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Thought Leaders in Online Education: Brian Kibby, CEO of Modern Campus (Part 3)

Posted on Thursday, Aug 19th 2021

Sramana Mitra: I think there is a lot of interesting material out there. In this series, we talked to people like Thinkific. They’re operating as a Shopify for online educators. There’s a tremendous amount of teaching online going on right now. Platforms are enabling that process. If I’m running a continuing education program and I want to scale rapidly, a very effective way would be to find a curated set of high-quality courses from instructors who’ve already built these courses.

I have a global reputation in teaching entrepreneurship. I would be very interested on working with your 150 CE providers. We have no problem on the certification side because we don’t offer certifications. 

Brian Kibby: I agree with what you’re saying. One of the opportunities is to think more commercially. I’ll use University of Illinois. My son is a straight A History major. He has never received marketing from the school’s CE. They just don’t think commercially. 

Sramana Mitra: They need to think of themselves as channels. How they fill up their catalog is a strategy that they have to think about commercially.

Brian Kibby: Here’s an example. You have 4,800 colleges and universities. You only have a handful that are thinking like true entrepreneurs. Dr. Crow from ASU is an example. He’s been doing this for 15 years now. Just follow what he is doing. Adapt it to your market. One of the biggest issues is that many are not commercially-minded. 

Sramana Mitra: In this series, we’ve seen many of those people that you talked about. We’ve covered the edX story. I went to MIT for grad school. My advisor at MIT became the President of edX. edX recently sold to U2. Your point is very well-taken that there is a huge gap in how universities are thinking about this not-invented-here phenomenon. It’s holding them back. 

Brian Kibby: It’s not only holding them back; it’s going to put them out of business. You have yourself as an example. You have everyone getting in the online education game. Employers are getting in the online education game. One of the issues is not just in terms of behaving slowly. You have this tension between the academy and things being too vocational. That’s going to start putting a lot of state-run institutions out of business. 

Sramana Mitra: The more AI gets in to the workforce and starts automating, the more we have to think about how to reskill and get people ramped up in something else that is still viable and still relevant. I wrote this series called Man and Superman about the future of AI. It’s a grim future from an employment point of view.

Brian Kibby: Let’s take you for example. You went to MIT. The world is not MIT. 99.9% of college and university kids are going to community college. My point is, most of them need the skills. They need the vocational. Somehow people seem to follow what MIT or Harvard are doing. That is the wrong thinking.

Sramana Mitra: You are absolutely right. One of my long-term battles with entrepreneurship education is everything goes business school. Because people take signals from the high-end and they think that’s the thing to do everywhere, they all try to teach how to raise venture capital. VC is a particular way of building a business.

You have to go from zero to $100 million in five to seven years. Most businesses don’t grow in that pace. That’s a level of velocity that most businesses do not qualify for. You have to teach people how to build businesses in a bootstrapped mode. You have to build things differently. That’s what I have done in building our curriculum. Entrepreneurship equals customers, revenues, and profits. Financing is optional. Exit is optional.

Brian Kibby: 99.99% should never get venture capital funding.

Sramana Mitra: If you look at what’s being taught, VC is like the be-all and end-all. I’ve completely changed the game by just taking a completely different end game. Our mission is to help a million entrepreneurs reach a million dollars in annual revenue. VC is optional. 

Brian Kibby: When you get to a million dollars, that means you can get to two. If you get to do that, that’s a real business.

Sramana Mitra: That is a successful life. 

Brian Kibby: Exactly. 

Sramana Mitra: If you can convince your CE partners to propagate this kind of pragmatic, dignity-of-life thinking and they can be a channel to distribute that knowledge, that would be a massively important thing.

Brian Kibby: That’s a great opportunity. You have these schools with CE. Even though your CE may not be accredited, it is viewed as such. You have a distinct advantage.

Sramana Mitra: Thank you for your time.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Thought Leaders in Online Education: Brian Kibby, CEO of Modern Campus
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