Implications of ‘free’ learning

We have done a few posts recently on this aspect of free/DIY higher education. It included information about free courses and free resources. What does all this mean for ‘traditional’ education providers?

It depends. Providers such as TAFE’s and those offering practical skills will always have a place. While you can read all about making stairs or welding gates, it is still much better to be able to learn in a practical setting with someone who knows how to do it. But for others, it may have some impact on the numbers of students, and as the margins get smaller, this may mean that some courses don’t get to run. And the more that happens, the less flexibility there is, and the more learners will look for other options such as online courses!

While it may not be having a measurable impact at this point, as learners increasingly demand learning when it suits them, the providers will have to change. In the short-term, part of the answer lies in providing good quality delivery with staff who are committed to meeting the learners needs. In the longer term, business models may need to change so that content is free, but the providers charge for assessment services.

Another option is to work out where the free courseware matches curriculum/training package needs. Why can’t learners be given credit for what they do via free courseware? Providers can tell the learners what free courseware relates to their courses, and then the learner enrolls with the local provider to get the rest of the content. After completing the assessment processes, they can be issued with ‘the piece of paper’.

This means that everyone wins. The learner gets greater flexibility, and instead of free courseware being a threat, it actually saves the provider having to develop resources for that component of the course.

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