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: https://www.coursera.org/about/partners
Here’s a link to a course in “cloud computing concepts”: https://www.coursera.org/course/cloudcomputing. 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.
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: http://www.amazon.com/gp/campus/info.
The first thing I would do is identify all the local startup business incubators and/or co-working facilities in your community, especially the ones that seem to be the best fit to your idea. Usually these places have an open-door policy that allows people to come in with new ideas that have the potential to later on develop into new products/businesses. They’ve got their finger on the pulse of all the local attorneys who provide patent services, and in some cases you can get a sit-down session with one of these attorneys at no cost. See how far you can get without having to spend any money.
Another thing you should do is attend an entrepreneur’s mixer(s) at these incubators and do some social networking with the entrepreneurs and staff because they’ve been down this path before and they will know who to contact and who not to contact.
Describe the importance of public libraries.
I often run past the UIUC underground library, and one day I stopped to read the words inscribed on the stone wall: “Let this be a holy place for the human spirit consecrated to the forces which magnify the soul,” and, “Books are alive to the man who knows how to use these sources of inspiration and power.” The clarity and truth in these quotes has made a lasting impression on me and emphasizes so well the importance of libraries.
Describe your background and what you bring to the board.
My background is a combination of engineering, entrepreneurship, and writing/editing. I have served on many for-profit and non-profit boards, so good governance is a special interest of mine. My family has lived in the same house for 30 years only blocks from the CPL, so this library has played a special role with our family and my kids growing up.
Tell us a little bit about your family, pets, etc.
My wife Karen and I have been married 42 years. We have three children and three granddaughters. I’m an avid runner, tennis player, golfer, traveler, reader, writer, and tinkerer.
What have you read, watched, or listened to lately?
Read: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Watched: The Golden Globes, mostly to see and hear the comedy genius of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. I listen to NPR just about all day, every day.
Sitting there in the meeting this morning and my mind wandering a bit (been doing that since first grade), I thought: “When/if the research grant goes away, what happens?”
Does the Research Center just go poof, everybody blowing away in the breeze to a new position, some repotted at the University in various departments; some going out to private industry; some retiring?
Then I thought about everything that is inside these walls. If you draw a box around this place and call it “Proprietary Intellectual Property (PIP),” it’s market value as a going concern is substantial when you include:
- Documents in general
- Calculators, algorithms, rules-of-thumb
- Archive of reports
- Processes and procedures
- Everything that’s on the web site: content, pictures, videos
- Curriculum, courseware, workshop and presentation materials
- Marketing and general collateral materials
- Database(s) and data
- Product info, specs, costs
- The Center’s collective rolodex of professional, industry, governmental contacts
- The Center’s brand identity and goodwill
- The Center team and their collective expertise and experience
- Continuing access to the best students
In a shutdown scenario, who “owns” the PIP? The University? The Funding Sponsor? Would either even be interested?
The big idea I’m left with is you could develop a business plan for the inevitable and at that time, license out the entire PIP by mutual agreement with the University and/or the Sponsor, and reboot the Center as a commercial enterprise. If you chose to do it big, you could attract some equity capital to fund startup costs for space, equipment, and competitive industry salaries, benefits, etc.
And that begins a whole new story.