August 16th 2021.
- Khan Academy – a nonprofit with the mission to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere.m for building skills with courses, certificates, and degrees online from world-class universities and companies.
- Coursera – a platform for building skills with courses, certificates, and degrees online from world-class universities and companies.
- Saylor Academy Open Textbooks – these books are available for everyone to use, keep, revise, and share under open licenses.
- Saylor Academy Mobile App – for browsing courses on the go, downloading materials for offline access, checking your grades, receiving course notifications on your mobile device.
- Georgia Tech, Udacity and AT&T partnership – offering an online Master’s degree in computer science – the first of its kind delivered through a MOOC platform.
- edX – massive open online course (MOOC) provider created by Harvard and MIT.
- Google & Coursera partnership – Google Professional Certificates for the job-ready skills needed to launch a career in IT Support, Data Analytics, UX Design or Project Management.
- AWS Educate – Amazon platform with access to content developed to skill up for cloud careers in growing fields. AWS Educate also connects companies hiring for cloud skills to qualified student job seekers with the AWS Educate Job Board.
Saifedean Ammous: [00:03:40] Hello and welcome to another episode of the Bitcoin standard Podcast! In today’s seminar, we will be hosting Jeff Davidson, the CEO of saylor.org – the online education platform started by Michael Saylor on which my Austrian economics course is now being provided for free. Anybody can go to saylor.org and take that course for free.
So you can take it by becoming a member of saifedean.com, but now it’s also available for free, for anybody anywhere in the world to take it. And saylor.org offers university level classes for free for anybody in the world. And it also offers university level degrees, which is pretty astonishing when you think about it, because a student from anywhere can log on and learn the material on their own at their own pace, and then they can do an exam.
And they’ll be proctored during the exam, and then they will get a university degree. And it’s a university degree that’s on the verge of getting accredited as well. So it will be a fully accredited university degree. So, Jeff, thank you very much for joining us today.
Jeff Davidson: Thank you for having me. Great to be here!
Saifedean Ammous: You and I have worked quite a bit on preparing the courses that you’re posting, my courses that you’re posting on saylor.org, but we haven’t had much of a chance to discuss saylor.org itself until last week when Michael Saylor and I had a Twitter Spaces conversation about my course and we also discussed saylor.org.
And so first of all, congratulations on being very close to hitting the 1 million student milestone. Should be any time, any day now that you hit a million students. So that’s an astonishing achievement and I’d like you to please tell us more about the founding of [00:05:40] saylor.org, its history, how it’s evolved and how you ended up with a million students.
Jeff Davidson: Obviously it’s named Saylor Academy, as you noted for our namesake, Michael Saylor. A lot of people know that Michael went to MIT. What many might not know is he went to MIT for free on an army ROTC scholarship. His family was from modest means and they couldn’t have afforded even one semester at MIT, let alone the whole thing.
So he was able to get a free degree, well actually he got two degrees from MIT for free. That struck him as very profound because it allowed him to start a business. And many of you know that business, it’s called MicroStrategy. Had he had a bunch of student debt, he says he might not have taken that risk at that time. And so obviously MicroStrategy now has been around for a few decades and employs a couple thousand or three, whatever the number is two, 3000 people around the world.
And Michael attributes a lot of that to being debt free when he came out of school. You think about it higher education, education generally is critical in some form to every single sector in the world economy, right? We put up these barriers to people joining every other sector, you know, depending where you live you might have very limited access or you might have very expensive access where we put up this gauntlet that people have to get through.
And it ranges around the world depending on where you are, so you’ve got to get through that and then you can join one of your preferred sector in the economy, right? So we need everyone educated enough to participate in the economy at some level, if not the highest level that they can achieve their human potential. The more people who can achieve their own potential, as you know, most of us probably agree, that’s probably good for [00:07:40] all of us.
So Michael’s idea based on his giveback is, he got his free degree, so he wants to give that to everyone else. And also just to encourage others, entities, companies, governments, other nonprofits, to do the same thing as well and try to make as much education accessible to people around the world as possible.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And so tell us a little bit about how saylor.org is different from others learning platforms. So we know the Khan Academy and Coursera are two of the most popular around the world. How are you different?
Jeff Davidson: So Khan Academy right now is K12 focused, primary education and we’re secondary education focused and that’s because Khan’s doing everything so well and there’s a couple others, there’s one called CK12, it’s very good on primary education and there’s probably others around the world as well.
And who knows, maybe someday we’ll get into that as well, or at least the bridge between primary and higher ed. And then Coursera is a very nice platform, a lot of free courses, a lot of courses often designed for who will already have a degree. But also their certificates are not free. You can learn, but I don’t know if you get all the features, you can learn basics but you can’t get certificates for free. Some of that costs money.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. And so you guys, you offer a full university degree for free?
Jeff Davidson: Well, certificates. And right now we don’t have the degree right now. So we are in the process of getting permission for the degree. For a business degree, we have all the elements there, all the courses you would need.
In America, the word degree is highly regulated. So we can’t use the word degree yet, but we’re in that process. There will be two phases, one phase is getting a state to give us [00:09:40] permission. So we’re, we’re looking at the state of Florida, Michael’s a resident there. And then we have other rationale for that.
And then once you get a state license, then you, in America we have the gold standard, it’s called regional accreditation, and there are eight regions, but they all are equal in the eyes of the world. So Stanford is under a different regional accreditor than MIT, but you can argue that those two are two of the better schools in the country that have different regional accreditors, but the regional accreditors are supposed to be on the same playing field.
So we’ll hopefully get our state license this year. Then we have to have a graduating class. We’re putting out an MBA first just to kind of get things going. And then, once we have a graduating class that can be 10 people, it could be 10,000. It can be 10 people – enough, and then we could go to the creditors and say, here’s our project, here’s our program, here’s how good it is, et cetera.
And hopefully then we get full gold standard accreditation. Most universities in America seek that because they want to tap into financial aid. We of course are not looking to do that, we don’t charge anything. And so it’s an interesting conundrum for some of the regulators, because they have a hard time understanding free.
They’re so used to the vast overcharging that’s been happening for a long, inflation on college degrees is through the roof as you know in the US and probably elsewhere as well.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. It’s a theme that runs regularly in this seminar here. Obviously the inflation, it’s a topic that is very near to the heart of people who are interested in Bitcoin. And I think universities are a wonderful example of just how much prices have gone up for the most desirable goods.
And I credit Saylor really for pinpointing this in this way, when he said the inflation is a vector. You shouldn’t, you can’t [00:11:40] think of inflation as being one number, the CPI, which is an average, because that only works if everybody has the same basket of goods. There’s no average basket of goods because everybody consumes something different and you can’t average out qualitatively different things.
And so if you look, if you try and look at the basket of goods and the constituents with a little bit more precision, you’ll see things that are highly desirable, like a university degree, they are increasing the prices much faster than inflation. They go up much faster than CPI inflation, at least.
And the reason is you know, that’s where the inflation shows up. It shows up in the things that everybody wants. That’s where it shows up, and universities have been absolutely amazing at how much their fees have gone up over the years. You did not work in a university before coming into saylor.org, you were not in academia, right?
Jeff Davidson: I was not. I think that’s helpful right?
Saifedean Ammous: Yea, very much so!
Jeff Davidson: Quick aside, I was at a major law firm in DC years ago.
This is 1999. I graduated temple law school in Philadelphia. Worked for a federal judge for a couple of years. Then I came down to Washington DC and my first few weeks into the job, I go into HR, sign on some paperwork around the corner free bagels! Someone’s trying to sell us a new coffee machine or something, so go and get a free bagel.
On the corner, I see this gentleman, distinguished looking, he’s obviously a partner. He probably knows I’m new, I better say hello. But there was a thousand of us, he didn’t know I was an attorney, let alone new, but I said hello. This guy and I, we ended up hitting it off very well. Ended up a few months [00:13:40] later, he said, hey one of my younger attorneys just left my team. Do you want to come work for me? And I said sure.
