Millions of people are looking to learn new skills online yet current platforms like Udemy lack the community and topic-based interaction necessary to build truly immersive educational experiences. This hole is paving the way for a new generation of startups that are unbundling Udemy through a mix of community, interactivity, and high-quality content.
Let me begin by saying that Udemy is a fantastic company and has done a lot of good in this world. With over 100 million visits per month (!!), Udemy has become the reskilling and upskilling course powerhouse and is worth well over 2 billion dollars.
Udemy and its competitors have enabled people to:
Easily access simple resources for hobbies (ie: playing piano)
Learn new skills that earn people more money or allow them to become freelancers/entrepreneurs
Have an alternative to traditional education, which doesn't adapt to each person's passions and needs
Gagan Biyani, co-founder of Udemy has explained his vision for the company: “To let anyone enter the marketplace, in the same way that blogging let anyone with a computer publish online.” The keyword here is anyone because that supports a platform that showcases everything to everyone.
Everything to everyone is not nearly the optimal learning environment (see my post on The Unbundling of Reddit). Udemy prides itself on its vast catalogue to "study any topic". But, vast has passed. As the internet is becoming increasingly bespoke, we crave smaller, more thoughtful communities.
Education 1.0: learn by seeing
Education 1.0 created companies that were content-only. I'm talking about Udemy, Coursera, Skillshare and Masterclass (premium version of Udemy). 1.0 was about uploading high-quality content for the masses to consume. 1.0 was competing against IRL courses and YouTube videos. It provided context, discoverability and quality.
Education 2.0: learn by doing
Education 2.0 created companies that combined content (usually videos) with hands-on tools to learn by doing. When I say this, I'm talking about companies like Codeacademy that dialed into a vertical (ie: coding) and combined it with a purpose-built utility app for education in that vertical. Layered on top was a conversational component — a loose social layer — but not a true community!
Education 3.0: learn together
Education 3.0 created companies that were designed to replicate the social experience of college, a book club, or group class online. Part of the fun of learning a new skill is the social aspect, which is lost on 99% of edtech startups who think too transactionally and — dare I say — too efficiently.
3.0 is highly verticalized (versus broad platforms like Udemy). A genuine concentration on a single vertical allows for a community to emerge. Almost spontaneously and beautifully.
One of my favorite recent examples is Mirai, which is the 3.0 poster child in the bonsai education space. This is a 3.0 platform that combines live lessons, with on-demand video content, Q&A sessions and a thriving community.
Other examples include Makerpad (the school for the no-code movement) and Superhi (the new art school). Yet, despite the increase in the amount of startups in the space, there is still tremendous opportunity to scout for verticals that are not served by the broader platforms.
Why CourseTech is taking off:
Demand for courses is at an all-time high. Skilling and upskilling has become a necessity as unemployment is high and global competition skyrockets
It's efficient. Companies like Mirai and Makerpad are proving to be an efficient and delightful way to learn
The passion economy. Platforms like Udemy enable anyone in the world who wants to teach, find an audience and make money
We've only scratched the surface with the unbundling of Udemy. There are many more verticals, and interesting social dynamics to apply to this new wave of education 3.0 startups.
I'm excited to see what you come up with.
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Ministry of Testing is another example that does this. Started as a community, did irl conferences and events, a whole network of community run meetups, online AMAs, community articles, podcasts, Masterclasses, started building a custom online platform 5 years ago...and now (due to covid) now focusing all online.
Sounds like exactly what Phlywheel is doing. ;)