In my latest post, I mentioned an idea of a Chinese version of Coursera, which is entirely based on Chinese language and education resources from Chinese top universities. In that post, I imaged a little bit of its near future, thinking that the long term outcome is hard to predict. Until now I still feel that envisioning what it looks like in 3-5 year is beyond my ability. However, I would like to further explore potential ways of raising fund. One of my biggest concern about "Better Education for Everyone" is that, it will be harder for this project to raise enough capital, comparing to Coursera. As an experimental education revolution, Coursera received a lot of donation from top universities, which are also interested in exploring online education practice. As a for-profit, Coursera also receive significant amount of investment from venture capital. For "Better Education for Everyone", it would be an entire different story. Either way Coursera proved successful here in the U.S. is less likely to work in China, at least now. Then, how could my project achieve break-even?
After careful consideration, I came up with following long-term fund raising/capital acquisition strategies, all of which are based on an assumption that “Better Education for Everyone” could be kicked off successfully in the first place and embrace a user population of at least 100, 000 by the year end of its first year.
- Issuing course certificate
Taking courses at “Better Education for Everyone” will be completely free, and this won’t change not matter how far this program goes in the future. However when there is enough recognition of our education quality from society, we might want to begin issuing certificate to those who successfully complete all the quiz and homework, and pass all the tests of a certain course. The certificate would be optional and not for free, and it might come in multiple format like a formal pdf documentation, or a badge which could show on Weibo.com or Zhihu.com, where some professionals (in industries like IT, designing, data analyzing etc.) are actively networking for better job opportunities (China does not have well-localized LinkedIn). The certificate might be useful in other scenarios as well. For example, if a Chinese student wants to apply for a graduate program, yet he or she does not fulfill all the prerequisite of that specific program, probably a certificate would be a good proof of completing relevant courses. The certificate won’t guarantee any job, nor could it be transformed to formal school credit (at least not for every universities our users comes from), however the value and credential of the certificate would definitely rise with the scaling of our program and benefit the certificate holders more and more.
- Advertising for some relevant recruiters and standardized test training companies
As “Better Education for Everyone” grows, there would be more and more serious and self-motivated learners, many of whom are driven to further their careers. As a result, placing related recruiting information as well as advertisements for companies that provide specific training or self-learning materials for standardized-test would be a revenue generator. For example, one concentration of our course delivery would be finance. We could put recruitment message of finance companies and also advertisement for CFA training class or CFA-related booksellers at the corner of the Blackboard, and a reasonable fee would be collected accordingly.
- Providing head-hunter service and well-tailored advertisement service
This capital acquisition method relies heavily on the great power of massive data. On “Better Education for Everyone”, every time you work on a problem or watch a video, the site remembers what you’ve learned and where you’re spending your time. It keeps all of this data private but exposes powerful statistics to each user. It would just completely change our ability to extract meaningful conclusions from the data. Because this teaching platform can gather so much data about learners, a company could hyper customize its recruitment searches--to find, say, a Python programmer who can learn new languages quickly and is good at interacting with his or her classmates on discussion board. We would have well-rounded data about one person, not only his or her ability in one specific area, but also his or her general behavioral pattern and personal characteristics (for example, does this person has great leadership or not), since on our platform people would engage themselves in a lot of interactions more than just acquiring new knowledge. This kind of information would be very useful for company who is looking for a perfect match. Similarly, thanks to all the data collected from users’ day to day online behavior, we would be able to send them a package of tailor-designed purchasing recommendations (like related books etc.) and collect fees from companies.
What need to be mentioned here is that those data would only be available to outside companies with the authorization of users. We will not “sell” their data or trash their email box against their will. Our every endeavor would aim at benefiting our users (refer them to good job opportunities) instead of hurting them.
- Premium service for companies and individuals
Since “Better Education for Everyone” has abundant professional education resources, it would be a great idea for some small to medium sized companies to outsourcing its employer training program to us. We could work with them to develop tailor-designed course package, which could best serve its requirement. We could try to open new mini-courses specifically catering to a certain companies needs, and also create more opportunities for their employers to interact with course instructors. We will try to make this happen by show them how much money they could save for using our service instead of developing an entire internal training system of their own. Similarly, we could also provide premium service to individuals with a small fee as well, like guarantee certain period of communication time with instructor, or highlight their names in the list we give to potential employers.
- Donation from previous alumni
Last but not least, we would encourage and expect some donation from previous alumni. It won’t be as much as the amount people donate to Yale if they spent 4 years in the yard, yet we believe the 5% people who benefit the most, getting a satisfying job for instance, would be willing to donate some money with our encouragement and invitation.