I recently wrote a post titled, Using Degreed to Enhance the Value of the Learning You Create. In it, I shared why I thought Degreed, an emerging lifelong learning platform, might be an intriguing tool for independent instructors, solo entrepreneurs, and creators in helping them cultivate and grow an audience of like-minded learners.

I want to return to it now after taking the time over the past few weeks to think more deeply about the platform and how we might use it.

If you’re a course creator, there are numerous factors you must weigh when deciding what online learning marketplace is the best home for your course. 

- What learning platform aligns most with the audience I want to reach?

- How much marketing will I have to do on my own?

- Does this platform require exclusivity, or will I be able to offer my course at other online sites?

The answers to these kinds of questions will go a long way in helping you determine what course platform will work best for you. More than any other question I hear, though, is:

How will I be compensated?

I listen to the podcast of Tim Ferriss. A lot.

For those who haven’t yet, in each episode, he attempts to “deconstruct world class performers” in an effort to allow his audience to peer into the mind of these extraordinary individuals. The podcast, with millions of listeners, is consistently rated at the top of the iTunes rankings and virtually every other podcast distribution network. Why?

For 60+ minutes each episode, we learn informally from some of the most interesting people in the world. These conversations span topics related to the guest’s “favorite books, morning routines, exercise habits, time-management tricks, and much more.” I find myself jotting down notes as I listen to each episode or reviewing the show notes so I can find the books and resources mentioned throughout each interview.

When you think about “learning,” listening to a podcast may not be what typically comes to mind. What Ferriss has done, though, is create a platform for his audience to connect (in some small way) with an expert. We get to see what makes them tick. We are offered a brief glimpse into what they’ve learned and some of the resources and tools that brought them there. As a listener and learner, it makes for an incredibly effective, engaging approach.

Now, what if we could replicate Ferriss’ model and scale it in such a way that other niche-based experts, instructors, and entrepreneurs seeking to share what they’re learning could readily do so with a community of learners who might want such insights? 

Could building an audience centered around a network of visible learning be of greater benefit than, say, following someone on Twitter?

How should instructors and those who create courses understand the “course” in a changing marketplace?

When we witness companies in the lifelong learning space obtain $65 million dollars in additional investment capital to grow their platform, or get acquired for well over a BILLION dollars, it kind of forces you to pick your jaw up off the floor and take notice. At their core, these are businesses that deal in something so familiar - the course - and yet at those lofty valuations it feels anything but.

Let’s flesh out a few rough ideas related to what the course is...

You may not realize the largest local class providers in your area have existed for decades. They’re community & continuing education programs at community colleges. 

In California alone, there are 113 community colleges in 72 community college districts. It is the largest system of higher education in the world, comprising 2.4 million+ students. (See also: California Community College Chancellor's Office (CCCCO))

So, yep, you guessed it, I plan to speak of them a lot. Part of why is rooted in my professional experience, and the other is driven by what I perceive to be their untapped power. 

For an instructor wanting to connect to a new audience, or an online learning provider/edtech company looking to cultivate meaningful inroads into higher education, this is the place to be.