Free, High Quality, Reusable Content

What would you say if I told you that I know where you can find some FREE, HIGH QUALITY, and REUSABLE courses, modules, and lesson plans?  I guess your answer depends on who you are.  A company or person that sells “course or module” development, books, and “training” courses might not like knowing that their “competition” is giving “it” away for free.  People who have the words “learning and development” or “training” in their job title might not like knowing that someone else is willing to do “the job” for free.  Heads of learning and ministers of education will most certainly have interest in knowing this because it will help them stretch their “training budgets” and deliver more value back to their respective company or community.  People that want to learn (the learners) in business and educational settings (or from home) would have high interest in using FREE and HIGH QUALITY “training” and “education.”  Educators will also generally have high interest.

The fact is that there are over 40 places (websites) that offer FREE and REUSABLE courses, modules, books, and lesson plans.  I cannot yet say if the QUALITY is high across the board because I have not yet performed a detailed investigation.

I can tell you that I have purchased, seen, and experienced a lot of really bad “courses” and “books” that cost a lot of money.  There are some commercial guarantees for paid training or education but I would not argue that paid training or education is always better than the free training or education.  In fact, I would argue that training or education developed in an open source (or collaborative) manner is more likely to be more effective, more accurate, and of higher quality as compared to “materials” developed in the “traditional” manner.

My dissertation investigated whether educational materials developed following instructional design principles were more effective and more readily adopted as compared to materials developed by subject matter experts.  I found that the materials developed following instructional design principles were statistically more effective but not more “attractive” to buyers or consumers of such materials.

So, why do I say that subject matter experts are now more likely to develop effective training or educational materials in an open source environment?

Firstly, instructional design principles are embedded in many of the readily available “content development” tools.  These tools come pre-loaded with templates, workflows, samples, and guidance.  Secondly, open source methods provide peer-to-peer reviews, a continuous formative evaluation process (in the form of ratings, comments, discussions, and reuse), and provide more opportunities to “tailor” the content to local settings and individual needs.  Lastly, the open source methods do not let only designated or well known subject matter experts contribute – it is more inclusive – and this brings in some fresh and new ideas (and some “bad” or “incorrect” ideas).

Subject matter experts are not always the smartest people on earth.  There was a time when a majority of the subject matter experts stated unequivocally that the earth is flat.

We cannot always know what is “bad” or “incorrect.”  My dissertation proved this.

There are some things we can do to help people in an open source environment increase their chances of selecting HIGH QUALITY content.  A common technique is to separately show the content that has been endorsed or approved by a credible and objective third party.  Another is to show community ratings and comments.  A third technique is to report back evaluation results.

As consumers we constantly judge quality.  Some of us take more time and have more knowledge than others, and might do a better job of identifying a HIGH QUALITY “product” or “service.”  The beauty of an open source environment is that we can always tap into our networks and ask others (people we trust and respect) to share their opinions.

I know there are some circumstances when a business cannot afford to take a risk and let their employees take any “training” they want – from any source.  A highly controlled and managed process is not required for all types of training and education.

Does this mean that open source methods to content development and sharing will bring an end to “formal” education and training, put all “training providers” and “traditional publishers” out of business?


I think “we” will still have a need for a degree or for a certification (that comes as a result of a pre-defined and tightly managed curriculum), some bespoke (or custom) education and training, and some training and education from well-known experts.

We will not need to throw out the baby with the bath water.

We need to embrace open source methods for “content” development and sharing, leverage it wisely, and find more and better ways to learn from our networks or communities.

Unfortunately, the post to the educational resources no longer works.


One response to “Free, High Quality, Reusable Content

  1. hmm… your link to all those free educational resources goes to “503 Service Unavailable… Is that a commentary about free thinking?

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