I love buying courses.
And I love the feeling of having finished a course.
But not always loving the actual doing
So I don't actually finish them
- from My Learning Journey
Don't remember where I read exactly, but one gentlemen said something about how when you buy an online course you buy it for the projected version of yourself, the same way one might buy a big bag of groceries for the kick-off of their new diet regimen on Monday.
It seems like there are some patterns between truly assimilating information and keeping a consistent diet: they're not easy. And the temptations to give up are easy. And they sometimes suck. But they're for the greater good. But even when they're for a good cause, you still get tired of them. When friends ask you how's the course, you either say 'i'm still taking it' or 'i'll get back to it' but you know you need a gallon of coffee and some good motivation to resume it again - saying 'fuck you it's boring' to your friend feels like a cop-out.
And this is how you end up with 8 courses finished at roughly 20-30% each.
The shocking thing that hit me once I realised that the online courses + global internet access + universities falling into irrelevance might be a feasible solution for worldwide education is that there is a change that's not zero where I might actually still stay dumb out of comfort.
And by all means, those who really need the information, will jump over any hurdles to get it.
Course is long?
Better than nothing.
Presenter isn't charismatic?
Better than nothing.
Let's say everyone who needs education can get it. Everyone who doesn't need it right now most likely had it.
So how do we figure out a way to shape online education in a way where we don't make people hate themselves for not finishing things? Where we don't turn the "school is boring and irrelevant" scars we had from going to high-school to "I can't finish a damn online course I am useless"?
I would argue that in the context of lifelong learning and preserving the spirit of curiosity, there is some value in shaping the tools for a context of abundance, even if it doesn't make sense in the super-short term.
If we can shape the educational tools to create maximum engagement for those who aren't under any major threat then that can create a better experience in the long run for the ones who are just stepping into the world of online learning.
While for the outsiders, motivation at the beginning might be high due to not having access to that kind of medium or information, I believe it takes a different incentive once you have a baseline of knowledge and stability in your life.
In the context of a start-up, this feels a little bit the other way around.
Your target audience is made of non-consumers of the industry who will adopt your new tool because nothing in the market helps their needs. You should be focusing your time serving your non-consumers and let the nice to haves be either served by someone more niched or as a nice-to-have at a later point in your journey.
And at the moment, while it doesn't seem like a huge issue - and sort of feels like starting a start-up to solve the problem of people having too much money - I would argue that whatever we commit to right now as being the major solution has repercussions for the enjoyment of the learning experience for someone down the line.
Is there a change that's not zero that, at some point in the future, the majority of your audience be made out of people who learned just enough and don't really need to learn much more cause they can just get by with what they know?
What's the risk then, of having created a big set of tools that are "the standard" now? The sort of "spreadsheets suck, but everyone knows spreadsheets"? What is our capacity for pivoting at that point?
The solution is still not clear - maybe the shape of the medium will come out of research rather than a start-up? Gambling? Games? Sci Fi books?
If it's an accountability and consistency problem, how do you create lifelong accountability then? Is it really feasible? Not obvious.
Now that being said, I'm not arguing that we should stop deploying boring courses. People still need those. In the early days, the "do whatever it needs to be done" is an amazing feat.
But now that we have some big players in this space that will take the base element of course production and deployment, what I am arguing for is thinking of the shape of the online education space once there is an abundance of information available.
Part of the negative feelings towards my early school days come from years of getting drilled down with irrelevant information. And for a while, I abandoned learning everything because I just assumed it was the same old thing. As people's experience with their first encounters with online learning mediums is now solifying, it could go the same school way. Or not.
And if there is anything that we can take back from our time-travel experience to the present, and take into the way we structure our online learning experience, we might just have a chance of avoiding waking up one day with a bunch of information dense but zero curious people.