“Now is the time,” said a recent letter from Udemy, the library of online courses. The ad promised courses on coding websites and minting NFT for $ 13.99, but only during a two-day “flash sale.”
Time-limited offerings, such as flash sales, are just one example of the marketing gimmicks that have become commonplace in recent years as the Internet is overflowing with online course providers who promise to help people learn new skills to advance in their lives. career or personal life. lives.
Simple Google Searchfor example, could lead to “$ 15 discount on $ 99 per course” coupon codes for edX, which provides online courses from some of the world’s most renowned universities. Coursera, another giant ISP that works with traditional colleges, also runs promotions at special rates.
But what did this wave of online transactions mean for the perception of higher education?
Ten years ago, it was hard to imagine a college handing out coupons or making time-limited offers. College is something you have applied for and applied for with a serious intention to graduate.
Today, the growth of online education means that courses can be taken on demand and at a low price. This has brought new players into the space as students seem willing to try offers that do not have formal accreditation, especially in rapidly changing technical fields.
In a crowded market where the geographic barrier has been removed, online education providers say were forced to spend more time, energy and money on marketing. Meanwhile, the noise from employers is that many industries are changing so fast that workers will need to “improve their skills” more often.-making the economy by asking users to take more courses more viable.
In this context, it is probably natural that online course providers are adopting sales tactics that have long been used in other areas.
Deals mean that some students accumulate courses when they see a sale with the intention of getting to them later. But many students who buy courses say they never bypass the courses they buy despite their best intentions. There are even memes that note this trend, for example became viral on Reddit showing a frame from a cartoon depicting a turtle labeled “New Course Udemy,” which joins a group of other turtles labeled “All My Unfinished Courses”.
This is the academic equivalent of subscribing to a gym membership in January in a burst of New Year’s optimism and then rarely going to workouts.
The trend has also inspired bargain hunters who want to get course materials as cheaply or even for free. One Reddit group is dedicated to sharing links to coupon codes for free Udemy courses. (A recent post called: “Coupons can expire at any time, so sign up as soon as possible to get courses for FREE.”)
Greg Kokari, CEO of Udemy, says that because its platform allows anyone to create a video course, just as YouTube allows any user to upload videos, teachers decide whether to use coupons or temporarily make them free. arouse interest. He points out that the platform search algorithm prefers courses with more students, so teachers have an incentive to encourage mass registration.
Coccari defends the model as a model that encourages vendors to make their courses available and constantly update their content to get the best feedback from students. “There are a huge number of updates,” he says of Udemy courses. “Sixty-three percent of our 1,800 top courses have been updated in the last 90 days. They want to improve their content over time to get more views and make more money. ”
Because everyone can publish, courses on popular topics are incredibly competitive. For example, there are more than 1,000 Udemy coding courses in the Python computer language. “The top 10 will be amazing because they compete with everyone else,” Kokari says. “You have to be a very good teacher to get into the top 10.” Nineteen instructors earned more than $ 1 million last year, he adds. As with other user-created platforms, such high salaries are unusual rather than the norm, and many receive little or no income (or choose to keep their courses free all the time).
For some scholars, this trend is a long-awaited impact of transforming higher education into a commodity, which will lead to students viewing college less as a relationship with a teacher and more as a fixed set of knowledge at the lowest possible cost. This was one of the predictions of the late David Noble, an edtech critic, in a 1997 essay “Digital Diploma Mills: Automating Higher Education.”
Noble was also concerned about the impact of online instruction and merchandise on professors – and almost predicted a model for updating Udemy’s courses. “With the consolidation of teaching, teachers as work are involved in the production process designed to effectively create educational products, and thus become subject to all the pressure that has fallen on production workers in other areas undergoing rapid technological transformation from above,” he wrote. professors working in colleges that at the time were just beginning to offer courses and programs online.
“In this context, teachers have much more in common with the historical position of other skilled workers than they want to acknowledge. Like these others, their activities are being restructured through technology to reduce their autonomy, independence and control over their work and to transfer as much knowledge and control in the workplace into the hands of the administration. As in other areas, management is implementing technology primarily for discipline, disqualification and displacement. ”
Of course, colleges and universities still do not offer coupons or time-limited offers for their personal courses (although some argue that many scholarships are essentially disguised coupons). But online education has brought new marketing practices that emphasize the student as a customer.
The question of whether this contributes to affordability (by lowering prices) or lowering quality, and how seriously students take the learning process, or a mixture thereof, is still under discussion.