capital Fund Focused on Early Stage & Startup Investing

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"The work led us to a few hypotheses:

We're skeptical a business model that charges for content will work at scale and in the long run.

We expect education platforms that offer vertical content and/or specific education experiences will be more successful than horizontal platforms, though we think credentials and careers offer two opportunities for horizontal aggregation

Without credentialing or careers, online education seems aspirational and removed from the day-to-day of many people."

Link to full research:

FWIW, the person who tweeted this -- Audrey Watters -- that caught my attention, wasn't too fond of this approach.

I think it's interesting and glad USV shared its research. It's an incredible amount of transparency into their decision-making process and investment thesis about education. Kudos to them for sharing it. It's an incredible trove of information for those new to EdTech or looking to add to their own private research.

I'm really glad USV shared its research, too.

And thanks for the link to the full research.

I agree with the conclusions:

1. There's very little business in charging for content.

2. Vertical will likely be more successful than horizontal.

3. Credentialing and careers make the product more useful.

I honestly don't understand no. 2 conceptually. Can you help explain it?

I think #3 is definitely true, and will happen.

I disagree with #1; people will pay for content with context. See: Netflix (all-you-can-eat content), HBO (premium content), Spotify (mobile access to content that is free on desktop), and of course the still billion dollar textbook industry, which is more education specific. People pay just as much for a digital textbook from one of the majors (Pearson et. Al) as they do for a physical version.

Number 2 is like this: is awesome for learning programming, but don't try to use it to teach history, too.

Number 1 is tricky. I think with YouTube University and iTunes University people are trained to not pay for content.

I do see your point about digital textbooks though.

Ahh, now I understand. Thanks.

Sure, Khan Academy is as should be free. But it doesn't get you a credential. It's still the credentialers that control the cost of content; if a math professor or teacher used khan academy in lieu of textbooks, we could begin to see incremental change. But at the k-12 level, I don't see anyone contesting Pearson this decade.

Thanks David!

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