In 62 pages, Downes covers a lot of topics and any reading and analysis requires a lot of attention. This is the second of my comments about his review. (See Downes on "learning communities.")
One of the central challenges of online learning is how educational enterprises will make money. Downes like many others has observed that making money on selling content. He writes, "What should be understood, however, is that the bulk of educational content online will be free to access and reuse."
His idea for how the educational market will work is as follows:
"Content providers will discover there are much larger markets to be had when they help people create their own content. This will be the basis for the educational marketplace of the future. In general, helping people provide for themselves – helping them, in other words, save time and money – will provide the best opportunities. Selling people cameras instead of pictures, for example. Course content creation kits instead of courses."I have put the emphasis on the last sentence which is his main idea. This is an interesting idea that I am not sure is quite right. Too often Downes and others seem to forget that there are a range of learners from those who are just starting to learn and those who have advanced knowledge. Novice learners are not likely to be able to create structures of content and information into any reasonable structure. They need frameworks, scaffolding, and guidance which is what teachers provide. Teachers also provide feedback and direction-- "here, take a look at this. " or "have you thought about this?" or "here is the general way that people look at these types of problems" Although there are some types of learning (match, some language learning) that are more likely to be automated, there are many areas that we are a long way from automating (natural and social science, skill-based areas-- medicine, teaching, law).
There is still a marketplace for this type of learning. This is not to say that Downes is all together wrong in pointing us towards the idea of "course content creation kits." This is an interesting idea and worth trying to imagine both how to create the "kit" and what tools this needs, but also how to create content that will be easy to assemble into such a kit.