Software will eat education Part 1- Or what I really don’t want from an online education platform

What’s the difference between a standard sort of website and a website designed for doing education online? Hard to know really… but perhaps quite a lot actually is what I’m finding out.

Basically, your standard kind of template driven brochure websites, even the ones with all the bells and whistles, are fundamentally different from what education providers really need to get their training and education happening online. And it’s more than that. It’s about getting training and education business models online. That’s the kicker.

The business of education is about to get treated to the same disruption that we’ve seen in print and retail (to name only two industries). Pretty much every industry is being disrupted. Government is no exception and this is having an effect on education as well, particularly where that education is state subsidized or connected to government funding or compliance in some way.

The awful truth is that most of education and higher education in particular is not sustainable. Sustainability is just a code word that bureaucrats use to mean self funding. In other words, people pay 100% of the education service or product including the profit margin that the provider builds into the price to make it worth doing the work. I know… I know… So unreasonable. Of course it’s better if the state subsidizes it. Who wants customers…?

Another awful truth is that despite all the fuss about blended and online learning, we don’t really know what works. The medium is too new and too fast moving. Just having content online is not the same as having a great online education experience. The problem with working within the existing paradigms is that we don’t actually know what we want as educators. The result is that we tend to reproduce online what we typically do in class or on paper. This is not really leveraging what the web can (or could) do.

So what do I want out of an online learning platform. Well, I don’t actually know really. But I know what I don’t want. I don’t want:

  • Just an online version of a text book. I’ve done this and it’s OK, but no longer really satisfactory. The textbook has to go… the printed one and the online one.
  • Anything that won’t run on an iPad or an iPhone. Flash is out. And so are plugins that aren’t flash but actually turn out to be flash. Don’t tell me my video casts won’t work on my iPad. iPad users care about content. And who cares about Android right? Get the iPad thing sorted and the other will probably take care of itself.
  • Unnecessary complexity. I don’t want back ends and front ends and authoring tools and stuff that coders and software engineers like to play with. I don’t want to learn another skill set. I’m already a content expert. That’s enough for me. Just let me get my damn content online.
  • Double handling. I don’t want my students to enroll using a paper form that I email them that they fill out by hand, scan, email back and then register the same information on a website while my PA enters it again into some spreadsheet and another online database. And then if the website database won’t repopulate itself with data from any of the other things then… blah…
  • Expense. My business model just got trashed. Government has no money to spend here. Don’t ask me to spend a lot of money to get this online thing cracking. I need cheap, cool, global, and scalable.

So if you’re out there… come and find me.

Author: Graeme Smith

Education, technology, design. Also making cool stuff...

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