De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

About the added value of Open Education…

In Open & Online Education we see a constant struggle between ideological perspectives on increasing access and opening up education by lowering boundaries on the one hand and the urge for a sustainable business model on the other. In that sense, I’ve been involved in this discussion for our MOOCs recently and am a firm believer that (passive, singular) content (without added value) cannot be monetised (in most cases) – you must have noticed the nuance ;).

Obviously, the article in Wired got my attention with this title: “Why Free Is Not the Future of Digital Content in Education”. As you might have guessed, I do not agree (and after reading the article I still don’t). But it is good to learn from other points of view.

The article argues that the price asked for content will not go down to zero when digitised, since it will still generate added value (but in other areas than the content itself). I think terms like ‘content’, ‘free’ and ‘added value’ are key here and need more nuance.

Fred Mulder and Ben Janssen (2013, pp. 36-42) developed the 5 Components Open Education model, where content, learning services and teaching effort apposed to learner demands and employability/capabilities development are considered different elements in (open) education. The level of openness on each element provides an open fingerprint, where the levels of openness in different elements can vary.

Another element which plays a part in me disagreeing with the article in Wired is the added value which influences pricing. In my opinion, content as is, has very limited added value, unless it is incredibly good, or unique, etc. I too use Spotify to shuffle through songs, but I also still buy CD’s. Simply because the physical shape, artwork, collection of songs in a certain order, etc have added value to me.

I think the comparison between the music industry and education is in this sense not so very far off. The added value in education does not so much lie in the content, but in the experience, which is the result of a combination of mostly learning services, teaching effort and learner demands. The added value lies in other elements than content – and that’s what is read in the Wired article as well: it’s the experience in the gaming industry which is interesting, not so much the game itself.

So yes, after reading the article on Wired, I still believe content can be offered for free, since the added value is somewhere else. Which might mean that elements in that experience could be monetised. But then we enter a new discussion on open sustainable business models.

This struggle will be part of my presentation at the Open Education Global Conference in April. See you there?

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