This is 1999. But the reason he had that opening is because the young attorney went to work for a guy named Michael Saylor. So my connection of sorts goes back, not directly, but indirectly to Saylor world goes back to 1999, when I replaced someone on a law firm team due to Michael getting them on his team.
And then I went to the government for awhile. And while I was at the government, my old boss says, well I’m going to go work for Saylor. I said great. And then 10 years later, around 2010, roughly 10 years later, several years later 2010, this old boss of mine says, hey you know, I’ve been working for Saylor, he’s got this foundation. There’s some money here and, you know, we’re looking to get it more well known.
We started building courses. And so I think the first course started being built around 2008, went live in 2009, and mostly it was just like, let’s just put up a bunch of courses and see what happens, you know? And there was some methodology to it, which is 1. but how do we do this asynchronously?
So we’ll talk more about that. But then 2. What should we put up? So at the time they just sort of picked the 10 most popular majors in the US, business and psychology and those types of things and started building all the courses that you would normally see if you took that degree at a typical “U.S. university”.
So the course, we’ve had live courses since 2009. We didn’t really start offering certificates until a little bit later. And then we didn’t really get serious about kind of tracking and pushing people towards certificates, because a lot of our early models was just build the courses, and also we were thinking maybe universities would license. That wasn’t [00:15:40] always a successful, sometimes hard to find openly licensed materials.
We even licensed a bunch of textbooks. A great linear algebra textbook that was used at BYU. Then we licensed that, it’s now free, anyone in the world could use it. We’re about to bring back our linear algebra course. We’ve never pivoted away from free. It’s been free the whole time.
But in the early days, we were unsure whether we’re a B2B model or a B2C model. Now we’re predominantly B2C and you know, it’s true that universities can use our stuff. We just don’t actively market to them for that purpose. Because they signed that, they want to use it, we guide them, it’s all on github, all the courses they can just take it. Not the exams, but all the materials.
So now we decided, you know, a few years ago to really push for, let’s just go directly to the students. The access, the need is phenomenal, right? UNESCO says there are a hundred million people who by 2025 will be academically prepared for college but there’s no seat for them or there’s no costs, there was no money for them, or sometimes both.
Because not every country has broadband everywhere, a lot of countried haven’t gone online yet. So there’s either no seat physically like in Nigeria, there’s a lot of people who take online courses in the U. S. because they’re literally waiting for their spot in the local university.
And then the same thing, some of them don’t have the money either. So there’s a hundred million people who are academically prepared. But you think about it, there’s probably a lot more that we could prepare a lot.
And you think about the course you [00:17:40] gave us, it’s now, this morning by the way, I just looked, it’s just over a thousand people in the course already. It’s barely up two weeks. And so that’s exciting, right? If you went to university and wanted to take that course at a U S university, it’s easily a thousand dollars, if not more, but let’s say a thousand for the math, so a thousand times a thousand is a million dollars.
So in two weeks we’ve set up, we set up the potential of a million dollars in education savings, just like that. The other cool thing is, you know we think about Android devices. Saylor Academy has an app in the app store that connects you to our site and you can take quizzes and all that stuff online on your phone.
There are 3 billion Android devices roughly in the world. So think about a couple of weeks ago, once we made that course go live effectively delivered that to 3 billion people. Now we got to get the discovery process to happen, right? But right now it’s in their pockets or wherever they are keeping their phone, and it’s there.
Along with all the other courses that we have, which is you alluded to, we’ve got all the general electives that you would normally check at a university, critical thinking, philosophy, economics of course, political science and history as well. So it’s all of the things you would normally take as well as a bunch of computer science.
There’s more we can do in other areas of course, we will do.
The gen ed plus those two disciplines as the major areas for now. And hopefully we’ll be expanding down the line, but effectively right now, there are 3 billion people at least, I’m pretty sure in the apple store too, but let’s just focus on Android, there are 3 billion people walking around with this course in their pocket, they just don’t know it yet.[00:19:40]
Saifedean Ammous: Wow, that’s pretty incredible when you think about it. It’s an amazing difference between the efficiency of online education and the efficiency of university education. And I don’t think it’s purely about the online. I think online is a symptom of it. It’s a symptom of how the university system has failed to take advantage of online in order to reduce costs and overhead for students.
And I think that brings us into the incentives and the problems. So tell us more about how you’ve, as an outsider who’s come into education, what have you seen as the problems of modern education systems and modern universities?
Jeff Davidson: I’ll speak to the U. S. I haven’t studied everyone else, but you know, I’m a consumer of U. S. education.
I have two degrees and there’s a bunch of different things, but one really important thing is the system of course takes advantage of this, but also on the demand side, we’re not good consumers in the U.S. We have a false belief that the more money you pay for something, the better quality it is. Sometimes that’s true, but not always.
And you know, big big difference is, so for example, there’s a lot of choices that can be made by people. Community colleges in America provide direct gateways to middle-class jobs and cybersecurity and nursing, and lots of really interesting things, but a lot of people, there’s no one on the news or government policy talking about community colleges because they’re seen as lesser, right?
But at the same time, you know, as lovely as MIT is, it’s still only serving, in its degree program, a very small minority of people around the world.
Any given year there’s 20 million U.S. college students. That’s still 20 million out of the world population that [00:21:40] could be accessing these, it’s a pretty low number. Even in the U. S. it’s kind of a low number in some ways. And not everyone needs a full four year degree, we get that. But you think about this traditionally, they’ve been able to, through government policy, by giving them more money, upping everything as well as bad choices where people,
Let’s say that we have 50 states, each state has a major flagship university. Most of those are pretty solid universities. Yet many people choose to go out of state and end up paying four times as much as if they had just gone to their state university. So just that alone and cut costs, right? But then you also have things like us or programs like ours.
You know, we do have courses recognized by many universities. And what’s interesting is that every accreditor that I referenced earlier has approved our type of course to be recognized by the universities, they just all haven’t done it yet. But we talked about 20 million students, let’s just cut that in half and say 10 million cause you think about 20 million each year, but some of those are juniors and seniors.
And when I’m talking about our types of courses are usually lower divisions of first and second year that we’ve got college credit recommended for. We’ve got the full panel, but we don’t have college credit recommendations for all of them, but for the ones we do have, let’s just say you know, if you take 10 million people if they were just to take 10 courses with us, so one year, right? That’s a hundred million courses.
Well, the average course is over $1,500. 100 million times $1,500, isn’t that a 150 billion that they could collectively save? So if you cut that in half and say [00:23:40] 5 million people took 10 of our courses for college credit. So in other words, if you had 25% of college students taking just 25% of their credits with a group like us, they could collectively say $75 billion.
Saifedean Ammous: That’s amazing.
Jeff Davidson: So interestingly, I’ve been to the Obama White House to present this. I’ve been to the Trump White House, nobody’s interested. We sent letters to governors. We’ve met with governor staff. There’s something called the American Council on Education that has been around for 40 plus years or more.
And most of the universities are members of it and they’re the ones that review our courses for credit recommendations and they tell all their members about the service. Yeah, there’s really no coordination. And so really to save $75 billion, all it would take would be a handful of political celebrities and other celebrities just to tell America this is available. Cause we don’t have the money to spend on TV ads, radio ads, YouTube ads and whatever else to tell everybody, and we’re not the only ones with low cost opportunities.
But it’s really interesting. No one really, you know, the news kind of still covers the traditional, you know, you got to go live in the dorm model, move-in day and all that kind of stuff. Fastest growing population in America for students are adults who are beyond dorm age, half of which are taking hybrid and or online. But like you said, the inefficiency goes beyond just the dichotomy of online versus offline
A lot of it is information, lack of coordination. And so we’ve done our best, you know, we’ve been for years now trying to pound on doors and talk to people. [00:25:40] And so to me, you know, I’d love to help those five, 10 million people save some money, but at the same time, I’m also much more interested, equally but on some days even more interested in the big blue ocean of truly underserved lawyers around the world. People who take business courses will have heard of the blue ocean strategy.
