The Problem Of Access With Free To Play eLearning Models
contributed by Steven Ho, Business Development Team at Learnerator LLC
Think school and an image of legions of students hunched over desks in a cramped classroom may come to mind. For years, millions of children, teenagers, and adults have grinded their way through groggy morning classes, tedious textbook problem sets and mind-numbing note-taking.
But very soon, those may all be remnants of the past. In recent years, the open-source movement that revolutionized software and technology has shifted its sights towards the education space. Along with this shift, numerous education companies have adopted “free-to-play” business models, providing quality content to students for free. After all, education shouldn’t be limited to just those who are able to afford the price.
Perhaps among the most successful companies with “free-to-play” business models are MOOCs, or Massively Open Online Courses, that offer relevant, accessible knowledge to everyone. Free, open-to- the-public MOOCs have exploded in popularity and are poised to change the very way that we learn. The advantages are obvious: MOOCs offer education to anyone, anywhere, and of any background. No longer is access to top-notch professors confined to the hallowed halls of Ivy League and other prestigious institutions of higher learning; top educators and cutting-edge curriculum are now accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
This open-source movement in higher education first emerged in the mainstream through free online course offerings by Stanford University in 2011. Interest was overwhelming, with an enrollment of over 300,000 students across three different courses. This trial soon evolved into a fledgling commercial enterprise with the founding of Coursera, a company that offers University courses online free to the public.
Coursera has been a remarkable achievement, and has provided over 2.5 million students with top-of-the-line university content. Students from across the world are now able to browse offerings from prestigious schools such as Duke, Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania all for free.
However, for all the impact that MOOCs and other companies with “free-to-play” business models have made in the higher education space, they have made very little headway into the substantially larger, and arguably more important K-12 curriculum. Currently, there are few free resources that an elementary school or high school student can turn to for quality educational content outside of the classroom. Almost all K-12 learning takes place exclusively within the classroom. The benefits of open, online learning are clear: open online platforms enable learning that crosses time, geography, and money. They enable students to broaden their educational horizons and have the potential to jumpstart America’s failing K-12 education system.
On another front, online learning has the potential to transform the billion dollar test prep industry. Traditionally, structured test preparation has been the bastion of the well-to-do, with classes running into the thousands of dollars. Those who can’t afford these expensive courses are often left in the dust in the all-important standardized test race and subsequently during the college admissions process.
“Free-to-play” businesses may hold the solution to this problem. Learnerator, our education platofrm based in Chicago, was established to help fill this need. Learnerator offers AP review problems as well as dynamic feedback and analytics on a “free-to-play” basis, upon which students gain access to much of the content for free, and pay for higher level analytics and feedback for a price much lower than traditional test-prep services charge.
The online education industry is all about access. For far too long has quality education been reserved for the privileged few. With their free-to-play, open access models, online educational offerings have the capability to arm millions of students with the knowledge to change their communities and the world.
Image attribution flickr vancouverfilmschool