Breaking down the Marketplace & Niche Academy models of e-Learning

Simplilearn has done something that is quite non-traditional in eLearning – marketing through television advertising. This has brought back attention on eLearning platforms, not that the sheen had faded in any way. The online education sector has players leveraging different models, the notable ones being the marketplace (such as by Simplilearn, Edureka, Coursera) and niche/focused (Jigsaw Academy, Code Academy, Free Code Camp) models.


In layman’s terms, a marketplace is a platform that facilitates transactions between buyers and sellers and it does this across categories (think Amazon). In the eLearning scenario, the buyers & sellers translate to students/learners & teachers/instructors respectively. The marketplace itself ensures there is enough promotion of the courses and also takes on the burden of user acquisition. A student comes to the web page and finds that the site offers courses and certification across categories ranging from technology to business to creative. He/she picks a course of their choice and interest and buys the course. Any seller/teacher with sufficient skill and knowledge on a topic can choose to create a course and put it up on an online learning platform. To a student, there is an abundance of choice and option that they can exercise. The foremost advantage of this model is the ability to provide course content at a competitive price, making it much more accessible to anyone who wishes to learn at a price point that is reasonable to them.

In contrast, a niche or focused eLearning platform targets a specific audience that wants to learn a specific skill. For example, Jigsaw Academy solely focuses on analytics education. In such a model, the content is curated and created in-house, with focus being more on future employability through upskilling than on certification. Niche online education players seek to bridge the knowledge gap between industry requirements and human capital.

Here is a quick feature comparison of both the models, to shed more light on them:

  Marketplace Niche academy
FOCUS & CHOICE Variety of courses for different domains Curated content with a single instructor
COSTS Competitive pricing with course costs ranging from extremely cheap to moderately high. Higher priced owing to content production and creation costs.
LONG-TERM GOAL Certification and immediate additions to resume/profile Employability and creating job-ready individuals
HELP & SUPPORT Support and help functions are usually restricted to platform usage and accessibility Spans the entire learning experience –  from signing up right to possible job placement
TYPE OF LEARNING Covers more of the theoretical concepts of a topic. Focus is hands-on, real-world skills for domain specific problems.
FACULTY REACH The connect is limited and based on schedules of the faculty. The connect is stronger and more consistent.
QUALITY Marketplaces struggle to maintain consistent quality standards More likely to ensure medium to high-quality output.

Both models present different advantages to a learner. Marketplace is all about choice whereas niche academies are all about acquiring specific skills. While it definitely boils down to an individual’s learning needs and though it seems like the marketplaces seem to have an upper hand with variety, choice and affordable price in their favour, niche academies win out when it comes to upgrading your skills and taking a step ahead career wise.

If a major career boost or change is what you are looking for, you better go to the experts to equip yourself with the necessary skills. Niche academies, by the virtue of their service, offer courses and training on skills that are highly in-demand and sought after. It would make sense you spend your time and effort on courses which are sure to place you above the co1mpetition. Online learning platforms like Code Academy and Jigsaw Academy are truly your best bet when it comes to building skills that can be put to immediate use at the workplace.

Guest Author:


Gaurav Vohra


Gaurav Vohra (CEO & co-founder, Jigsaw Academy, The Online School of Analytics) – has over a decade of experience in the field of analytics and has worked across multiple industry verticals including financial services, retail, FMCG, telecom, pharmaceuticals and leisure. He was recognized as one of India’s top analytics academicians in 2014. Gaurav is a graduate of IIM Bangalore.

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