There’s billions of people not being served at all. So how do we reach them and keep trying to reach the people in school and get people to make better choices at the same time. Can we also really reach some people who are not even going at all and they don’t have to get the full thing.
Can they come and learn economics? Can they come and learn Python? Can they come and learn English in many cases? And you know, of course that’s not a Western, we’re not trying to make a Western imposition on people to learn English. It’s just for better for worse English has become the language of the global economy.
And so we decided to make it available to people to learn English as well. We have some more courses coming out on that front. So I’m going to pause for a second, see if I’m still answering your question. Maybe I’ve veered off a little bit
Saifedean Ammous: No, that absolutely is what we’re getting at. I think it’s amazing. When I was planning on leaving my job at the university, one of the things that I was thinking of is, you know, reading about universities and how they’ve evolved and how the costs keep rising and how the university experience, the number of professors that you interact with is declining for students because most professors are spending their time doing research that nobody reads.
And yet the cost is spiraling. And you find that the increase has come primarily from an increase in the [00:27:40] salaries of bureaucrats at the university. So people who are not students and people who are not teachers. And you know, this isn’t administrative staff, these aren’t janitors, the real money is going to all of these completely vacuous titles that really just don’t belong at a university, vice president for student engagement and vice president for this and that.
And there’s just an endless aray of jobs where, when you’re a university professor, you start realizing just how corrupt the system is. Because the university is built around professors. The idea is that it is a place run by the professors and the ideal form is that the professors run it and hand it over to other professors.
And then you just have a a system that lasts through time because the people in charge are handing over to people that they themselves trained and that they trust. But now all of that has been formalized and commoditized into the peer review process, where professors sit there and assess each other’s work and give each other’s ratings on their work, and then decide to give each other promotion.
But ultimately that’s becoming a small sideshow in the universities compared to the amount of money that is being spent on these other jobs. And quite telling you know, you see this pretty much everywhere where a government intervention begins to take place because once government money comes in, the metric for success is no longer serving the customers, but it is serving the bureaucrats who are the ones who actually pay the bills.
And the bureaucrats, if it’s a modern government in a democracy, it can’t just be some [00:29:40] capricious rule where some guy decides who to give money. There need to be guidelines and research proposals and all kinds of complex processes that take place in order to make it so that the people who are in charge can dispense the money with some sense of objectivity. But that just creates a highly complex mess of a process where essentially academic research has completely divorced from any kind of real world relevance. Because it’s just professors grading other professors on how well they do the job without any feedback from the real world, without any feedback from the market.
And instead, as the role of the professor diminishes in its significance and of course diminishes in its intellectual freedom and its capacity for engaging in really value added, productive research. The flip side is that the power goes more and more towards administrators.
And yet we don’t see administrators excelling in doing innovative things in education. I think the example you mentioned about the blue ocean strategy, or the blue seas, why isn’t MIT and Harvard thinking about educating a million people, they already have the name where millions of people all over the world would dream of getting into these universities because of all of the Hollywood and the media propaganda that they hear about how these places are just so amazing.
And they’ve got an enormous amount of money that they’re using to trade the on the stock market, they’re effectively a hedge fund masquerading as a university at this point. And they don’t pay much attention to the idea of educating more and more people. [00:31:40] The notion of limiting the amount of students who are enrolled at a university in order to make it exclusive is truly archaic.
When you think about it, this kind of made sense a couple of hundred years ago when there was one library in each city or each town. And if you wanted to learn about a topic, you had to go to that library and you had to spend a lot of time near the library. Because of the the space around the library being scarce, you had to have an institution around it where the people who knew how to read those books could guide the people who didn’t.
And so there was a scarcity that necessitated that Harvard could only take on this many students. But now, that has been completely revolutionized by the internet. Thinking of it from the perspective of we are a university that wants to teach as many people as much as we can, would lead you in the direction of, how do we utilize all those new technology to increase the efficiency with which we can perform education, so that we can educate more people so that we can deliver more degrees so that we can teach more people capitalists and English, literature and whatever.
And that would be I think what a free market in universities would have achieved. I used to always say, where is the Steve Jobs of education? Why isn’t there somebody like Steve Jobs in education or somebody like Rockefeller working on making things cheaper and popularizing them?
Why hasn’t there been much of this from the university system? And why is the university system continuing to be so insular? They’re still limiting the number of people that go to Harvard, even though now they’re making them all learn on Zoom. Well, what difference does it make for you if you’re sitting in a zoom call with 50 kids or 500 kids or 5,000 kids? It’s the same thing.
It’s the same Zoom call. There are [00:33:40] so many opportunities for increasing the productivity of these educational institutions and so many low hanging fruits, but they just are not very interested in picking them. Wouldn’t you say?
Jeff Davidson: Yeah, absolutely. Now they have done, I will give Harvard and MIT a little credit, they just sold that to a for-profit, so we don’t know what’s going to happen with that.
But they haven’t done it with degrees. Georgia Tech has reduced the cost of a master’s degree pretty significantly, but it’s still assumed you have the ability to do all the work to get into the master’s degree. So we’re still in the very early days, you know, it’s really interesting to think about the music business. Music business had a monopoly on all the major talents in the world, right?
They went back before Steve Jobs decided to do what he did and the music business didn’t, they just sat there, let Steve Jobs totally decimate and did their thing. I’ve been in conferences with small liberal arts schools who pretend the Internet’s still a fad, at least the way they talk about it.
What’s going to happen, we have 3000, 4,000 universities and colleges in the U. S. At some point, that number is going to get cut way down just through the market because if there’s a bunch of, these state universities will be around, Harvard will be around but you know, there’s going to be a bunch of small countryside places that just don’t keep up because they’re holding on to the model from literally 1400, if you go back to, when did the first university start?
Somewhere back there. It is amazing how they’re not just really tapping into it. And again, the prices are going up, right? Not only are they still being inclusive, but the [00:35:40] prices are going up. The inflation rate on a university degree is, I think it’s 260%, or I think that 260 number is old now. It’s probably close to 300% over the last 30 years.
So it’s just a lot of money. And you know, I think now what we’re seeing is quickly, you’re seeing other step into the void, at least at some level. Google, Google is now partnered with Coursera. You can go on there and learn data science from Google.
You could argue that Google knows a bit about data, right? Maybe as much as any university, if not more, and so they’ve got a pretty cool data science program. You can learn it for free, but if you want to get a certificate, it’s much more affordable than a degree and they’re saying it to get you a job.
So Google’s stepping in, Amazon’s giving way a bunch of free education as well. And then of course, part of that is of course socially beneficial, but at same time it also is self interested, right? They need more people to be educated to come work for them. Both internally and externally. And so it behooves all these people to really, Microsoft should be giving away free education.
All these people should be doing that, Apple should be giving away, Apple does have iTunes, has some stuff, but there’s much more given the amounts of money they have. There’s no reason as Michael has said in the past that when you buy your phone, there should be a kindergarten for PhD on your phone already, and you just pick your path, you know?
And as AI develops in the coming decades, that’s going to be even more realistic as you get different things. And again, there’ll be some people are always going to want to overpay, and that’s okay. But then, can we reach, as we talked about again, I don’t know what the data is now, but a few years ago more people [00:37:40] had access to a phone than had access to clean water, right?
Cost of the phone is coming way down. And there’s billions of those devices. So the more people we can get to learn economics and English and coding and whatever, the more you’re going to have a rising, new people looking to rise up the global middle class.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m wondering, what are your thoughts on how universities adapt?
