“A very simple explanation is: In corporate, they have money”

Many big companies also pay for corporate learning services to administer and track internal programs like sexual harassment training. That has already led some academic-focused start-ups to rethink their audiences.

A very simple explanation is: In corporate, they have money,” said Josh Coates, the chief executive of Instructure, an ed tech company that has broadened its strategy.

In 2011, Instructure began marketing a learning management system, called Canvas, to universities and school districts. Last year, the company expanded its business into employee-training platforms for corporations. Mr. Coates said he expected that Instructure would eventually derive much of its revenue from companies, which pay higher fees than schools.

“If they can make an employee 2 percent better by paying $50 for corporate training, they are going to do that in a heartbeat,” Mr. Coates said. “A school can’t do that kind of calculation. It’s not an obvious return on investment.”