Why Open Content Improves Education for All

My work has allowed me to get up close and personal with many of India’s leading training providers, public, private and hybrid. They are all seeking to carve their niche in the ever growing market of vocational education and training in India. I’ve seen software demos, curriculum development workshops and sample lessons. What I know from these experiences is that education is changing right before my eyes. Speaking from a value chain perspective content is out and distribution is in.

It used to be that a premium would be paid for access to content – today the value chain in education has advanced and the premium no longer lives in content but in the learning experience. The key to future learning is in alternative, integrated, engaging learning modalities. The learning is no longer about a student and teacher; it is about an ecosystem of knowledge and the teaching process is guiding the students, teaching them to process, synthesize and engage with the content they have access to. I’m also observing that while access to information is easily available high quality curation of content is in limited supply. Those who are gain ground in the training field are organizations who understand and serve the needs of their student customers.

While traveling in Bangalore I was exposed an inspiring project – The “Skills College Initiative” being undertaken by the Wadhwani Foundation. It is creating open, accessible content for use by training organizations in the skills trades in highest demand with the largest projected shortages of talent. The largest constraints I have observed in skills development are recruiting and retaining students and quality teaching methodology. So many training organizations get bogged down on the quest for the creation of perfect content at the expense of focusing on student recruitment, retention and quality teaching methodology. The result is a total disconnect between the student learners and the content they are being taught – they are funneled through like the learning process is a factory. The view seems to be if we get the content correct the learning will take care of itself – this proves not to be true to reality.

Each learner is a person with diverse needs and skills, as such the interaction between the learner and teacher is where the investment should be focused and not on the development of content. This is not to say that training and education organizations should not use high quality content because they must – I’m simply suggesting that the supply chain for training and education must be further developed so as to recognize that an organization with the core competency of teaching may not also have the core competency of curriculum development and that is ok.

Education is the ultimate equalizer, the game changer for individuals and for families. I hope as content becomes more freely available we will see an increase in the quality of the distribution networks to get this content into the hands of the learners. I hope we will be able to reach more young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds. By making content more accessible I hope more people will have access to education, positioning them for gainful employment and sustainable livelihood.

 

Gayatri Eassey is committed to making an impact and a difference in her community both in the United States and in India, both personally and professionally. She is passionate about education, democracy and women's empowerment. She enjoys traveling, taking pictures and spending time with friends and family. She is a dedicated advocate for educational equity and has worked for The College Success Foundation and as Associate Director for External Affairs for Seattle University's Career Services Office. She is the former Interim Executive Director for Career Services at Seattle University. Prior to working at Seattle University she served as Executive Director of City Year Seattle, and as special assistant for boards and commissions in the Office of Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire. She spent three years on the Seattle Community College Board of Trustees. She was the co-founder of the YWCA's Gen-Rising Committee, committed to engaging more young people in the critical work of the YWCA. Her additional experience includes work as a trainer for the National Democratic Institute in Amman, Jordan, preparing women to run for elective office. She has also served as political director for the Washington State Democrats. She recently completed a fellowship with the National Urban Fellows, America's Leaders of Change. She is a former board member for the Center for Women and Democracy, the Institute for a Democratic Future, and the Seattle Chamber of Commerce Young Professional Network. She was the Statewide President of the Young Democrats of Washington and a Fellow with the World Affairs Council of Seattle. She earned her MBA in 2012 and hopes to align her government and nonprofit background with her business education to support public private partnerships which provide mutual benefit and strengthen communities.

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