Ireland-based educational technology company ALISON has hit one million learners base in India and wants to remain as a free platform with advertising as its main revenue stream, its founder Mike Feerick said.
“The first thing to talk about in India is it is so large and needs are great. You cannot ignore India,” Mr. Feerick, who founded ALISON in 2007, said in an interview.
Mr. Feerick was on his first visit to India to interact with policy makers and to explore opportunities for participating in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s skills India mission.
“According to the National Skills Development Corporation 17 per cent of world’s workforce would be in India by 2020. So for us it is an addressable market,” he said.
When compared to other prominent Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) such as Udacity, Coursera and edX, ALISON’s content is not drawn from elite US-based universities, instead it focuses on practical workplace skills. ALISON, which has 7 million learners and over 750 courses, focuses mainly on developing markets such as India and Africa.
ALISON calls itself a ‘for profit social enterprise’ and a single platform focused on workplace skills.
“We are focusing on job skills at lower level. We are not training any one to become neuro scientist. We are training lots of people to speak English, to learn about IT, to learn about basic principles of business, on entrepreneurship this is what we teach,” said Mr. Feerick. Workplace is where the numbers are when compared to the academics, he said.
Silicon Valley based MOOC companies started with lot of fanfare have struggled with low completion rates and some of them have moved to paid model from a free model
Mr. Feerick said his firm’s model would always be free and it would look for advertising for revenue.
This is how it works-The platform provides relevant advertising above and to the side of the courseware being studied. If someone is studying an accountancy course for instance, the chances are a U.S. for-profit online college will be trying to get them to consider paying for a full online accounting degree with them through an advert focused on them.
The advertisements would be 100 per cent education focused, it said.
“One nice element of our model is that if someone in the developing world – say California clicks an advert, we might make as much as $1. If someone in Zimbabwe clicks an ad – studying the exact same course – then we might make 1c euro. Hence, through our advertising model – the developed world subsidies the developing world,” said Mr. Feerick.
Popular services on the web- from Google Search to Facebook rely on advertising and people are not upset by it, he said.
“Bear in mind also that our publishers get a revenue share of the advertising revenue generated around their courseware – so it’s a way of supporting them also to provide their high quality content online for free access to everyone,” Mr. Feerick said.
On the issue of completion rates, Mr. Feerick said that the key is to have shorter duration courses.’ “Our courses are short and self-paced. People do not like to sit for long hours for courses,” he added.
ALISON has 7 million learners, focusing on markets such as India and Africa.