Education, Training and Lifelong Learning

Over the week, I tweeted a link to a post by James Gardner, CTO at the Department for Work and Pensions, who was sighing about That higher degree and questioning the value of taking one for career advancement purposes:

When people look at CVs, they don’t usually care all that much about the education, so long as there are signs there is some. They only care about what you’ve already done in your career to that point. Anyone can get a degree, after all, even a higher one.

Finding alternatives to traditional formal educational qualifications is something I’ve been mulling over on and off for a couple of years, (e.g. Time to Build Trust With an “Open Achievements API”?), though it has to be said not in very much detail.

As a waypoint in the (lack of?!) evolution of my thinking around the hinterland of this issue, here’s something I posted a couple of weeks or so ago to a departmental First Class conference. The original reason for posting was to have a little rant about the “training vs. education” debate:

I drank the lifelong learning Kool Aid a long time ago; no way could I do a formal education course now, and I’m not sure that a formal training course would cut it for me either. But pretty much every day I pick up either a new practical skill or an abstract concept or something that I could imagine someone packaging in either a training course or an OU course.

Most universities focus on a 2-4 year relationship with their students, discounting the Development and Alumni Offices who maintain an occasional interaction (until their actuarial models suggest you’re going to die, when I suspect they up the number of interactions and requests to be remembered in any legacies that are in the offing.)

In the OU we kid ourselves that the relationship we have with students is typically a 4-8 year one (denying the numbers who take singleton courses and have no intention of doing a degree, who simply chose a course out for interest, for professional development *or* for training, and with whom we only have a 3-9 month relationship).

Now go back to trad universities, where banks traditionally hit on freshers looking for a lifelong commitment (though admittedly that often resulted from inertia, once committed, on the part of the student, and the relative difficulty of changing bank accounts (which is not as hard now as it used to be…)) We’ve just announced we’ll be rolling out Google Apps for Education to OU students . Why do you think Google wants this sort of deal? Same reason as the banks, though in this case Google are out to secure a personalised, long term advertising delivery channel straight to your inbox.

How many institutions offer a lifelong learning relationship with their students? Folk need to learn stuff and learn how to do stuff. They may need educating or they may need training. I suspect for most punters those two things (training and education) are synonymous. I have always thought that part of th OU’s proposition was our ability to support open learning; we are uniquely placed to offer a lifelong learning relationship to our students. Not 9 months or 6 years. Life long. This might be through a one off purchase model (cf. buying courses), bulk purchase model (degree/sum of courses model), a subscription model to a particular topic or thematic area, or a club/membership model where you can graze.

Strategically, the OU has been looking in part at freemium models. But why limit ourselves to upselling from free and open content? Why not do the “training” bit that everyone seems to hold in such low esteem, and then upsell to our “proper” “education” products?

Or not…

PS I feel a little bit twitchy about posting this, and I’m not sure why…? Should I have left it behind the firewall…?