This post is a rough patchwork of resources and notes. It’s aiming to explore the intersection of online learning, online course marketplaces, education entrepreneurship, course creator economies/economics, side hustling, digital products, education-as-commodity, and digital learning platforms.

In describing education/learning models other than MOOCs, in 2014 Tannis Morgan identifies 3 models:

  • Affinity Group Learning: ¬†MOOC-like without the course
  • Subscription-based learning sites
  • Micro-content affinity sites

(Aside: These could be mapped to the social learning typology of groups, networks, sets, and collectives described by Dron and Anderson)

In 2019, Tannis re-examines these models and brings them together under the umbrella of “course content marketplace.” The focus is pretty much learning experience platforms (LXPs).

What I’d like to specifically focus on here is the online course marketplace and course creators (outside of higher ed).

Focusing on the LXPs, Tannis writes that back in 2014 course creators were (mostly) using “WordPress and Woo commerce, and it took some determination and persistence to get things going for the average non expert.” Fast forward to 2019: “So no surprise that a new marketplace for Online Course Platforms (different from the LMS) has sprung up, with affordable subscription models to get the side hustler with no instructional design skills and few multimedia skills up and running in a few days with their online course.”

What’s it like in 2021?

DIY-solutions using WordPress, or outsourcing the WordPress-based design and development is still going strong.

Platforms that make it easy to quickly set up and sell asynchronous courses

Some of these include memberships and communities.

  • Examples: some of the platforms above, plus Kajabi

And, most-recently, cohort-based course-selling platforms a la Section4:

  • Examples: Maven, Jiruto
  • Aug 19 update: i.e. platforms that bring together multiple tools to make it easy to sell synchornous courses
  • Aug 24 update: There many more platforms in this space: eg. lu.ma, Disco

The products developed from these are often called courses, but they’re also framed as institutes or academies.

Right now these platforms seem to be selling tools to course creators to launch their courses, and aren’t quite marketplaces just yet, i.e. spaces where users can browse and buy courses from various providers a la Udemy.

Most of these platforms

  • create groups (rather than networks or collectives, per Dron & Anderson),
  • are a radical departure from the ethos and aspirations of the open learning community,

I’ll pause here. More connecting threads hopefully soon. If you’ve come this far, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these.