Jeffrey R. Young
May 6, 2022
“Now is the time,” said a recent promotional email from Udemy, a library of online courses. The ad promised courses on coding websites and minting NFTs for cut rates as low as $13.99, but only during a two-day “flash sale.”
Limited time offers like flash sales are just one example of the kinds of marketing gimmicks that have become common in the past few years as the internet has become flooded with online course providers promising to help people learn new skills to get ahead in their careers or personal lives.
A simple Google search, for instance, might lead to “$15 off $99 on courses” coupon codes for edX, which provides online courses from some of the world’s most well-known universities. Coursera, another giant online provider that works with traditional colleges, runs special rate promotions as well.
But what has this wave of online bargains meant for perceptions of higher education?
A decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine a college handing out coupons or running limited-time offers. College was something you applied to get into, and entered with a seriousness of intent to complete.
Today, the rise of online education means courses can be taken on-demand, and at low cost. That’s brought new players to the space, since students seem willing to try offerings that don’t have formal accreditation, especially in fast-changing technical fields.
In a crowded market, where the barrier of geography has been eliminated, providers of online education say they have been forced to spend more time, energy and money on marketing. The buzz from employers, meanwhile, is that many industries are changing so fast that workers will need to “upskill” more often—making the economics of asking users to take more courses more viable.