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Open education or educational marketplace?

March 13th, 2008 by Graham Attwell

It had to happen but its taken a long time coming. Over the last two weeks I have stumbled on an increasing number of sites offering free access to tools for on-line teaching and learning. Most of them seem to incorporate some elements of social software along with video conferencing software.


WiZiQ advertises itself as a platform for anyone and everyone who wants to teach or learn live, online. With a virtual classroom, educational content and a session scheduler, WiZiQ works best for anyone’s online teaching and learning needs, they say.

Whilst WiZiQ stresses the virtual classroom, Learnhub has a more community orientation. This is a site where people teach & learn online, they say. But the functionality seems much the same. And whilst it is hard to work out WiZiQ’s business model, Learnhub says in the future they will take a percentage from paid for courses.

It’s not confined to the English speaking world. e-teaching.org is a German language portal offering much the same services (and using Adobe software for conferencing).

All these sites are encouraging ‘teachers’ to develop their own courses and run them through the site. All are trying to a greater or lesser extent to build some kind of social software based community.

I think it is impossible to overestimate the importance of what is going on. None of these sites require that you are a trained or qualified teacher. None have restrictions based on age or geography.

It now is very, very easy to organise on-line seminars and programmes. In the past software was always a struggle. But it is not clear how this will evolve. It may be that the most use will be to supplement existing educational programmes. It could be that we will see an explosion in self organised teaching and learning. (I plan to organise a Pontydysgu seminar series in the near future). Or is could be that this is another step down the road to an education free market – and education courses become just another global commodity. I have argued endlessly that technology does not determine social development, instead society shapes technology. There is wonderful potential with this new wave of software but who it benefits will depend on how we use it.

 

 

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3 Responses to “Open education or educational marketplace?”

  1. Nice post!

    I’m one of the creators of LearnHub. I hope that you find there are in fact some broad differences between us and WiZiQ. (We know the founders, Harman & Harbir, and admire their work greatly!) WiZiQ focuses on synchronous learning (where teacher and student are online at the same time). We do that as well, but so far have focused more on asynchronous features.

    Our courses, lessons, debates, trivia, and concept games are all asynchronous, meaning that the participants do not have to engage at the same time.

    Also like to point out that we just launched last week, and still have a clear and excited roadmap ahead. Contact me privately if you’d like to see what we are up to.

    Its all about lowering the barriers of entry to online learning for everyone involves, teachers, students, and organizations.

    Looking forward to your seminar events!

  2. Kevin Chan says:

    We have been running a learning marketplace focusing on niche segment of technology training and some english writing/communication. We have some social components too, in terms of members. giving feedback etc. on teachers, offering free learning material to others.

    checkout http://www.learnersparadise.com

    thanks
    Kevin

  3. Harman Singh says:

    Like the post! As a founder of WiZiQ, I would like to clarify on the business model aspect mentioned in the post. We will soon be offering a premium service on WiZiQ for teachers who need more that the basic tools for live, online teaching. We will have an update on our blog as soon as we are ready: http://wiziq.typepad.com

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