We’re always nattering away to our lovely users and we specifically tell them not to hold back their opinions (curiously not too hard with teachers). One theme that has come up a few times is free vs paid for.

The educator community currently sees the internet as a big ol’ free resource bank. One user (anonymously) said:

“…ultimately (ode content) costs money and there are so many free resources/resource xchanges/online collaboration etc why pay?”

Why pay? That’s a very good point and one worth discussing. How does a commercial service compete with multiple dedicated free services?

The internet is full of educational digital resources for schools, almost always constructed by enthusiastic amatuers and proams, sometimes professionally hosted, sometimes simply through the good grace of a particularly altruistic community, school or teacher. Occasionally you have to pay , the majority of the time it’s free.

So what can ode bring to the party? Well, the highlights would be:

  • Commercial disaggregated content unavailable anywhere else.
  • The barrier to entry for our customers will be very low – the content will be sold bit by bit meaning you can pick up professionally produced, authored and quality controlled digital content for very low cost.
  • The ability to use a single web application for all your resource needs, with added functionality such as a content library, a playlist constructor, personalisation and VLE ready content.
  • Comprehensive tagging linked against various curricular standards.

It’s worth mentioning that every single educator we’ve spoken to agrees on one thing: free is all very well and good but time saving is more important in the long run and ode will be a one stop shop with all your content purchasing, display and control functions built right in.

Some things in life are worth paying for, and free will always have it’s place. Hmm…but free (whisper it) doesn’t really mean free does it?:

  • How much is your time worth? Do you want to spend it surfing a multitude of different sites, most of which are amateur, all of which work differently?
  • Can you be sure of your rights to use and own that content?
  • What’s the quality like? How often does “free” translate as “just about good enough, I suppose, if you squint”.
  • Does it bother you that “free” often limits you to simple assets such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint files? Getting hold of high quality video or interactive games (which can add so much to an educational experience) is much harder when you want them for nothing.

The music industry had the same problem. Why would anyone buy music online if you can get it for free from a peer to peer service? Well, emusic recently sold it’s 100 millionth song and itunes flew past it’s 2 billionth download a few months ago. That’s still only a small percentage of what’s being traded for free but significant even so.

The lure of the free is a powerful pull. But I think we’re moving forward into an interesting area that doesn’t focus on a cost vs no cost argument but on a true value argument – I think everyone recognises now that most of the time free is great and occasionally the experience free is just not good enough and you reach for your card – your value decision might be moral, time saving or qualitative. But you’ll make it each time you say “I wish I had X content to fulfil Y need”.

This situation can only really exist when the end user has access to both options.