This is the first post of a series of thoughts about online learning platforms. I will focus on problems and chances I see for these businesses.
In this post I’ll be talking about online teachers. What do they want and where are the main issues right now?
Before we start lets define a mercenary.
It is known that their main desire is to gain wealth by selling their services to an employer and that most of them know their business. They are not known for any loyalty except their loyalty to money and their personal advantages.
I know, I can already hear the screams of my colleagues that this is not true, that they are teaching people for a better reason but as long as we are not living in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek universe we all need to make money. That does not mean that we don’t love what we do. We love the battlefield (classroom) but we love the possibility to earn money the same. Otherwise we would all give free lessons everyday, right?
Another option exists of course: For those that don’t like the idea of being a mercenary you can always sign up for the regular army and becoming a regular combattant. Advantage: you had a regular income and work. Drawback: Your employer will choose the battlefield and you will have to go – no discussion. And the income would likely be lower compared to what a mercenary can earn.
If we now change the perspective to the owner of a platform we have to ask ourselves
1) How do we get mercenaries to work for us?
2) How can we keep them loyal to us?
Well point 1 is simple. We tell them that they will earn lots of money with us because we know that those mercenaries just want to make money. Therefore we hang up signs like “earn a fulltime income by teaching here” or “everyone can teach” and so on and so forth. Now we can be pretty sure that we will get lots and lots of mercenaries running our door in.
But here comes the tricky part. How do we keep them loyal? Mercenaries love to fight (teach) and of course we only pay them when they do their job. That’s the reason we “hired” them for. But now they are just sitting around the campfire, rolling dices, sharpening their weapons waiting for the battle. But there is no battle in sight.
Soon our mercenaries start asking us questions like “When will the battle start?” “Where are the combatants (students)?” and most importantly “You said I can get rich here! Where is my money?”.
What we have to do now is to avoid tensions. There are several things we can do. First we tell them that “We are working hard on it. Next month, the battle will start.” Then we can give them decoration or titles or jobs with a bit of responsibility. And this has even more advantages for us: it does not cost anything (a virtual badge next to the username) and we get them to work for us for no payment (making them moderators in our forums).
Plus it will give us some extra time to start the war.
But what happens if there is a war and nobody is coming?
Most platforms are at that point right now. They hired huge armies without an enemy at sight. Their mercenaries are starting to revolt sooner than later. Some of them change the employer just to find out that he has the same problems like the old one.
So what do they do? They turn against their employers, burn down their cities and take everything that it worth something. Maybe they will form little groups or start searching for someone to battle on their own. Or they sell their weapons and do something else.
Most platforms seem to be fairly shocked when this is happening and right now it seems to happen most about everywhere. Again: Don’t expect loyalty from a mercenary. Some of them might stick with you longer than others because they are too lazy to stand up and look for another employer or because they are well decorated but in the end they will fight for the one who pays them.