The Expert’s Guide to Capitalizing on the Exploding Lifelong Education Market

I must admit that I was pretty excited to receive a copy of Jeff Cobb’s new book, Leading the Learning Revolution, in the mail recently.  While not necessarily association, or even eLearning specific, Jeff drives home the point that the Learning Revolution is here, and that it’s time to capitalize on it. Although this book will definitely be used as a business class textbook (especially for online courses covering distance education), it reads more like a smoothly written New Yorker article.  As an “education entrepreneur” I see the many potential ways businesses, associations and educational institutions can profit and grow because of the need and current focus on lifelong learning.  This book might show you the way.  I have a great deal of respect for author Jeff Cobb and this review will most definitely expose my personal bias.

The Review:

In the books introduction, Cobb challenges readers to become involved in what he considers a revolution and asserts he has the road map to follow.  Ingredients of this road map include: how to assess the market, creating the business model, appreciating pricing strategies, tips for designing the product, ideas on mastering the tools, well applied marketing concepts, and understanding sustainability and leadership.  Let’s evaluate how well he navigates these business concepts.

Fully Understand Your Market: Chapters 1 and 2

Why should you enter the learning market?  Cobb gives you the rationale and footings in Chapter 1.  He outlines the changes happening in the world and their effects on the business of education.  By focusing on the economy of learning, the recent transformation of technology, the ease and accessibility of technology, mass audiences created by the Internet, and other specific topics that relate to the learning industry, Cobb relays why learning is an opportunity open to success and profit.  In Chapter 2 Cobb begins the journey with tips on evaluating the need. He teaches the reader how to make a market assessment, the four steps to do so, and why you should never stop assessing and testing.  Check your theories, and then recheck them.  Highlight new needs and uncover both allies and competition.  Although easier said than done, I agree with Cobb that it is the foundation from which to build from and that leveraging the Google Keyword Tool is where you should start digging.

Determine Your Business Model and Positioning: Chapters 3 and 4

Cobb delivers several compelling stories, some personal, to help you discover a model that you can be passionate about. Thinking deeply about the four business models he details is worth the price of the book.  These models include: P by power of two communities, Flipped, Virtual Conference, and Massive. In order for any model to work, you have to apply strategies to stand out, to bring something valuable to the customer. Cobb sites the Steve Jobs theory: figure out what your customers need and want before they can.  Get started by determining how you are going to stand out from the competitors.  In Chapter 4, Cobb highlights that no matter how perfectly you are doing something, there will always be others trying to do it too.  It is imperative to stand out among the crowd.  He gives tips to be “unique,” “memorable,” and “remarkable.”  And he suggests yet another tool, the Accelerant Curve, to plot out your very own value continuum when considering pricing strategies.

Design and Develop Learning Experiences: Chapters 5 and 6

There is “educational junk” available online that may not be worth the free admission.  People are hesitant to even give out an e-mail address in fear of one more daily e-mail flooding their inbox.  Create something worth viewing.  Chapter 5 teaches the basics of instructional design.  Cobb highlights “Seven Rules to Teach and Facilitate By: Position it, Prune it, Chunk it, Stimulate multiple senses, Remember to repeat to remember, Make it active, and Share the responsibility.”  Can you do it?  He’ll tell you how in Chapter 6.  It is here that Cobb shares inexpensive tools that help when developing content.

Stay Connected, Promote, and Convert: Chapters 7 and 8

Build a strong audience so that when a new learning need arises, you are automatically the one people go to.  Embrace the process of searching for needs in the industry continually; stay attuned to the needs of your customers.  If lifelong learning is what Cobb is talking about, you can’t stop after development of one good product.  To be successful, be able to change.  These are the topics of Chapter 7.  What to do once you’ve mastered these skills? Promote.  Chapter 8 teaches you how to leverage your efforts and convert prospects to customers.

Execute for Impact and Change: Chapters 9 and 10

Chapters 9 and 10 teach you to first do and then lead.  While some are able to create great plans and ideas, it doesn’t get them anywhere until they take those ideas to action.  Don’t get held up in the “next-big-thing” problem—always wanting to create what the newest demand is.  Develop a product and make it better.  Consistently think about the larger market and how needs will evolve over a lifetime.  Give learners the power to decide what they want and need and who they will reach out to in order to fulfill these desires.  As Cobb puts it, “We’ve got a revolution to lead.”

What to do now?

Jeff Cobb’s book, Leading the Learning Revolution, provides step by step advice to begin a business in the education market online.  The cost of entry to take advantage of the growing need for life long learning continues to drop.  Getting on the road to success takes only a quick read of this book and the decision to passionately apply its advice.

Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich.  Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.