Like everything else, the internet has changed learning forever. The “how” of learning is different, but what has really changed is the “who”.
1. The rise of the subject matter experts
If anyone showed the way it was Arianna Huffington. She really had no business becoming the news guru she did, but she saw the niche opportunity and took it. The big news agencies were left gaping at her audacity. Even when her blog was bought, her credibility was so well established that the new owners kept the name.
Now, if the content matter is good, authors do not need a string of letters after their names to establish credibility. The openings for creative, expressive people are wide.
The big universities are offering free content through ad-hoc and less academically rigorous but structured courses. Yet just as successful are the courses on plumbing or craftsmanship.
The number of viewers watching how iron rails are made, for example, confirms broad interest in all sorts of different learning.
3. Specialist Education Content Aggregators are changing the game
Organizations whose plans are simply to gain market share by disrupting the educational status quo are beginning to make their mark. These organizations have recognized two key elements; the internet is where anyone who was born after 1945 starts to look for information, and secondly, where there is value, people will pay.
More significantly, they will pay a small amount and do three or four courses much easier than they will pay a large amount for one.
4. The Internet has changed the demographic
Education is no longer the preserve of the young or those prepared to carry a student loan. Retirees looking to learn new skills, mid-lifers maybe changing careers, and those who are still in school use the internet as the starting point for any research into any topic.
Information, therefore, is presented in a non-ageist, non-sexist (sort of) way which ignores the content reader as a market segment and focuses essentially on the ability to use content to make dollars.
5. Libraries are one of the quickest to embrace change
Long gone are the days when all librarians could discuss was the merits of the Dewey Decimal system. Libraries, that could have so easily looked obsolescence in the face, performed the most exquisitely executed about turn and brought the library into the 22nd century.
No longer is the library a source for books and other tangible media. Now the library is a source of content where only some of which happens to be held in big buildings.
Who will be the winners and losers?
That depends on perspective and is essentially a political answer. If a person doesn’t have computer access, online content is of little relevance. But of course, few people have zero access and those who don’t have made the decision they don’t need it. Read more about Online learning without leaving home.
Most would agree the democratization of information has to be for the greater good.