So you mentioned some of the smaller places might not keep up, the big state universities and the big major brand name universities will probably still be around, but how do they adjust? Do they just continue to do business as usual? Offer this $300,000 country club experience to start off your professional life and continue to find takers? Or do you think they’re going to change their model?
Jeff Davidson: I think we’re at the tipping point where the consumer behavior I talked about earlier is starting to change. People are waking up to say wait a minute, everybody knows there’s student debt, and we have well over a trillion dollars in student debt. And the price tags are shocking.
I think the number of people willing to go into debt and starting to decrease. And you have some of the younger generations saying, okay I’m not going. And so now what they do? But they have in place, what’s called a continuing ed division. Almost every university has one, which was kind of a second class thing where you just aren’t a certificate in something.
But those will become more prominent. Online will continue to play a role, to grow, but so far no one is discounting. Even though it’s much cheaper to deliver that online program, no one’s discounting, hardly anyone’s discounting the price. They’re still charging full prices if you were [00:39:40] there. So that’s got to change for them to grow.
The two fastest growing universities in America online are both nonprofits, and both actively encourage people to take courses from people like us so they can lower the cost because they know they can help get them over the finish line. So I think universities to survive are going to have to get very nimble on short programs.
Bootcamps is one name for those, but you can call them whatever you want and make that affordable. If you don’t want it to go into 200,000 or a 100,000 whatever or more debt, maybe I can get you a short program and you can get a job with that.
And then if you want to purchase additional education to finish the degree, you can. You can do that in the traditional, you know, go to go to a campus at 18 and come out at 21 or 22, whatever. And then you’re done. But, but again, that’s already the minority of people as far as new students in the U.S. anyway.
That’s only gonna accelerate. More and more people are saying, I’m not going to go into, I can’t go into debt because people are waking up to how crippling it is. And now overlay that with what they’re saying in the last year and a half between Reddit and the WallStreetBets, and the stock market, let alone Bitcoin and whether we like it or not other cryptocurrencies as well. But just thinking about Bitcoin and WallStreetBets, if you could have spent your tuition on GameStop and Bitcoin the last five years, you’d be doing pretty well right now, right?
Or some combination thereof. The opportunities now are quickly changing. People are starting to recognize that you can get jobs, [00:41:40] even MicroStrategy, Michael’s company, you take exams, assessments. They don’t really look at your resume as much. Google is claiming they don’t look at the resume or the degree as much, they’re looking at how do you show what you know.
So depending on what you want to do, how do you find ways to put together a portfolio? And so I remember I worked in a different entity where I had a mentor who used to be CEO of [???].
And when I first started working at Saylor, I was talking to him about it. And he said, you know Jeff, if someone came to me and applied to work for me and they were equally positioned academically, et cetera. One of them told me how they use their judgments to make better choices and save a bunch of money and come out to the same level at a quarter of the price or whatever.
He goes, I would hire that person every day because that’s just really sound smart judgment. And that’s really, really profound. And you’ve got a CEO saying that. And then there’s a lot of CEOs understand that, that’ll trickle down to the HR departments. And over time the degrees will be less and less important.
Saylor Academy will still try to work on making an affordable degree possible for a lot of people because it’s still something that won’t disappear. And so right now, the problem with it is, it costs too much, it takes too long. So if we can reduce the time and the cost, then maybe the degree gets some more life for many more decades as a credential. But other credentials, certificates, et cetera, are quickly rising as valid.
As I mentioned on the talk the other day, we have people in Rwanda getting a job with a Saylor certificate.
Odds are I’ll never go to Rwanda and yet, our work is touching someone there and that’s just really profound. Another profound implication [00:43:40] of the digital economy and the digitization of education.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, it’s truly amazing. I used to say who the next Steve Jobs of education is, and I think it’s Michael Saylor and you of course Jeff, obviously you’re playing a major part in this. And it’s truly amazing because the cost involved, if you thought about it as a businessman, if you thought about it from an entrepreneurial perspective of how do I deliver the most value, there’s just so much room for improvement.
It’s like you’re walking into a Soviet Ministry and all you gotta do is just have a little bit of discipline in there, and there’s so much improvement. So you know, I wanted to run some numbers to illustrate this point with you to get an idea about how much it costs to get a student through saylor.org versus the traditional university model.
So, first of all the most important number perhaps is that saylor.org is about to hit 1 million students in the next few weeks. And probably, I don’t think there’s any university in the world that has graduated a million students probably in its lifetime. There might be some, but I don’t think there are many.
Do you know about that? Do you think there are universities that have given a million degrees?.
Jeff Davidson: That’s interesting. I don’t know, it’s a smaller number each year even if you’ve been around for a thousand years. Yeah, I don’t know. That’s a great question.
I don’t want to overstate our effect. Not everyone’s taking 50 courses with us, some are taking a handful.
By the way, we’re at 987,651 as of 10 minutes ago. But it’s there you know, you have this opportunity for people to take what they need. And that’s the other thing, is [00:45:40] in the past, you had to buy two years or four years right?
Now we’re saying you can buy one course or you can access it from us and get it for free. Or you can take 10, you can take 30, 40, whatever you need, cobble together your own pathway. And also completion rates are kind of interesting as well. And one story I like to point out, this gentleman in India, he wanted to take something called a GATE exam, which was, the E stands for engineering, I forget the rest.
But he wanted to take this engineering acceptance exam to get himself into schooling in India several years ago. And he figured out on our site, if you took pieces of different courses that he could prepare himself for that exam. We didn’t have to work GATE exam anywhere near our website.
We didn’t know it existed. But he found his own way now. So he actually didn’t complete a single full course with us, yet he got everything he needed by doing bits and pieces of different courses. So that’s a win too! Even if we don’t count them if they don’t come out with a credential at the end that we recognize. So we open ourselves up to people just coming and reading, learning.
And of course we do want to credential as many people as we can because we know it helps. So cost-wise, I think right now this year we’ll spend about $2 million. But you know, some of that is on, very little on marketing. I got a couple marketing assistants, but most of that is spent on updating the course. The vast majority of our spend is there.
When you look at human resources, both internal and external through contractor professors, et cetera. You can effectively eliminate a lot of costs by being [00:47:40] online. It makes total sense. But we also don’t even add extra bureaucracy. So even when we moved to university status someday, we’re going to do it carefully.
We have to have a few roles that sound like a traditional university. Like right now I’m looking, I’m filling the roles for the director of academic affairs. Every university has a VP of academic affairs. So we’ll put some things in place like that that will help us do better.
But also help us as we try to get the traditional system to recognize us. We don’t live or die on traditional acceptance or recognition. But at the same time, it will be helpful to the students. Cause this transition that we’ve been talking about in this discussion is still happening in real time.
Not every employer understands the certificates yet and all that stuff, but it’s coming. And so to help bridge the gap, we are looking for the recognition from the traditional system. But again, it cost us, let’s say we stay at 2 million a year for a while.
That’s way less, operating costs is way less than a lot of universities. And of course now, our site is hosted on Amazon servers. And so if our students doubled tomorrow, let’s say we wake up tomorrow and it’s 2 million, our cost at Amazon does not double. To get the server cost to go up, we’d have to have 10 X or something like that.
And even then it’s very incremental. So once you got it up, once you have your model down, the cost of adding more and scaling out is really next to nothing. It’s kind of weird. Like right now we’ve got 1.4 million followers on Facebook, [00:49:40] but Facebook wants to charge me money to send them a message.
So I’m not paying Facebook for that right now. I’m just saying I’m putting up the free and now we’re doing our best to surface and encourage the word of mouth from students. Of course now you’ve got tools like Twitter and podcasts like this and other platforms.
But the biggest thing, and now we live in a social economy so we’re seeing more and more students at different levels, some people thank you for learning English or people who have advanced degrees saying, oh wow I never took this course, I’m a mid-level manager, I took this, now I feel like I’ve learned something new that’s going to help my career.
