Hollywood Meets Higher Ed

Buried in a NYT story about niche online classes (on sites like CreativeLive) was this line:

“[T]wo of Hollywood’s largest talent agencies, Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Endeavor, have invested small sums in CreativeLive that signal their interest in using the company’s service as a new outlet for their celebrity clients.”

Here’s why this matters: Two of the country’s most unique and potent exports are higher education and Hollywood. Until now, they had little reason to intersect.

But online classes are different than the in-person kind: Not only do they have a huge potential profit upside, given the ability to attract tens of thousands of students worldwide, but they are, at their best, performances. No one likes to say this out loud in academia, but it’s true: the most impactful MOOCs are also entertaining. The teacher does not need to be a singing, dancing, joke-telling maniac, but the teacher does need to be riveting, one way or another. The production quality needs to be high. Or the students will evaporate, clicking off to Facebook or Twitter or one of the many other online classes multiplying on the Internet.

Enter Hollywood.

If these industries combined their talents intelligently, the U.S. could dominate the online learning marketplace for decades to come. But that’s a big If…

EducationAmanda Ripley