THE 21st Century training paradigm for online training is to provide it openly to everyone at no charge.
There are many examples of training providers adopting this approach with great success.
The Kahn Academy is but one vibrant example.
At latest count, it has delivered 126,913,254 lessons on a variety of topics including maths, physics, finance and history.
What is impressive is the simplicity of the learning materials.
Basically, the teacher uses a computer tablet (a Wacom Bamboo Tablet – $80) on a PC on which to draw concepts and construct diagrams (SmoothDraw3 – free). This is accompanied by an audio voice over and then all recorded off the computer screen using Camtasia Recorder ($200). This is then uploaded to YouTube as a video. How cost effective and easy is that?
Of course, the power of its teaching is due to the excellence of the teachers – Kahn and friends – not the technology. On the other hand, without the technology, the Kahn Academy would not exist.
Every resource is provided free. There is a knowledge map to show the learner the progressive pathway they need to take to accomplish certain goals.
Kahn initially did all this work voluntarily, but the Academy is now supported by grants from the Gates Foundation and Google.
Other free online training business models are those similar to Tom Worthington’s Tom Worthington’s ICT Sustainability course. Again, the resources are open and free, but if you want to be accredited (receive a qualification), you need to pay a fee. The publicly funded training provider earns additional income through their assessment processes. It also means that many more people are reading the resources – learning – over and above those who are qualifying. Consequently, the knowledge is being spread more extensively.
This is the way forward. Why shouldn’t all publicly funded education institutions adopt a similar model?
A compelling reason is related to sustainability. In order to mitigate climate change, there is a need to speed up and broaden knowledge transfer across a raft of disciplines. After all, according to global climate projections, we only have a short window of opportunity to significantly reduce carbon emissions. Having knowledge resources open and free will help in this urgent quest.
More pragmatically, though, it may be just more efficient to adopt this approach.
Having resources open, allows anyone to try it out first.
If they choose not to continue, which according to Sandra Pattison happens in about 70% of cases, then they have not wasted the institute’s resources – trainers, space, equipment, etc.
If they wish, however, to continue to complete the whole course and qualify, they can be formally assessed on the free units they have completed.