e-Learning free of charge

Why e-learning should not be free

This time, we’re tackling a tricky subject: we explain why accurate training should come at a price and why free e-learning should be treated with caution.

“Hey, do you have time to go out for a drink on Friday night?” – “Nah sorry, I’m always training there!” – “Ah, cool. Online?” – “Presence, go to Vienna every time.” – “Couldn’t you do it online?” – “You could, but I wouldn’t spend that much money on it.” – “Why?” – “I don’t know, it would only be e-learning and that’s supposed to be free.” – “I don’t understand that…”

You know what? Neither do we! Let’s take this fictitious course of conversation as an opportunity to address a sensitive but all the more important topic: the price of good continuing education. Most of us have acquaintances who take advantage of continuing education opportunities such as advanced training, certificate courses or studies as part of their job or voluntarily after hours. Most of these offerings take place in presence and usually cost a lot of money. We know from some acquaintances that they also do online training. However, they spend little to no money on this. This fallacy – face-to-face training can and should cost something, while e-learning must be free – is still widespread, but in times of the e-learning boom it is no longer appropriate. In the following, we will explain what speaks against e-learning being free and why good continuing education should have a reasonable price.

Free e-learning: the arguments against it

Let’s start with a striking comparison: You are looking for a new piece of furniture, for example a table for your dining room. During your online search, you will discover a special bargain. However, after taking a closer look at the corresponding website, you become skeptical. Despite the many positive attributions – “great quality”, “made by master craftsmen” – you will hardly find any information about manufacturers or quality criteria. You keep searching and come across an offer from a reputable carpentry company. That convinces you. The table costs more than the first find, but it’s allowed to – after all, professionals were at work here. They opt for the more expensive alternative and are extremely satisfied with their purchase.

You probably would have acted similarly to the person in our example. And that brings us back to our actual topic: As we all know, professional quality can and should have its price – it’s no different with e-learning. Well-done e-learning needs professionals who can create e-didactic concepts and have the necessary technical skills. Numerous hours of work, resources and heart and soul go into a target group-specific and effective e-learning offering. “Fair enough,” some may be thinking now, “but it’s still ‘just’ online.” Of course it is, but the “only” can be safely deleted. Today, the technological possibilities are so mature that didactic goals can be achieved in the best possible way. The tech palette in e-learning ranges from the use of a wide variety of media formats to the integration of AI or AR elements. This also costs time and money, but is worth it, as we explain in more detail in our blog post on the benefits of e-learning.

Another important point that speaks against free e-learning and in favor of an e-learning offer with an appropriate price: Certificates or confirmations of participation are only really valuable if the completed e-learning continuing education offer was professionally prepared and could meet e-didactic standards. This is usually the case with offerings from professional e-learning providers. If e-learning is free, you should exercise caution and carefully consider whether it’s really worth the time and commitment.

Nevertheless, there are also positive examples of free e-learning. One of these bright spots is iMooX, a project led by Graz University of Technology. Interested parties can take online courses there at university level free of charge.

However, offers like these are primarily aimed at private individuals. For companies, it is worthwhile to go to professional e-learning providers who guarantee high-quality and target-group-specific training. We at skillbest have been doing this for more than 18 years, developing innovative e-learning formats that deserve the name.