Monetizing MOOCs

by scott pickard

My neighbor is a professor in computer science and he is developing a new Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) and I’m going to meet with him to find out what kind of ePUBS and/or POD documents he wants to offer students. The crazy thing about these Coursera courses is they get sometimes over 30,000 students worldwide that register for just one course. Take a look at the universities and other organizations that are jumping on this bandwagon:

Here’s a link to a course in “cloud computing concepts”:  The course is free but you can earn a “Verified Certificate” which is part of a series of courses in cloud computing. It says that no textbook is required.

I think some of these instructors wouldn’t mind giving the global student the option of downloading some ePUBS and/or Print-on-Demand (POD) class notes and/or textbook. Many students still like to have a hard copy of something which they can carry around and annotate and doodle on.

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monetize MOOCs with print-on-demand

The exciting thing about this is that each course can attract anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 students or more to register from across the world, and this is only going to grow as more and more hiring corporations value “skills verification” which can very cost-effectively be obtained via these MOOCs. The number of registered students is driven by the brand name of the professor and the demand for the particular topic. Clearly any topic that adds to a student’s “verified skills,” builds credits toward a degree, and ultimately leads to a good-paying job will be in high demand. Since the student is already able to take the course for free, the marginal cost to pay a modest amount for some E and/or POD publications is something many students would opt in for (i.e., pay for). So you have this massive captive market of students for each course, and right now it looks like there’s really no cloud-based platform for them to get course-related materials.

The “Verified Certificate” is one way they (Coursera and partner institutions) monetize the course. The cloud computing concept certificate is $49. Downloaded E and/or POD course materials would be a second way of monetizing.

Another interesting development is the “Amazon Campus” just announced:



I am working with the CEO of iENGINEERING (Washington, DC) to prepare and lunch iManuscript as an end-to-end online digital and Print-on-Demand (POD) publishing service available to commercial and nonprofit publishers and distributors.

iManuscript is a digital rights management solution integrated with Adobe Content Server.  iManuscript can secure and deliver in both PDF and ePUB file formats, making digital publications available worldwide with support for all popular media platforms. With iManuscript, customers retain control over the complete flow of information, right down to how and when the files can be viewed, individual device access, and copy and print permissions.  For those customers wanting hard copy, iManuscript provides complete black-and-white and color POD capabilities in any binding format, any page length.  iManuscript also provides a fully customizable online bookstore if the customer does not already have an e-commerce platform.

The scope of my work includes:

  • Prototyping and testing the service end-to-end
  • Fine-tuning the website content
  • Developing the necessary marketing collateral materials
  • Setting up Microsoft Dynamics CRM as the primary sales management system
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We expect to be generating iManuscript customers by the end of the year.