And those two extremes and everybody in between. And so we can scale to meet a lot of people’s needs. I don’t know if we’ll be the silver bullet for everybody, but I think we have at least something for everybody. Just Bitcoin in your course alone, everybody should take.
And then the other courses, someone might take one or two, or he might take another 50, whatever, we don’t care. That’s the beauty of our model as well. We’re not trying to sell you a big package that you may or may not need.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, that’s incredibly refreshing. Incidentally, I wanted to mention when you were talking about the exorbitant opportunity cost of university. Yeah I think in university textbooks on economics, they barely discuss the concept of opportunity cost.
And I think it’s because if you really force students to think about opportunity costs critically, the first thing they’ll do is quit university and go take their money and do something else with it. And one of my favorite genres of Twitter on my Twitter account is whenever I see a university professor calling Bitcoin a scam.
I should start doing this more often, incidentally. I look at their university’s website and figure out how much [00:51:40] the tuition is. And then I calculate how much you would have had if you went to their university five years ago, how much money you would have spent on tuition.
And then if you hadn’t gone to that university and instead put that money in Bitcoin, how much money you’d have today. And so I ran the numbers on Krugman and I dug up the tweet right now. I ran the numbers on Krugman, this was at the beginning of the year, so I did academic years that start 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019.
So you would have graduated in 2020, so you’d have graduated a year ago from now, and that’s very recent. So we’re not even talking about buying early Bitcoin. This is 2016. If you had spent that money on tuition, you would have spent about 200 thousand dollars on tuition to graduate a year ago.
But you would have 107 Bitcoin right now and that’s worth $5 million.
Jeff Davidson: Right, holy cow! Which is way more than the average American who goes into that debt will have for retirement.
Saifedean Ammous: Pretty much, yeah. And I think $5 million, I think the average Yale graduate, and this is Yale we’re talking about here, I’m guessing they need at least a decade to earn that if they’re lucky. I think Bitcoin is just going to force everybody to learn about opportunity cost.
The internet in general is going to teach people a lot of things because people will get exposed to all kinds of content that’s different from what their university would have given them. But I think also the existence of Bitcoin and the fact that Bitcoiners are always running the numbers in your face and trying to explain this to you, it’s just going to force people to become much more ruthless with how they think about their opportunity cost.
And I think universities [00:53:40] stand to lose significantly from this.
Jeff Davidson: It’s interesting on that point, as you know we have this course on our site Bitcoin for Everybody, and it’s really a soft sell where I’m now convinced of a few dozen universities to now offer their students our courses for free, like actively encourage.
Now we’re seeing in India, some other places are actively encouraging students, their students to take our courses. And we see students going like, oh my gosh I’ve learned so much! It’s really a self indictment, right? At the same time we don’t like to view it that way, because I want these people to partner with me to get more people.
And even those students are truly underserved, but they’re good models when they share the certificates and the other populace in the country sees it, hopefully that helps get the word out. But I bring that up because we’re, I can’t name the name, but we’re about to sign with a university and they also ask us to create a landing page.
So when their students come to us, they see their logo in one of the courses they recommend. As, you know, India either has or has been flirting with banning Bitcoin, or at least various aspects of it. So it’s very, it was very interesting to see this university we’re about to sign with, the top course that they’re putting on the recommendationis the Bitcoin for Everybody course.
So it’s really kind of interesting to see a university, Indian university, pick that as one of their main recommendations. Hopefully that agreement will be live in a few weeks and we’ll make that point. But it’s very interesting, right?
By the way, when we talked about cost earlier, we also forgot about the cost of the new textbooks, right? $200, depending on which subject and if you buy it new or used or what have you, but we’ll keep that aside. But you know there’s so much you can learn. When I listened [00:55:40] to you and Michael Saylor and a lot of different people talking, I’ve learned a lot.
You know, I’m not embarrassed at all to say that two Saturdays ago, I actually ended up from nine o’clock to 11 o’clock on Saturday night listening to two hours of Bitcoin and economics related podcasts because it was just really enthralling.
So I’ve learned a lot in the past year and a half, but there’s still much more to learn, right? It really helps you in many ways, if you think about Bitcoin or if you think about economics and the way you talk about it, it really influences you to think about a lot of things differently.
All kinds of different things. I’ve had success in some ways, and I’ve figured some things out, but there’s just a lot more I need to learn as well. And so it’s been exciting. It’s an exciting time. And I think so, despite a lot of problems in the world, there are many, but it’s exciting to see the digital transformation of money, of everything else including education.
So you’re seeing people everywhere having opportunities.
What you’ll probably see students doing is they will bundle, they might check our low cost course with Udemy or another provider like that, and then take some Saylor courses for free. And maybe they find a way to buy some certificates from Coursera as well. Now they’ve put together their own 5-10 course packet, pathway where they’ve learned a bunch of stuff.
Maybe they learned all about Python and data science and they’ve spent very little money and they’re probably job ready. And now slowly more employers are [00:57:40] recognizing it and also giving them opportunity to show what they know. Of course, there’s the startup economy. Of course there’s also the freelance economy, right?
So people can create their own. If you learned Linux, there’s a whole bunch of businesses that need your services that don’t know how to do it. And so if you learn how to do Google Ads, there’s a bunch of businesses that need your services that don’t know how to do it. There’s a whole bunch of things you can learn for low prices or next to zero or zero depending on who you’re doing it with.
So it’s just really exciting to see that, talk about efficiency too, not just on cost and bureaucracy, but the professor that built our Python course, he’s also building out, as soon as he was done, I said, what else you got? Do you have anything related to data science? Oh I could do Python data science. I said done.
We had a conversation and a week later I started the courses and at my university that teaches it full-time, that would have taken anywhere from 6 to 12 months to get approval to build that new course. And we’ll have it out hopefully by the end of September, so we can move fast or faster. Michael likes to move really fast. We can’t always keep up with his speed, but we’re trying our best. And we’ll probably deliver one or two new courses a month for a while. At some point we’ll accelerate and do more, but you know, we’ve got a lot there that we’ve got some really cool things that others don’t have like your course and the Bitcoin for Everybody course.
And we’re also working on some, I can’t name names, but some very well-known Bitcoin people are working on some developer courses with us and we might [00:59:40] have one of those ready by the end of September if certainly not by October. So that’s exciting as well.
Saifedean Ammous: Fantastic, yeah. I think the point you mentioned on education for employers is an enormous efficiency. Google knows exactly what they want from the data scientists and the university is just an enormously wasteful middleman.
They’re going to teach them a bunch of math and a bunch of computer science and a bunch of statistics. But they’re going to teach them a whole bunch of other stuff that is not really relevant to the job. And I think the internet is not just allowing us to communicate quicker and send each other the videos of the lecture quicker.
It’s also allowing people to demonstrate their competence directly without needing accreditation. I think this is a very important thing. Like you don’t need to look at people’s, well 200 years ago you needed some kind of way of knowing that this complete stranger that you can’t Google, showing up at your office and asking for a job, that they have some kind of something that says they have some discipline, they have some mental capabilities.
They won’t steal you and going to university for four years and hanging around with a bunch of professors and books and surviving and getting a, a degree that says that you did it is a pretty good communicator of value. But today, that’s not really the case anymore because whatever the job is, they can test you online.
They can offer you a trial. They can get you to do a part of a job and see how you work. And that just obsoletes all of the credentialist nonsense. So thinking back on the numbers, you were saying about $2 million running costs per year, and I think during the Michael Saylor conversation on spaces, you mentioned that it was [01:01:40] something like 5,000 students a week are signing up.
Yeah. So that’s about a quarter million students every year signing up for $2 million. So it’s about $10 a student, right?
Jeff Davidson: Yes right.
Saifedean Ammous: And so even if we said, let’s say 2% of these students are getting a university degree or a university degree equivalent, sticking around and taking a lot of courses.
