How to make 6-figures teaching online

This is the promise of this course on Udemy. The course usually costs $299, it’s on sale until this Friday for $19! That’s a 93% discount for those of you paying attention!

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I am tempted to take the course, if only for two reasons: 1) I am curious how online teaching is being presented by this “top grossing instructor” and 2) if he’s making a 6-figure income doing this, clearly I am doing something wrong…

But seriously, the $$$ for online instruction is in training and teaching specific skills. Just check out Treehouse and Mammoth Interactive. There’s gold in them that hills.

That may be what some backers of online education in academia are hoping – but “business model” and “academia” are not great partners. To put it in business-y term, the value proposition of academia is very different than say, for Apple. Academia provides both an experience and an asset. A college degree is both the road and the destination – if you define the destination as graduation. If you think that the purpose of a college education is to get a job after graduation, then the value proposition has to change.

What is the value proposition of my class? Students don’t take my classes because they have a burning desire to learn how zombies and history overlap (ok, maybe some of them do), they take it because they need to graduate – that degree may get them a job, but my class, and most of their college courses, are a few steps removed from that job.

So, why take my class? Why get a degree in History at all? If I am not teaching you how to do a job, is it worth your time? Of course it is! The value proposition of a university is no more to be a job training center than to be exclusive bastions of high-brow theory. It is actually possible to train someone to make a chemical buffer, write code or develop video games, explore human or insect anatomy AND read literature, philosophy and history. How else do biologists make sense of the meaning of their work if they cannot contemplate it in a broader humanistic context? Industrial design cannot exist without art history, and the plot of Assassin’s Creed would not exist without a team of historians (who have quite literally, every history student’s dream job).

The value proposition of education is in education. And the value proposition of online ed and hybrid pedagogy is that it gives us better tools with which to engage students and confirm they are in fact learning, especially in large lecture classes. If students are going in to debt to get a degree, let’s give them more than just the hope of a job.

But don’t expect to earn 6-figures of “passive income” (as per the Udemy course) doing so …

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