Facebook Seems to Be Adding Video-Course Features. For Edtech, That...

Video Instruction

Facebook Seems to Be Adding Video-Course Features. For Edtech, That Raises Old Fears.

By Daniel Mollenkamp     Jun 14, 2022

Facebook Seems to Be Adding Video-Course Features. For Edtech, That Raises Old Fears.

The tech giant Meta, widely known under its previous name Facebook, seems to be eyeing a way to allow users to offer video classes.

Since at least last year, Meta has experimented with Facebook Classes, a program designed to make online instruction through its platform smoother. A consultant recently noticed a company announcement about the features in the U.K. version of the platform and shared a screenshot on Twitter.

The service is an extension of the company’s paid live events feature. Users who follow Meta’s monetization policies can offer paid live events, allowing them to offer things like cooking classes or fundraisers.

The company did not respond to questions about the program. But recent reports have speculated that the company could “bootstrap an online course ecosystem.”

The program is reportedly active in the UK, but the latest trial is looking to extend that into Canada and the U.S. The trial run, which is now closed, included an “instructor community” of people who will live-stream classes on Messenger and through the Classes feature for $300 and other small rewards. A “Facebook Classes Instructor” group shows roughly 3,100 people signed up to trial the program.

For now, Meta isn’t taking a cut of live events. Meta has said that it won’t collect fees on paid event transactions through 2023 to help small businesses recover from the pandemic.

Old Fears

The move would thrust Meta into what experts describe as a highly fragmented and competitive market.

Facebook Classes has been compared to Udemy, an online course platform which raised hundreds of millions of dollars during the pandemic based on the idea that anyone can teach video classes. Meta’s offering appears to be more tied to live events, though.

That puts Meta in a different space than companies that offer massive open online courses, or MOOCs—which tend to focus more on upskilling and that offer certificates intended for professional advancement, experts say. That MOOC space includes online learning platform and edtech “unicorn” Coursera, which went public last year, and edX, which lost its nonprofit status when it was bought by the for-profit company 2U last year. Coursera already offers courses from corporations—including Meta—as part of its strategy to help colleges staunch the bleeding from two years of consecutive enrollment losses.

Meta’s learning offering could be most trouble for other tech behemoths like Google Classroom and Microsoft Teams, according to some speculations.

Either way, Meta’s possible entrance into the market plays into a long-standing fear of big tech in the edtech industry.

There’s always been a worry that the tech titans will step in and disrupt education specialists, says Sean Gallagher, executive director of Northeastern University's Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy. There was speculation early on in the development of the Blackboard learning management system, for example, that a company like IBM or Microsoft would acquire a company and eat the market for LMSes.

Not A Gold Rush

The edtech market may not seem as attractive to new entries at the moment.

The market has faded in recent months, and even companies that were performing spectacularly only a year ago have taken a hit. Udemy’s stock, for example, is down. And so Meta wouldn’t be jumping into a booming market.

Gallagher isn’t convinced that Meta will move into education anytime soon. And even if they do, they may not necessarily succeed in the category, even though they’re large and have a lot of capital.

They've stepped into other markets in order to disrupt them only to fail to pull it off, Gallagher says. For instance, the company tried “Facebook Deals” back around 2010, which tried to disrupt the discount company Groupon. And it has tried to move into the job search category against companies like Indeed and LinkedIn, with limited success.

One key advantage that Meta holds, however, is in advertising, where it’s already a big player that controls its own advertising network, Gallagher says. For scaling and growing a business in education, he adds, marketing is crucial.

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