Getting a Handle on Online Education, Part 1
As recent events have accelerated society’s movement into the internet age, we have gone beyond news feeds and search engines, through the wild ride into pervasive social media, and are now in a world of on-demand transmissions from many to many. As both providers and recipients of information, we are drinking from firehoses beyond what any physical learning environments or town squares could ever have delivered.
No matter what the future holds for in-person learning events (and I believe there will be a pent-up post-pandemic need for them), online education is here to stay and is morphing rapidly. There’s so much going on that I named this post Part 1, to be continued.
Don’t Get Too Attached!
Beyond the exponential increase in use cases, from schools to workplaces to contactless everything, the technology is leapfrogging. The speed of new entrants vs. the entrenched tech giants that are only a few decades old themselves will keep shaking things up. Don’t get attached to the latest feature set that you’ve experienced, because there are a lot more to come. Good time to put a toe in, but otherwise watch from the sidelines and cheer.
In addition to the churn of platforms and their capabilities, we have everyone from newly minted coaches and self-published authors, to corporate universities, to stuffy academic institutions, all offering curricula. The subset of meta-offerings – how to make your fortune online – constitutes a genre unto itself.
Making Wise Choices
Whether it’s learning from celebrities a la Master Class or completing a certificate required for your profession, you must decide what to say yes to and what to pass by. Before following any course, remember to chat with yourself about what purposes you have in mind, because their job is to tempt you, and many are quite good at it. No, they will not be able to solve your core business questions for you with their six-step system. Outside of the luck factor, building any business will take work. Most of the material they offer is easily available. Their valuable service is how they walk you through.
What’s great about the current moment, the bright side of the otherwise tragic crisis hitting the US and elsewhere, is that wonderful conferences and inspiring talks can only be delivered online, and many of them are being offered for free. This has given providers a chance to move beyond the paid audiences who would have traveled to their venues, and no doubt will have a much greater reach. We could not possibly absorb all the rich material being sent our way, from friends and professional groups, even if we tried.
Parallel to, and in addition to, the events that were jolted online, education providers were already at various stages of worldwide remote distribution. They are taking advantage of the tide with so many free programs that we could book a double or triple regular work week without skimming even the top layer off the stack.
The Path Forward
Here’s what I think will happen: Programs will continue to migrate in format and platforms. The lowest tech solutions that are convenient and inexpensive are fine ways to give and take learning programs. Getting committed to a high-ticket platform that locks you in might not be the best move right now.
One course developer friend told me today that she was part of the way through loading her courses and marketing onto one platform and then attended an intriguing introduction to another platform. The first one was becoming tedious and the second looked alluring. I encouraged her to complete the one into which she has already invested time, money, and work. Get something out there, and then you can look around. Don’t jump from ship to ship. They will all be changing and growing, and hopefully, becoming easier to use.
Signing up for freebies has a short run, too. There’s the first wave, overwhelmingly tempting, until we learn to say no to a lot and keep our purposes in mind. The freebies are only there to familiarize you with programs to buy.
That’s when it makes sense to pick and choose, and to sign up for a program that you can follow and can integrate with the other things going on in your life. That’s worth paying for, if you have the attention and help of a master and are being supported in goals you want to achieve. And then it’s worth letting the others go.
Grasshopper and Ant?
Vendors’ lists will settle, hopefully they will get pared down to those who are really interested in what the seller has to offer, and the rest of us will be signed up for the things we care about. Then we will be higher value to our providers, and they can be higher value to us. Clearinghouses will emerge (some already exist) to help curate programs.
So let’s enjoy the freebie five-day challenges and the three-day bootcamps, enjoy putting them on if you are getting your own stuff out there digitally, and then pick and choose so that your screen time feeds your life instead of eating it up.