March 22, 2006

Online Courses: Content for Web 2.0

Just discovered the Barnes and Noble University site, which has a bunch of free online courses from improving your lawn to speaking German.

Barnes & Noble University

Sure, some of these are "online reading groups" where the point is to buy a book (ahem), read it, and talk about it with other like-minded folks, but others seem like the kind of thing you'd get from your local Learning Annex.

I thought it was interesting seeing more of these online course offerings from "non-content" businesses. For example, Hewlett Packard offers online courses through their Small Business site, on topics like XML, MS Office, and, naturally, ways to print more things and use up more of those $50 Vivera ink cartridges:

HP Online Classes

To me, this trend means a couple of things:

  1. Costs of running online classes are dropping. So providing the infrastructure (servers, chatroom, forum, etc) is really cheap now. Bandwidth is high and cheap, both on the hosting side and on the student side, with DSL and cable broadband penetration going up. It's therefore easier to have "guest" instructors host sessions from wherever they are in the world.
  2. Benefits of running the classes are increasing. Back in the ad-supported content days, About and other like-minded content sites could make enough money on the ad impressions to make online learning a viable model. But the ad dollars fell back. I guess the sell-through, of books, printer cartridges, digital cameras, and the like is getting better. But more importantly, the capturing of a customer in a relationship, because you need to enroll and thus provide all sorts of contact data about yourself before you can take a class, is the main thing. Competition for customers must be getting rougher.

Nevertheless, some of these courses do sound interesting. I wonder if they can swing a martial arts class online?

Posted by jameshom at March 22, 2006 10:06 AM | TrackBack
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