A recent post on MindShift addressing the current state of educational technologies addressed the growing use of the freemium model within the sector. While many ed-tech applications are in theory “free”, the organizations behind them consider the data that users produce to be more valuable than traditional revenue streams. Users also open up countless connections and these connections are far more valuable than a few cents made downloading a piece of software.
While the post seemingly criticized this sort of behavior, it might actually benefit education in another important area — research. While research has long been the most expensive part of many development efforts, companies can ironically lower the costs involved by giving away things for free. And while this certainly won’t be changing the way that major ed-tech suppliers work, smaller startup education companies can offer a free app and simply ask users to share how they use it. Naturally those that upload content they create can then allow other people to use it as well. While this kind of methodology has been seen in video sharing and other fields for years now, it’s actually relatively new in the field of educational technologies.
Some people may easily start to speculate where this kind of practice is headed. It may very well expand far beyond where it lies today in less serious areas. For instance, some have suggested that this could be the seed of a research economy. Since this kind of behavior economizes research, it isn’t too hard to believe that it might represent where research could be headed in the future.
Large super projects used to be necessary to fund education. The image of students watching films about large numbers of men milling about in white coats isn’t nearly as relevant as it once was. Students themselves can easily be involved in the educational process with this kind of technology, which in turn will provide needed information to further streamline the process.
Ultimately many problems can be solved this way, and it’s easy to assume that current technology could be reused in other ways based on the model that ed-tech is following. A great example has been educational podcasts. For years, at least some students were able to take correspondence courses via radio broadcasts. Podcasts are quickly allowing students to take courses in the same manner.
As informal and formal methods of learning grow, people who listen to educational podcasts for fun might later apply this as educational credit. Those enjoying themselves always learn best, and pairing this maxim with the idea of low-impact educational technologies could be the key to really reinventing the way that research is conducted overall.
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