Barnes & Noble University may have started out last year as a branding campaign for the booksellers’ e-commerce arm. But with more than 250,000 participants signing up for courses in topics from golf basics to Jane Austen novels, executives are seeing it as a revenue opportunity.
Students enroll in Barnes & Noble University’s 80 courses for free. But Stephen Riggio, vice chairman of Barnesandnoble.com, says those who have signed up so far have helped create a new revenue stream not to mention providing valuable information in customer interests and tastes. “The university is a concrete example of how the company has extended its brand into a purely Internet-related arena,” he says.
Some observers say it may be too early to judge the online learning venture’s success. “The jury’s still out here,” says Michael S. Katz, senior vice president in the IT group of Booz, Allen & Hamilton. “They’ll win or lose this on how they use the information they gain about customers from things like online courses.”