I am not really big on “what-ifs”, but I thought about an interesting concept recently as I pondered the current state of our industry. When you consider that e-learning (and now m-learning) is growing exponentially in terms of revenue generated, it’s not all that inconceivable to think that a juggernaut like Google would enter the fray to get their piece of the pie. I mean, think about it. They certainly have all the technical know-how, the brand name, the reach, the resources, among other things, to enter the market and make a big splash. But in what capacity would they enter?
Google isn’t really big on making software, so I can’t see them ever entering the rapid e-learning industry, that seems safe to say. However, they do have the chops to get into the learning management system realm should they wish, perhaps by enhancing the Google Drive capabilities. But again, I think this is still outside of their normal operating protocol.
If Google were to enter our industry, I think it would be most likely that they enter the MOOC realm. I dunno, call it a hunch, but I think Google has the ability to monetize the MOOC business model better than the MOOCs themselves. Partly because they already have the technology, and also the experience in building revenue generators from free services.
Beyond the monetary benefits, they would certainly profit from the good press that comes with MOOCs. Undoubtedly there would be prestigious universities getting in line to sign-up with one of the most successful companies of the modern era. Their technical infrastructure would simply outclass the other MOOCs, and their talent pool is deep, broad, and seemingly unlimited.
Of course, Google could go another route and just purchase an existing MOOC (or any e-learning company for that matter). Imagine where instead of “Coursera”, you had “Coursera by Google”. By taking this approach, Google can see how the MOOC industry plays out before putting any intellectual or monetary capital into the field. In fact, they could wait to see who the industry leader is and then swoop in and acquire them. Think that’s not possible? Well, the investors of Coursera committed somewhere near $25 million to the cause, and they certainly are looking for a return on their investment. If Google comes knocking, you usually say “yes”.
I think I would have mixed feelings if Google did enter our field. Mainly because it kind of feels like Walmart entering your small hometown. I wouldn’t be surprised though to see some major players enter the e-learning industry in some capacity, the potential revenue is just too enticing.