That’s still a hundred bucks. If we said it’s a 1% of those students, that’ll be a thousand bucks. So no way 50% would be wait, I messed up the numbers. I said it’s $10 per student. If we had if we have a quarter million and let’s say it’s $10 per student, but then if we only had 1% of these, then it would be a hundred fold.
So it would be a thousand bucks a student. So it’s a thousand dollars per degree for a university degree, which is something like $50,000 or at least $10,000. There are very few universities in the world now where you can get a degree for less than $10,000 per year. And whereas here, we’re talking about a thousand dollars over the full four years.
So the improvement, sorry, go ahead.
Jeff Davidson: And that’s our cost, excuse me.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. So the improvement is I think 50 X in terms of cost, to be extremely conservative. 100 X more likely several multiples of that. Several hundred times the multiple of the cost that you can deliver it with. And it’s astounding.
It’s astounding that you can pull it off. But what that means is that it’s much more astounding [01:03:40] how others are not interested in this, you know, you’d think they’d be all over this,
Jeff Davidson: You would, but again, just like the music executives were spoiled forever, people are gonna love their, they’re gonna buy CDs forever, they’re going to buy this, they’re going to buy that. Then they didn’t. So at some point you know, bitcoin’s raised gradually.
I think you’re seeing that here as well. I think you’re already starting to see some people, more people publicly saying I’m not taking that debt on, no way. And then they’re figuring out different things. That’ll accelerate, because one thing we know is true, overall, prices are not going to go down.
That’s just not going to happen. You might have some things here and there, but overall that cost that 4 year traditional grade is going to continue to go up. How do we find ways to get around that? How do we find other opportunities? And again, we love the 5,000 new students a week, but we also hope at some point the right people retweet us and the right people tell their citizens about us.
Yeah. If I’m a governor, I’d take credit for this, right? I grew up here, a little town in Maryland, about a half hour north of Baltimore. Baltimore is a troubled town in many ways. There’s a lot of great people there though. And right nearby is a great university called the University of Maryland Global Campus.
Well a student can come to us and get two years, two years for free and transfer into that school. Or they can do it at the same time. You could do it at the same time. You still get two years worth of free tuition credits. Yet I can’t get [01:05:40] the mayor to talk about us. I can’t get Baltimore Sun to tell anyone about this.
It’s just like, either they don’t believe it or they can’t understand it, or there’s some other agenda, right? Where they’re deciding not to tell people about free education. And I think I mentioned the other day, in DC it’s illegal to give away free education. They’re not really enforcing it, but it is on the books.
Talk about government overreach. I was all excited, that made me break out my law degree through a first amendment case, but we didn’t have to do that. We chased them away when they came to her office telling us it was illegal, but it’s interesting to see that it’s here, it can be done, others are doing it.
Google will probably certify thousands and thousands of people this year in various things, Amazon will do the same. Then next year it’ll be tens of thousands, and then it’ll go up and others will start doing it, right? And so, and every professor like what you’ve done, every professor is a business if they wanted.
professorjones.com did cyber security, whatever their specialty is. We might have that free course, but there’s other ad-ons like you do with your seminars and all the other add-ons that are worth paying $100 or whatever. So again, you don’t have to choose necessarily one over the other, but if you can combine them in smart ways you could do really well.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, absolutely. Danielle is asking, what is the average age of the students coming to saylor.org? Do you have that number?
Jeff Davidson: Yeah, so because of all the international privacy rules, we don’t allow anyone to enroll that’s under 16, however we don’t block you, anyone can sign up, but we don’t collect the data. We don’t ask them for that. But [01:07:40] through voluntary stuff, we’ve figured out it’s probably in the late twenties, early thirties is the average age. But we have plenty of people who are in their late teens, but we have some people in 30, 40, 50 years old. Look at me, I got my foundational college degree.
I graduated in 1993 that’s many years ago now. There’s a whole bunch of things I need to learn that I haven’t learned, data science, data analytics for one. Everybody on the planet needs continual education. Everyone that’s working, I should say, needs it because there’s new things happening, you know? Right now I think our average age is probably right around 30 give or take, but that’s more anecdotal through analytics we get from Twitter and from Facebook and from other places. Because we don’t directly ask the questions and it’s not relevant to us other than saying, you must be 16 to make sure you adhere to the privacy laws, but otherwise it’s right around that, but we welcome anybody.
Saifedean Ammous: Fantastic. All right, Stefano has a question about grading and assessment. Do you want to go ahead, Stephano?
Stefano: Yup, yup. Thank you Saif and thank you Jeff for this presentation! So my question is the following. I’m curious to know, what do you think about the difference of assessing students, when you take an in-person course versus online? And I ask this question because I remember when I was in college or as you mentioned, Michael went to MIT, it’s reasonable to expect that if you get a good grade in a programming class at MIT, for example, you know all the programs. But in my experience, at least when I took few introductory classes online many years ago, the assessment was very superficial.
Usually it was a multiple choice question that honestly wasn’t really evaluating much. So what are your thoughts on that?
Jeff Davidson: That’s a great question. And I think you’re right, sometimes it can go that way. Saifedean will tell you, we spend a [01:09:40] lot of time on our assessments and we put the professors through a bit of it. Some of them haven’t really done multiple choice in the way you need to do it.
There’s a lot of studies that show that if you do multiple choice correctly, you can actually be just as rigorous and more fair because even in an essay exam at a place like where I went to school, the teacher knows my handwriting and if I’m good she likes me. She may subconsciously give me an extra ten percent without realizing it, right?
So in law school, when I went to law school, I had one assessment, it was blind. However, even in an essay you can write certain things and you may have said something in class that the professor remembers, but you write that in your exam, that might trigger the thought, oh yea this is Jeff, I’m going to give him an A, he’s good.
There’s data that shows and studies that show, if you do it right, a multiple choice assessment can be equally as effective. A lot of medical schools are moving to it exclusively to take out bias and keep the rigor. We also now have something called CodeRunner, which if you take our Python course, you actually going to get some questions where the code and the CodeRunner will grade your code to make sure you’re doing it right.
So that’s kind of cool. So there’s more that can be done. And we’re looking to improve assessments all the time, but we do think ours are fairly rigorous and in fact, you’ll see that some of our courses, there’s a 50% pass rate or 60% pass rate, cause people are finding it’s difficult. And some people decide to try and take the test on the first day without taking the course and have to go back and go, okay I really don’t know it.
But it’s a good question. We’re trying to improve it, but I think if you do it right, you can do automated assessments at a high level so that you can truly show what somebody knows.
Stefano: And a quick follow-up Jeff if you don’t mind, [01:11:40] what I’m realizing and I think it’s becoming more and more obvious that a very important skill is communication. You may be technically savvy, you know all the program stuff, you can know all the technical details, but ultimately if you can not communicate, it doesn’t really do good for you. At least when I was in college many, many years ago, I’m around the same age as you, a very important part of the assessment was giving oral exams where you had to present, talk impromptu without really having any prepared questions before. And I noticed that a lot of the people that come out of college today, because they are using a multiple choice format, they really don’t know how to communicate or articulate their ideas, right?
It’s both how you organize your ideas, but also how to express and how to communicate. Whether it’s orally or in a PowerPoint presentation or even an email. So what are your thoughts about that? Are you planning to offer some classes to be able to address this need? Just curious to know what you think.
Jeff Davidson: I think you’re right, communication is one of those skills that no matter which, it’s a foundational skill, no matter what sector you go into, you have to have it.
And so we do have multiple communication courses. We have a course on presentations. The challenge for us, we don’t have the ability to get a person to watch your speech right now, but AI is coming and AI will watch it soon. But what we can do though, is teach you the fundamentals of public speaking and say, hey look, put a YouTube video up and having your peers tell you if you’re doing well or not.
