To be a professor, you need a classroom packed with bright-eyed students eager to soak up your sage advice, right? Wrong. All you now need is Professor Direct, a platform designed by StraighterLine to eliminate the classroom all together. Sure, you’ll still need students, and they’ll need to be willing to pay you at least $49, but $49 sure is cheaper than any college’s thousands-of-dollars worth of tuition.
StraighterLine—pegged one of the 10 most innovative companies in education “for developing an online for-profit college where the first year costs $999″—announced Professor Direct in December. Described as a new kind of eBay, the platform allows professors to set their own sticker price and sell their courses directly to students.
The costs professors set do need to be above StraighterLine’s $49 base price, but every dollar above that goes directly into professors’ pockets. Say an educator charges $99 to teach students all about accounting. StraighterLine keeps $49 and the professor rakes in the remaining $50, all without ever having to stand monotonously lecturing in the front of a classroom.
Dozens of colleges, including Bay State and Fisher, have already started accepting StraighterLine courses for transfer credit. And, as David Wagner of Enterprise Efficiency points out, “Given the ability to pack literally thousands of students into a class, it wouldn’t take too many students, even at $100 per student, to outstrip the salary of a college professor.”
Until employers start taking online learning more seriously, though, college students will continue to keep shelling out the dough for a degree—something Professor Direct doesn’t offer. Professors will also need to work a bit harder to lure students to their online classes. Wagner mentions the prestige factor, writing:
One must be at the right university or write the right book to build the superstar status that would command the fees and bring in the class sizes that would make being an unaffiliated professor lucrative.
Yet, the thought of world class professors even having the opportunity to opt out of teaching at an Ivy League Institute to make just as much money online is eye-opening. Talk about being scared of online education—although professors won’t be the ones frightened. They won’t need their schools. Their schools will be the ones needing them.
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