(Image from: Online Learning Tips)
This topic requires us to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of offering free accessible content in the eyes of a content producer. However, I’m pretty sure most of us interpreted the question as: Should online content be free, or not? It is in the nature of this topic to spur discussions on price and could easily be the sole focus. But I believe ‘online content’ goes deeper than monetary talks.
(in offering free online content)
There are numerous established online learning platforms that offer free courses and materials, one of which is Skill Share. To date, Skill Share has over 1 Million Students with 500,00 projects and classes taught by 1,000 teachers. And the numbers are growing. As Skillshare, alongside other OER platforms, are a rather informal education system, content producers/teachers need not worry about having the right qualifications or the fitting image of a ‘teacher’ to conduct a class. This means that more career opportunities are opening up in the teaching industry.
The digital world exists without a physical form and it’s where information, once posted, are retained on the net almost forever. This gives the content producer long exposure time for their content and as the internet connects people across geographical boundaries, the producer is able to reach a much larger audience. Case in point would be Mary-Kate McDevitt whose first class on SkillShare has 28,000 students enrolled and the nationalities of her students extend beyond USA. This interconnectivity also allows for unrestricted learning where users, or students, can share information and opinions to any corner of the world.
The nature of the digital world allows for unrestricted communication and flexibility. Furthermore, by producing OER, it will be a good experience for content producers who are just beginning to start out.
As OER uses internet and technology as a medium, it would be difficult to reach into areas with insufficient technology and content will be restricted. One main concern about OER’s is that they are not yet widely understood and accepted by the public, as they still believe in traditional learning – at school. This lack of understanding may spur several legal issues as the public are not used to or unaware of the copyright and licensing issues. This would also raise doubts about the credibility of information and producers may face restrictions in career advancement.
Therefore, with these problems in place, sustainability of sites offering OER is a long-term concern. Content producers should carefully select the safest and well-established platform to produce content for so that their works will not be re-used illegally and unethically.
Now comes the pressing problem: Should online content be free? If these content are free, then what do the producers earn? In my opinion, we should not be restricted to choose within “free” or “pay for physically non-existent content”. I think it would be right if some content requires us to pay, because it’s still a person’s hard work and knowledge. But it is crucial to keep the price low so that individuals can slowly accept the idea. With the advancement of technology and increasing reliance on technology, it has changed how we live and how businesses earn, and it is time to accept this new digital education system.