Or you can be confident about it, and then you can attach that video. You attach a sales presentation, let’s say you’re going to be a salesman. You attach that sales presentation to your digital resume so you can actually show here’s my link. Here’s me doing a pitch on why you should buy an Apple iPhone or whatever, and someone can see you in action.
So we agree that communication is critical. We have [01:13:40] multiple courses on that front. Professional writing, technical writing, human communication, group communication, intercultural communication is coming out. So we have a bunch of things like that, that we think are important, so you’re dead-on. And then we’re doing our best to try to figure out how to assess it better, or at least find different ways for people to show what they know.
So can they demonstrate it through a presentation they created, whether that’s a slide show or whether that’s an old fashioned speech or some combination thereof.
Stefano: Thank you Jeff, really appreciate that, this is very interesting and fascinating, thank you.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah, I think Stefanos question leads to something else that I wanted to ask, which is would you agree that there seems to be some advantage for some credits and some kind of courses that are not very easy to teach online? And I think perhaps in a sane world in which universities were competitive, a lot will be done online, but I think there might be a few classes where you turn up and you have the physical stuff, physical interaction which is necessary.
So one of these is learning to talk and communicate and present and speaking to an audience. I think the classroom is useful for that. I think another one is obviously medicine. It’s still going to be useful to cut up human beings and then most sciences that involve laboratory work.
And that’s probably useful, that’s going to need to stay. But what else do you think, and do you think these can be turned online as well? Or do you think there are many others? What are your thoughts?
Jeff Davidson: Well, let’s go back to last Friday when you and I were on Spaces with Michael. On less than one day’s notice 3,900 people showed up, including a bunch of verified Twitter [01:15:40] accounts.
And one of those of course was Jack Dorsey. And what if we turned that into a speech class, we gave everyone five minutes and we bring them up on stage, right? You took the speech course on our site and now come up on stage and make your speech. And you might get feedback from someone like Jack Dorsey or whoever is listening in.
That’d be interesting to see what we could do on that front for public speaking, right? Cause that’s a forum where you need to have it. You’ve got YouTube, all that kind of stuff. I agree with you that getting up in front of actual people still is an important skill, so it may not be a monopoly. I may not be, it may be one of those things that you want to do that as well, but there might be other ways to do it.
I want gum surgery, you want to practice that on a person right? Now I would say the old fashioned bio 101 frog lab where we all dissected the frog. I mean there’s a lot of lessons in that that go beyond identifying the parts of course, but at the same time now you’ve got really lovely online presentations for that.
A lot of the basic first year bio and chemistry things can be done online. And you know, AI is just getting started, right? So soon you’ll get also different ways to get manipulate 3d presentations of different things. So there’s going to be a lot of things you could see coming along. And of course there’ll be things that are hybrid, but also think about economies of scale and efficiency.
For example, in Mississippi, I talked to someone down there, they don’t have this physics teacher. Well, why not get the best physics person in your state or maybe the best physics person in the country to do live lectures. And then you have the other teachers can be helping out in person on the side.
So you could beam that. Now some schools don’t have it at all, you could beam that physics presentation to each of those schools and have the students [01:17:40] studying on their own with or without a local mentor. So there’s just so many opportunities that can happen. I think you’re right.
There’s going to be things that are going to be hard to move online. Things we probably don’t want to move online, but then that also allows, if you focus there you can get rid of a lot of bureaucracy and increase your efficiency. So, I mean, there’s a bunch of things that can be done.
I think we’ll see more of it. And it’s just going to accelerate you in the coming years.
Saifedean Ammous: Fantastic, yeah. Well, that’s very good to hear. Nathan has got a question, Nathan you want to go ahead?
Jeff Davidson: Hi, Nathan.
Nathan: Hi Jeff! I wondered if you could comment on your editing process for developing your course offerings. What I’m driving at is I know you just had Saifedean offering the Austrian economics.
I can’t tell you how many Keynesian economics classes I’ve taken. I wish I would have never taken a single one. I didn’t learn anything from them. Are you going to offer those kinds of classes? Are you going to make a commentary about that? How are you going to edit and manage yourselves?
Jeff Davidson: That’s a great question. So your question is broader than just editing.
Nathan: More governance.,
Jeff Davidson: Yeah, fair enough. Well luckily for us, we’re pretty flat. Michael can text me at any moment and tell me I want a new course on this [01:19:40] or that and we go do it but then also we do have Keynesian based economics on our site because that’s what the universities in America are teaching.
So we have those actually. And I think instead of just doing a commentary about it, I think we’re making a pretty big statement just by offering this course right?
Saifedean’s economic course right next to them, right? So when you go on our site, you’ll see econ, microeconomics and macroeconomics, and right next to it, you’ll see Saifedean’s Austrian Economics. I understand, you know we were talking a little bit about it on the podcast the other day. The Austrian is a bit of a misnomer because it’s really classical economics, et cetera.
And I listened to you talk, I wonder if we shouldn’t call your course human economics, what do you think of that? We called it human economics versus Austrian or something like that to also differentiate, I’m just kind of riffing a little bit on that.
But it’s really interesting. You know there was some internal discussion. We had a person who was like, wait a minute, this is not an economics course, there’s no math in it!
And of course, that’s partially true, at the same time the obvious retort is, well if you do the math wrong all the time or if the math doesn’t really tell you anything, what good does it do? Had this been a traditional university, in a lot of universities this course wouldn’t see the light of day, right?
Because the faculty Senate would vote it down. But we don’t have that because Michael Saylor says oh gosh, here’s this great guy out here, Jeff go meet Saifedean. Saifedean’s got some great courses. Let’s go convert those to ours [01:21:40] and that wasn’t quite as simple as we thought. We still put a bunch of work with a couple of our people to get it, even though it’s mostly the same.
So you’re right. It’s an interesting governance question about what we offer. And so to that end, as Saifedean previewed the other day, we’ve got two more courses coming from him. We had signed a contract with another well-known author in the space. I don’t know if he wants me to say his name yet, but that’s coming, it’s related to monetary history.
And so by putting these out, that just alone is making a statement. We don’t tell you take this course versus take that course. We put them all up and you’re gonna find your way. But you know what you’re seeing already, as I mentioned, there’s a thousand people in this course already. A thousand steps a few minutes ago, and that’s just in two weeks.
This morning, I think Saif saw it already, we tweeted out a lovely endorsement by a student already who’s been through the whole thing from the UK and really gave nice endorsements. We tweeted that out. I haven’t had anyone give a really nice endorsement of the regular economics course, I don’t believe. Or regular, I should assign the right word, traditional, whatever, Keynesian.
Just by doing it I think we’re making a bit of a statement. I’ll say that.
Nathan: Yes, thank you. A comment on the, on the physical classroom presence. There are so many labs and research labs, chemistry labs, biology labs, research stations, strung across the United States that [01:23:40] it seems very plausible and easy to just have a two month lab session. Kansas University, just down the street here has a lab, I just don’t need Kansas University, all I need is the lab and a teacher.
Jeff Davidson: You might see that, right? You might see that. Some schools that we do that with now. Our biology course is recommended for three credits, but many schools require four credits, some people taking the non-lab portion with us and they take the lab locally.
And so you’ll see more of that. Now you’re sitting on a business model, right? Maybe you open up a lab franchise where you’re offering chemistry experiments to kids to learn petroleum engineering or whatever.
Nathan: That’s where I was driving, yes exactly. It needs to go free market.
Jeff Davidson: I think you’re right. I think you’re right that at some point you could see, and it’s already built, right? If I’m the university I’m looking for some additional revenue, there’s an opportunity, right? A business could do that, lots of people could deliver that. So it’s an interesting, I think you’re starting to see the unbundling of things is another thing you’ll start to see in unviersity offerings.
Nathan: Like Kansas university right here, I read the numbers cause they’re close and the square footage of structure they got is really going to waste.
It’s scary but the real problem with it is keeping it alive. You got to sweep it and air condition it, shovel the snow.
