Let me take you back in time. The year was 1996. Bill Gates had written an essay with the titled “Content is King.”
Little did we know that these lines written by the Co-founder of Microsoft will form the basis of a moneymaking model in the upcoming decades as the world gets into the fifth gear of technological advancement.
I believe Bill, in his essay, wanted to indicate that the internet will force content to evolve. He tried to hint at the shifting away from typical TV, radio broadcasting, and print media content and the move toward online content, interactive content, and content developed by independent creators. And Bill was right about it.
But my views are a little different on this topic. Let’s have a look at Content vs. Me as the Devil’s Advocate.
It’s true in many ways that content is still the king, but not when it comes to actual education and learning. Educational content is cheap and readily available on YouTube or any other streaming channel for free (almost). And there, you will have a highly qualified resource and a non-qualified resource teaching the same subjects or aspects.
So, the question that comes to my mind is: Is this education?
No, it’s a piece of information getting transferred from one format to another. Education happens when minds combine, questioning happens, and the solution or answers are derived. This is real education, which in turn becomes learning and will stay with you forever.
You don’t always need to learn everything; sometimes, information is good enough for you to survive.
To be specific, I am talking about online learning, how I foresee its future, and what will be the most promising bet for the eLearning industry.
Let’s get into perspective.
Who are the new kings of this kingdom then?
1. User experience (UX)
UX is the trickiest piece in the entire schema of things. The user only notices what is missing and what they didn’t get. But when this happens, frustration, anger, boredom, and confusion follow. And anyone who has tried learning will recognize this.
Educating someone is a big responsibility, and with changing dynamics, everyone has limited chances, unlike the historical process. Get your UX right, and you already have a magic wand that you are building.
2. Access and choice for content
How can a piece of content be labeled good if no one can access it and if the learner doesn’t have a choice to consume the right content, or for that matter can’t choose what they deem is right for them?
The best example would be Spotify, Netflix, and Amazon (all of these are content access businesses though, and not content businesses). These business models are not giving you the best movie or music; they provide you with access and choice to pick from their library of thousands.
In digital learning, specifically, freemium business models that charge users for access to content packs, extra exercises, tests, and so on are all examples of faulty, content-led thinking. The true value for users isn’t in unlocking extra batches of your content. The true value for users lies in:
- Having the freedom to choose what they’re interested in
- Seeing their progress
- Interacting with other users
- Having access to experts
- Getting their questions answered
The challenge for content providers is figuring out which of these things to focus on, and how. If you would like to know why and how to modernize your learning content, here is an interesting guide for you: Why Modernize Learning Content? Things You Need to Know.
Free as a business model: These five words strike fear in the heart of any commercial organization, especially those making healthy margins in content sales. But believe me, that is the only option left most of the time, NO ONE WANTS TO PAY FOR EDUCATION ON INTERNET.
When I look at the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) (the big ones), I don’t see they are left with any other option other than finding an alternate source of income for revenue generation.
These numbers are a testimony to my belief system. There has not been a single year since 2012 (when the madness started) that MOOCs have seen a rise.
The Reason: MOOCs are still an excellent low-cost tool to partially move courses from offline to online. Not taking away the credit they deserve, I would say MOOCs, at the same time, are not the perfect way to solve the problems that lead to a low level of student engagement. For this reason, MOOCs could not become a real alternative to traditional education.
4. Data: The greatest and most promising king ever
Data became bigger and probably most significant when we stopped associating it with information and more with “our information.” Be it Facebook, Twitter, or any tech platform that tracked and utilized information or our information – its use/misuse, availability and above all, its value.
What does all this data, or Big Data, mean for learning?
For a start, it’s the first time we’ve ever really had data to look at. It’s hard to extract user stats from a print book, or from instructor-led training where the best option we had was to get a small survey filled post the completion of the training. Sadly, this option has very poor accuracy.
Sales does give out numbers, but they are never the right indicator of how good your content is. It’s all about how good your sales, marketing, and brand position is.
So, how is content being delivered in the new era and with these new dominant fields?
Cohort-Based Courses/Learning (CBC/L) are the answer to it.
But why? Here are five reasons:
1. CBC/L is the most important innovation in the field of online education
2. Application of traditional methods to deliver traditional education
3. It is scientifically proven that collaborative learning is more effective than learning through passive lessons
4. In MOOC, you get pre-recorded courses, and the logic is to deliver the entire education without human interaction. In CBL, students learn together. It seems like a small difference, but it has an enormous impact on the mindset
5. Learning without any human interaction can lead to depression, anxiety, or even the simplest of things like boredom and lack of involvement in the entire process (the prime reason why MOOC have constantly shown a very low completion rate).
CBCs are in their very nascent stage. As with any popular trend, they too will see a swing (both upwards and downwards), but what I am sure about is that, as the offering evolves, the entire definition of CBC will grow too.
Imagine pre-recorded lectures and a community that meets for Q&A sessions and live calls; what will you call this? A course or a gathering?
Similarly, we might see a blurred line between webinars, networking events, or a series of events vs. courses.
The things that would gain more significance or matter more in education are learning and engagement, regardless of how they evolve. Everything then might change the traditional methodology of learning. But I am sure that with those changes, we will see new opportunities for learners and creators alike, which in turn will redefine online learning.
So, this was my take on how content has evolved in the modern era, especially in the education industry, and what should be the right content-related approach to online learning. If you would like to know more about eLearning content/courses or how to develop online learning content the right way, feel free to reach out to our experts on firstname.lastname@example.org.