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September 5, 2021

Deborah Quazzo: From higher ed to hire ed

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat with the Managing Partner of GSV Ventures, Deborah Quazzo. GSV is a leading investor in the education and learning space, a sector that represents the second largest portion of GDP. GSV’s portfolio includes iconic learning platforms such as Masterclass, Coursera, Guild Education and lucky for us, now Disco.


In our conversation, Deborah shared incredibly thoughtful insights on what has transpired in the world of online learning since the onset of Covid-19 and its impact on the space in the future. She is a huge champion of the creator economy and the role creators will have in pushing learning forward into the future.


Here are some of my biggest takeaways from our session with Deborah:


💡 #1 Online learning is here to stay - just like shopping online and working from home, the pandemic forced a new habit on people. GSV forecasts that because of the pandemic digital learning will now reach 11% of the education market by 2026, representing a $1T market size:

“What we saw in the pandemic from K-12 and the higher ed market and as well with adult learners was the realization that there is an incredible array of high quality engaging content available online and that can be accessed so much more efficiently and enjoyably. People are (also) really wondering why would I ever drive to go to a site when I could actually do it more efficiently.”


💡 #2 Creators are breaking down education’s global barriers - I was shocked to learn that only 30% of the U.S population has a college degree. Deborah is a big believer in the creator economy as a catalyst to address the 70% that are cut off from the system:

“I think that's one of the more exciting things about the creator movement is this sort of dissemination of this philosophy of learning and creating to a much broader percentage of the world.”


💡 #3 Hollywood meets Harvard - one of the amazing anecdotes Deborah drew on was linking creators to Hollywood talent:

“We also have a great theme around Hollywood meets Harvard, which I think Disco also plays out pretty brilliantly. The idea is that new learning platforms are adopting the attributes that Hollywood would have in developing content that would be engaging and memorable, that addresses specific audiences, and is impactful.The other thing that I particularly love about what's happened with the creator movement is that it's also elevating just the whole profession of teaching.”


💡 #4 Lifelong learning is a requirement for the future of learning - for so long, we are trained to think that the only forum for filling up your knowledge tank stops when you complete traditional school - Obviously this is a huge misconception, as learning is an evolving, always-on process:

“We've been preaching it is lifelong learning that is required. And the agile universities are actually developing solutions but today, it’s a very small percentage. And what’s stepped into the breach is organizations like yours (Disco), and creators who are stepping in to think about it”


💡 #5 Learning need to be about mobility - we should be investing our time and money into learning opportunities that are outcome-based not accreditation-based. We need to move from higher ed --> hire ed:

“We actually moved it beyond  H-I-G-H-E-R to H-I-R-E ed, hire ed, which is lifelong. And what's interesting is we're even seeing creator dynamics go into the enterprise, which I think is fascinating because I think one of the other things that's happened is that companies are totally now embracing the fact that they have got to become the fourth educational system.”


💡 #6 Your knowledge is your accreditation - GSV is a huge proponent of ‘knowledge currency’. The idea is that the influence that comes with having a degree will be replaced with something far more valuable - proof that you completed this project or you took this class from this incredible influencer:

"I think the ability to show that your influence is transferable into a mobility outcome of some sort is going to be increasingly what we see happens. And I think individual people have brands, companies have brands, I mean the Google certificate on Coursera is one of the or the highest demanded course on the entire 77 million student platform."


💡 #7 Nothing starts at scale - it starts with one individual who has influence and a vision. Scale happens over time as the individual continuously refines and retests her craft. Look no further than the story of Byju Raveendran who started as an inspiring teacher and eventually built his thought leadership into a $16B company:

“Byju was teaching and he would rent coliseums. And so 10,000 people would go to a coliseum to watch Byju, you sit in the stands  and I'm sure half of the people couldn't even see the whiteboard up in the rafters. But when you think about how fast that transformation has been from this wonderful teacher creator into now Byju’s as a $16 billion company, (it’s) pretty cool that we could have that kind of rapid change through technology and network effects.”


💡 #8 You can’t do it alone - learning is always better with a peer group. It’s the very reason we built Disco - to give creators a platform that enables community-driven learning experiences:

“One of the reasons we invested in Disco was we believe deeply in the cohort based learning model. And you can see it really runs through successful learning cultures, if you're going to go online and if you go in with a cohort, you're going to be much more likely to complete your course, you're going to enjoy it more, and you're going to be more engaged.”


💡 #9 How Deborah learns - Deborah finished our conversation by providing some resources she uses in her daily learning diet:

  • She is a voracious reader whether it’s articles or books
  • Her favorite book is Caste by Isabel Wilkerson
  • She loves consuming podcasts
  • Her favorite podcast is Invest like the Best by Patrick O'Shaughnessy


Lastly, Deborah curates an incredible summit each year (now in its 12th year) that invites amazing leaders from around the globe who are transforming society and business around learning and work. I am so pleased to announce that this year Disco has been invited to speak so I highly encourage our entire community to register!


Watch the full session with Deborah here: