Dematerializing the Professor

Dematerializing the Professor

Whenever humans have dematerialized certain things through history, their usage and adoption have gone up. As a result, it created huge economic growth and wealth for a lot of people in the system.

When stocks were dematerialized and made into online tradable financial instruments; instead of denominating them in stock certificates, their adoption went up. Most of us cannot imagine having stock certificates in printed form. But it used to be a thing.

Coca-Cola's stock certificate from 1919

Since the dematerialization of stocks, a lot of other things have been dematerialized. Some of the things that we take for granted are:

  • Music CDs got dematerialized by Spotify and Apple Music
  • Currency notes got dematerialized by banks and crypto
  • Gold got dematerialized with gold bonds
  • Paper documents got dematerialized by computers  
  • The internet dematerialized movie cassettes, audiotapes, and postal mails
  • The photo film got dematerialized by digital cameras
  • Clubs got dematerialized by social media and online forums
  • The library got dematerialized by the Kindle

Where are we in our journey towards dematerializing the professor?

Books, ebooks, online videos, and online courses have dematerialized the library to a large extent, but no one has come close to dematerializing the professor.

In my previous in-depth article about how Digital Mentors can scale to $1m/yr in revenue, I explained how one can bring the experience of an offline education in a university or college to the best extent possible on the internet.

Though the article was focused more on how Digital Mentors can build an excellent (and highly profitable career for themselves), it does put a lot of emphasis on how CBCs (Cohort-based courses) are the future of education.

If you have to teach the subject "ABC" to 1,000,000 students, you can have 10,000 teachers teaching 100 students each. But the biggest problem with such an approach is that not all teachers would be equally good.

20% of the mentors will be favored by 80% of the students, or more realistically, 99.9% of the students would like to learn that specific subject from the top 0.1%.

The only way to deliver high-quality education to the maximum possible students is to create a scalable digital experience.

To scale education using Digital Mentors, we have to understand that the education experience is not just made of content ("Gyan").

For someone to learn a new skill, they need:

  • Content: High-quality content in text, audio, and video produced by someone who the student looks up to
  • Practice: Implementation/Simulation of learned concepts in a controlled environment.
  • Feedback: Getting corrective and improvement feedback from the action taken
  • Community: A peer-to-peer learning community (classmates)
  • Catalyst: Incentives and gamification to make learning fun and fast

A combination of all the above will make education fun, motivating, and rewarding (not just in the long term but in the short term).

That's why Cohort based courses are far better at replicating the offline experience of university education. We are not just dematerializing the professor but the university itself.

Dematerializing the university is the best opportunity to democratize education. A student who cannot afford Harvard or Stanford education can still get a similar experience but at a fraction of the cost of an actual university.

In certain cases, offline experiences can be added to the online experience in an affordable way. No student should be required to spend two years on a single subject and try to meet the bills through part-time work or with a huge education loan. An offline meetup, local student clubs, and speaking events where mentors and experts speak can be a great addition to the online learning experience.

Accelerating education through the digital medium has a lot of second-order effects. When more people learn online, more people get upskilled. They go for higher-paying jobs and start their freelancing career, create more value and some might even start their own startup venture.

This will lead to more economic opportunities for all the people around (even the people who are not upskilling themselves).

We, at LearnToday, are trying to optimize for the perfect cohort-based course experience for students. With every batch, we iterate a few things that will help us improve the student experience.

We are at Batch 22 right now and are proud to say that we have been able to train more than 10,000 students with our 3-month cohort-based training program on Digital Marketing.

We are not just engineering the marketing plan for getting more students into our program, we are also constantly optimizing for a better student experience. This has resulted in an NPS rating of 73, which is rare in the online education space.

I don't know if LearnToday will be the one to put a significant dent in how people upskill themselves, but so far we are happy with what we have achieved, and the transformation stories (as seen on have been very promising.

What fuels us to build what we are building is the student feedback and student success. We are the market makers, at least for a small niche in the market as of now.

We are always on the lookout for more talent, partners, and investors to join our mission. (If you are interested, mail me at

Deepak Kanakaraju