January 13th, 2013 Course Creation

googegI 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.

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About Justin Ferriman

Justin started LearnDash, the WordPress LMS trusted by Fortune 500 companies, major universities, training organizations, and entrepreneurs worldwide. He is currently founder & CEO of GapScout. Justin's Homepage | GapScout | Twitter

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Thanks for the post, it reminded me of a few similar conversations I have had, this seems to be the ‘What If’ that will not go away!

I remember having conversations a while back that people thought an LMS purchase would plug the gap between Google for Enterprise/Education and some of their other offerings (ebooks, personalized search, etc).

MOOCs, or at least a shared platform for cross-institutional collaboration, could be another approach. Your ‘Coursera by Google’ is an interesting concept, I had not thought of but they are already supporting other MOOCs through the technology provisions (http://www.olds.ac.uk/) and running their own on a platform they have made available (https://code.google.com/p/course-builder/).

The big missing part if you were to adopt their MOOC platform (and look to integrate with a corporate Gmail/Drive system) would perhaps be maintaining robustness in assessment? Perhaps either a testing company (to compete with Pearson etc) or an eLearning authoring tool with proven quality in authoring SCORM my be a target?

I’ll say Google has entered the business of elearning and moocs, please read the letter :

” The Course Builder open source project is an experimental early step for us in the world of online education. It is a snapshot of an approach we found useful and an indication of our future direction. We hope to continue development along these lines, but we wanted to make this limited code base available now, to see what early adopters will do with it, and to explore the future of learning technology. We will be hosting a community building event in the upcoming months to help more people get started using this software. edX shares in the open source vision for online learning platforms, and Google and the edX team are in discussions about open standards and technology sharing for course platforms. “

Hello Jessie, you are spot on and actually we have taken Google Course Builder and made it Tin Can enabled and Indiana University is using it for an online MOOC of about 1000 students.

I am not the biggest fan of Google in the world, i think they do a lot fo things badly, but i think they would/could lend themselves to MOOCs very well.

Avatar Jamie Lepiorz

Justin, surely Google is already in the e-learning industry? Arguably it’s the biggest provider of e-learning already through its search engine, as well as Google Docs and tools people use regularly for work and learning, I would be very surprised (as you comment) if Google decided to enter either the regular LMS or authoring business. That is not their business model. Would Google purchase an existing MOOC provider? I’m not sure. They have the cash and the bandwidth but Google is focused on exploiting user-information – for example its highly successful and profitable AdWords. E-learning, by comparison is a low profit game. I rather think that Google will continue to be the world’s biggest e-learning provider by adding highly powerful social networking to its search capability. 2013 is the year when Google+ will really start to become a valuable tool for business and for learning

Google could enter the e/m-learning industry through a number of different fronts. They are already targeting the ed sector with a Chromebook initiative, tightly aligned to an administrator console enabling schools/districts to subscribe to, and/or bulk purchase digital applications:


Avatar Mike Pastor

It does fit their Mission statement: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Education is one of the best ways to access the world’s information. If you can be the channel for “online education”, you’re IT!

Google developers (in-house and informal) clearly have interest and insights into the needs of education as some above have given examples.
— Use of google docs/drive for writing courses
— Use of google forms/spreadsheets for quizzing and surveying learners
— google Hangouts for live online instruction
— google “classroom” website templates that some of us have used for years
— Heck I’m even using google to track conversion & proofing process of about 100 courses into new software.

MOOCS would be natural next step.

I’d even love to see what they could do with an LMS development project.

Avatar CandaceID

Good post…thanks for sharing. That is what happens when you get a bunch of smart people together looking for alpha. Education is the 2nd largest component of the US Economy at $1.3 Trillion so its going to attract lots of interest. Google has already contributed to education with search and google docs so it seems a natural to want to develop that part of the business further.

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