Jeff Davidson: Natalie sent a message to the group about [01:25:40] trades, I think that’s right Natalie. You’ll have carpentry and different things that are still going to have to be done online. But when I want to learn how to build something or put something together or fix my car I often look on YouTube and I often see a video on how to do it, right?
I still have to do it physically, but I still can get supplemental there to help me when I get to the physical space. So you can do a lot of the prep time and a lot of the learning and maybe cut down a bit on some of those areas that really do require the tactile in person.
Saifedean Ammous: Yeah. I mean I think there’s there’s a lot of value for the face-to-face interaction. But people, if you think about it in terms of opportunity costs, you can see where the case can be made for you’re missing out on a little bit of the personal interaction, but you’re saving up in costs and time enormously.
And I think what people miss with this is a lot of the things that people associate with university, they think, if you learn online, then you’re going to be locked in a cage and then not allowed to interact with others. But on the contrary, when you don’t have to waste your time and your money on a degree that you could learn for practically free online, well then you have a lot more money to go out and meet people and network and invest in your business and actually make good progress with your business.
The opportunity cost is very helpful in trying to think about economic decisions. And people kind of have this idea that, if you miss the fun college years, if you miss the party experience from 18 to 22, that’s going to set you back for life.
If you don’t spend a lot of time partying with the same group of people over a couple of years, that’s going to be a massive handicap. But I don’t believe it is.
Jeff Davidson: Well, and think about [01:27:40] this too so let’s just put the COVID and all that stuff aside for a minute, and then hopefully at some point we’ll be back in full interaction with people.
But we had an office in what’s called WeWork, are you familiar with WeWork? The shared space model and it became very obvious. So just in our location, there were well over 100 companies of various sizes. Large companies were present as well as small ones, it’s non-profits, et cetera.
So if a student could buy a single person membership just to come in, not even for a dedicated desk, just to come into the space and hang out, just use the free space. You could come to the happy hours there. You could network with a hundred businesses and you could go in the corner and study coding or whatever you wanted online.
Think about the salons, think about ancient Greece, where people would stand on the street and lecture, right? And you’d hang out. So what are the modern salons, what are the modern places to hang out?
Twitter Spaces is one and all that stuff. But also you have now, the hybrid work places are going to be hybrid learning places, if they’re not already. If I’m a university, I’m putting something in there. I’m going to open up an office. I’m going to offer some free stuff then I’ll market you my other paid stuff while you’re there, right? Or if I’m a bootcamp I’ll combine with someplace that has a lot of people in it.
So you’ll see, I think as things return to pre COVID, pre lockdown or pre restrictions. I think you’re going to see more of that as well.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely. All right, well Markita in the chat is suggesting that you should collaborate with Miami mayor Francis Suarez. He seems to be all about that stuff.
He’s into Bitcoin, I think he might be interested in this.
Jeff Davidson: We have tweeted at him, I think Michael knows him. [01:29:40] Michael’s a Miami beach resident nearby obviously. Like I said, we have pending now before the Florida Independent Commission for Licensing offering for free MBA degree. If I’m the Miami mayor, I’d love to tell my constituents that we have free MBA, offered by one of the top CEO’s in the world. Michael probably doesn’t like me saying that, but he’s a pretty sharp guy and also too let me talk about the MBA program.
I can’t recruit for it yet because I don’t have the license, but I can tell you what it’s going to be like, that’s not recruiting, right? We’ve had 30 PhDs work on this already. We’ve had a handful of MBA holders as well. All of them have taught extensively and all of whom have business experience as well.
So it’ll be very ethics oriented, it’ll be very data oriented and very sustainability oriented. And so that’s kind of interesting as well, and it’ll be free. And then if we get that approval, then we have the ability to start. Okay, what do we build next? Now that we know how to do it, let’s go build a statistics masters, I’m even thinking about, Michael often talks about, you need another billion PhDs to solve the world problems. But you can’t, there’s no way to, we don’t have the time and money to do it the old fashioned way. So I have a professional degree, I’m a Juris doctorate.
So I have a doctorate in jurisprudence, but it’s not a research based degree. So that’s why it’s called a professional degree, right? So what if we created professional degrees in data science and in analytics and statistics and what have you so that we could offer a professional doctorate of that subject.
We could automate probably 99%, and the other 1% we can reduce the cost by 99%. [01:31:40] So there’s a lot of things we can do once we get the, and we’ll probably do it anyway with or without the state accreditor blessing, but we want to try to get the blessing so we can help people understand the transition. Once we do that, once we get that to go, the sky’s the limit.
In fact, you know, if you’re not ready on day one, for the MBA, we’ve got all the free courses and undergrads that lead you there. So that’s an interesting model and one that we think we can replicate in other areas once we get the licensing.
Saifedean Ammous: Fantastic, yeah. That’s all very encouraging stuff. All right, anybody else have any questions that they’d like to ask Jeff? This is pretty much all I had. Anything else you’d like to add, Jeff?
Jeff Davidson: Well, just thank you. And you know, again, we’re excited to offer a different viewpoint than a lot of people have offering. I think the way you break down the economics and the human action.
I know you’re standing on the shoulders of others, who’ve done that, but at the same time I think the way you present it is very interesting and to be able to offer that in addition to the Bitcoin for Everybody course, whatever course, critical thinking I made sure we had on the site. We didn’t have it for a while.
We had some people saying you couldn’t do it. You couldn’t do it. Can’t do critical thinking online. Not only did we do it, but now it’s recommended for college credit by that body I mentioned earlier, the American Council of Education. So we found a way to do it and do it well enough where a lot of people think it’s worth college credit.
So, we appreciate all the support from the Bitcoin community in particular, cause we see people re-tweeting our stuff and sending our links to politicians and [01:33:40] policymakers and all that stuff. And again, we don’t necessarily need the endorsement of all the politicians or any of the politicians, but at same time, some of them have a constituency.
It would behoove them, if you believe in fiscal responsibility, you should tell your constituents because it’s low cost. You believe in access? Well, we’ve got that too. We’ve got the access equity covered. Cause we don’t care where you’re from. We don’t care what you look like. You come on and you learn and if you do it well, we give you a certificate
And hopefully a degree soon. Stay tuned, we’ve been around for a decade but I think that a lot of that was finding our way, and then we found our way. I think we’re just starting to hit, I think we’re pre-stride, we’re about to hit our stride. Saif, we’re so excited you’re with us for at least at some level there and then more to come with a couple more courses.
Thank you for that. Thank you for jumping into this experiment with us and we’re just excited to see where it goes.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely, thank you. And yeah, I wanted to mention this during the discussion. I also have the feeling that you guys are on the cusp of hitting your stride. I think getting to the million landmark is just going to get a lot of people to pay attention.
And also I think, all of the Bitcoin related stuff and Michael’s increased profile around Bitcoin and Bitcoin’s growingly increasing profile is just going to continue to suck people in. We like to liken Bitcoin to a black hole because it’s just sitting there and everybody gets drawn into it.
And once they’re drawn into that hole, they just go there and they don’t come out. And over time that black hole just continues to engulf more things and grow. And so I think saylor.org is similar, it’s kind of tied to Bitcoin thanks to Michael being [01:35:40] so invested in both. And I think it speaks volumes about the fact that he finds those two things to be so interesting and so passionate for him, because I think I agree with him on the fact that they truly are world changing.
And I think hopefully it’ll pick up very quickly over the next couple of years, I hope so.
Jeff Davidson: Well, this is great. Thanks everybody for asking questions. And Natalie, I saw your message as well, thank you for that. And you know I’d love to come back another time maybe when we have something new to offer and of course Saif we look to host you again on Spaces in the not too distant future.
Saifedean Ammous: Absolutely. Thank you very much, take care Jeff!
Jeff Davidson: Thank you guys. Bye bye.