The Three C’s of EdTech

By Hillary Bush

The current higher education “bundle” is comprised of three value drivers:

📕 Content

🍻 Community

📜 Certification

I think EdTech startups can succeed if they do two well, or absolutely crush one of these.

Let’s look at some examples:

It’s unlikely someone will hire you because you took Werner Herzog’s MasterClass, but filmmakers, writers, and professionals have long benefited from watching videos of master practitioners. Lynda and Gnomon have been doing this since the 1990s.

By partnering with unbelievable instructors and producing HBO-level content, MasterClass both over-delivered and redefined what an online class can be. It’s also possible to succeed with lower production value niche content monetized on YouTube and Patreon.

By offering cohort-based classes targeted as specific professional outcomes (start a podcast! scale your community!) they’re able to connect a bunch of ambitious and highly engaged people, very similar to the Y Combinator model.

Their content is solid, but it is the networks they create that supercharge people’s careers. By focusing on some of tech’s most impressive up-and-comers they’ve effectively bootstrapped a new form of certification that people put on their resume.

The reality is that most of the content in these classes can be learned for free on YouTube, but Berkeley imprimatur gives students confidence in the course quality and instant cachet on LinkedIn.

Online nursing certificate programs also demonstrate the power of certification. The content is functional, the community is non-existent, but they did the work of satisfying licensing boards which creates an immediate and unambiguous ROI for students.

This working thesis gets updated with every founder I meet. You can read more about my thinking here:

If you have thoughts on these pillars or the future of EdTech, please reach out.

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