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The Teaching Company
January 14, 2010 - 9:41pm

Have any of you ever purchased a set of DVDs or audio CDs from The Teaching Company? We got a catalog in at home in the mail yesterday, it felt like an artifact from another era.

The Web site for The Teaching Company reads:

"The Teaching Company brings engaging professors into your home or car through courses on DVD, audio CD, and other formats. Since 1990, great teachers from the Ivy League, Stanford, Georgetown, and other leading colleges and universities have crafted over 250 courses for lifelong learners like you. It's the adventure of learning without the homework or exams."

You can order courses with titles like: "Before 1776: Life in the American Colonies" or "Skeptics and Believers: Religious Debate in the Western Intellectual Tradition" (both $99.95 DVD, or $49.95 CD or audio download).

The selection is fantastic. The professors all look brilliant.

Is there a place in this world for The Teaching Company's business model in an era of iTunesU and YouTube/EDU? Can The Teaching Company survive in competition with Open Yale Courses and Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative?

How can The Teaching Company compete with free?

Perhaps the main audience for The Teaching Company courses are those less likely to be big consumers of Web content. Members of a certain demographic do not want to view or listen to courses online, and the DVD or CD meets their needs. This does not exactly bode well for the future growth of The Teaching Company, but at least it is in good company with other industries (i.e. newspapers).

Should The Teaching Company put lectures online, opening up a new revenue stream with advertising? Perhaps the content and the back catalogue of The Teaching Company is more valuable than the new sales that could be generated. Perhaps Google should buy the company, and put all the courses on YouTube going back to 1990. They could immediately create a deep content channel in education.

Or perhaps a lecture capture company like Tegrity or Echo 360 should partner with The Teaching Company to record lectures using their platform. The lectures could serve as an advertisement for the lecture capture solution, wide distribution could be achieved through online (ad supported) sites, and additional dollars from DVDs and CDs could be realized. Partnering with a lecture capture company could also broaden the range of content, as the costs to record and produce the lectures would drop dramatically. The best lecturers could receive the full, high production recording and editing treatment - with their lectures being sold through the DVD channel.

What would you do if you owned The Teaching Company? How would you compete for paid content while high quality, free educational and lecture content is growing exponentially on the Web? Do you think The Teaching Company can keep its existing model, or should they be adopting some sort of Web strategy?


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