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L’acquisizione di edX, una vittoria per Coursera?

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Dhawal Shah, CEO di Class Central, discute in grande dettaglio l’acquisizione di edX da parte di 2U, con conseguente trasformazione da nonprofit a Public Benefit Corporation. Shah ha analizzato le dichiarazioni dei redditi di edX e i rapporti trimestrali di 2U per cercare di capire le ragioni di questa acquisizione da 800 milioni di dollari.

The dominant narrative seems to be that this is a win-win for 2U and edX, and that their combination will pose a threat to Coursera.

I’ll argue the opposite: acquiring edX might help 2U sell its expensive programs, but it weakens edX by taking away its biggest (and probably only) advantage over Coursera – an ideological one at that.

Shah riporta le ragione addotte da 2U per l’acquisizione:

In 2020, 2U spent $390 million on marketing and sales to earn $775 million in revenue. This is their single biggest expense, accounting for 40% of all their expenses. This cost is why back in 2019, 2U’s stock dropped by 65% in a single day.

According to 2U, the edX acquisition can reduce these costs by 10–15%, resulting in $40–$60M in annual savings.

L’analisi di Shah però mostra le difficoltà legate a questa strategia:

First, the high cost of 2U programs make them inaccessible to most of the world. (…) Meanwhile, 80% of edX learners are outside the US.

Second, edX itself hasn’t done well converting their learners to their 13 online degrees, which are significantly cheaper than 2U degrees.

So why does 2U think they can do better? It’s because of their “proven marketing engine”.

Questa “proven marketing engine” comprende pratiche poco trasparenti e molto aggressive per acquisire utenti e trasformarli in studenti paganti, inclusi i consigli su come ottenere (spesso onerosi) prestiti:

a webpage for a Trilogy-facilitated data science bootcamp at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte does not market any specific student loan company’s products, but it does indicate that “[a]fter acceptance into the program, you will connect with admissions to discuss which financial option works best for you.”

2U+edX si troverà ora a competere con Coursera, che però presenta alcuni vantaggi rispetto a 2U+edX:

On Coursera, universities:

    • Can reach more learners.
    • Earn more without paying a membership fee.
    • Provide better financial aid (free vs edX’s 90% off).

For learners, on Coursera:

    • Courses are more open (edX has time-based paywalls).
    • The user experience is better (edX UX hasn’t changed much over the years).
    • Certificates are cheaper.

From a financial standpoint, Coursera is clearly the better partner for universities. So this raises a question: why do some universities exclusively partner with edX?

Sha quindi torna al vantaggio ideologico di edX, che però viene ora a mancare con l’acquisizione da parte di 2U:

Based on conversations that I’ve had over the years with industry actors, edX’s advantage boils down to a single word: “nonprofit”. Some universities simply prefer to partner with nonprofits like edX rather than VC-funded companies like Coursera.

EdX’s nonprofit status helped compensate for some of its shortcomings. Over the years, they’ve wielded this status to secure exclusive partnerships with universities, despite charging membership fees. Coursera, on the other hand, doesn’t charge membership fees, and they’re significantly better at monetization.

Shah quindi conclude:

For years, edX presented itself as a morally superior alternative to Coursera due to its nonprofit status. But now, they’re relegated to the status of a “marketplace” that might push thousands of learners into debt.

Immagine di Coursera design team rilasciata sotto licenza Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International .

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