The majority of available tech jobs will not be filled in the future, due to a lack of qualified candidates. Despite this, EdTech remains too costly to solve the tech employment crisis. We need to support and promote Open Knowledge to address the digital learning gap by granting everyone access to high-quality, reusable tech educational resources, along with new forms of education based on peer learning and collaboration.

The Cost of Technology Education Is Still Too High

Oxford University

In a fast-changing technological environment, mastering computer science is part of today’s mandatory employability skills. Booming technology careers are a sure bet: by 2020, tech jobs are expected to grow by 20% in the US alone (source: Bureau of Labor Statistics); however, there will not be enough qualified candidates to fill them. While Technology Education (Edtech) prepares the next generation to become part of a technology-empowered workforce, learning about tech has a cost, and it’s high.

Undergraduate tuition for Computer Science at top tier universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Stanford or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) costs about $60,000 per year, which amounts to a hefty $250,000 for a 4-year program. Back in 2012, newly-created MOOCs (Massive Online Open Courses) were supposed to end the era of expensive higher education, opening the doors to free high-quality knowledge to the masses. Why would anyone continue to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a college education when they could learn online from the best universities in the world – for free? The problem is that today, MOOCs are no longer free. Major tech-centered online learning platforms such as Coursera, CodeCademy, or Udacity have all turned to paying options in their attempts to find a proper business model and return on investment, essentially because MOOCs are costly to produce (Source: ClassCentral). Course certificates, degrees and credit fees for these providers usually range from about $20 to more than $2800, depending on the program.

An intermediary option is offered by short training courses and coding bootcamps. Technical programs which vary a lot in quality are blooming everywhere to quickly train low-cost, operational coding employees. Tuition fees for these range between $10,000 and $20,000 for two to twelve weeks on average. The danger of a two-tier technology workforce, depending on how much time and money people can invest in their education, is looming. On the one hand, students from short-term training courses often end up being better at putting together batches of ready-made functions than truly architecting software, are are mostly hired to perform repetitive and specific tasks. They may be disappointed not to land the coolest jobs because understanding programming concepts in depth requires time, practice, and a sustained self-study discipline. On the other hand, expensive Computer Science college tuitions may be the best assets to provide an engineering mindset, the ability to genuinely innovate, and a precious Graal: the Degree (according to Code.org, CS majors earn 40% more). They remain essentially accessible to students from wealthier backgrounds.

Peer-to-Peer Communities Are Changing the Way We Learn

The open-source movement has opened the door to a new philosophy about intellectual property and the costs of educational resources. Open source is a way of thinking, based on the concept of open collaboration where individuals voluntarily contribute to create (software) content collectively and agree to provide anyone with access to it, without any legal limitation for use, sharing and re-use.

Sharing knowledge is done with the hope that it will be useful to others, without any monetary retribution or even a warranty that it will actually be useful. When you speak of free knowledge, you are referring to freedom, not price. By giving your knowledge away freely, you empower yourself as well as those you teach.

Open-source challenges the concept of knowledge transfer and peer learning. Collaborations of independent contributors and communities will change the way we learn, especially in the technology field. Peer learning can be seen as a mode of learning where anyone can learn from anyone; it is based upon a sense of self-organization that strongly differs from traditional pedagogical models of teaching and which constitutes a new educational solution particularly well adapted to the Digital Age, as stated by Cathy Davidson and David Theo Golberg. The future of education lies in communities of peers, or, to quote Philipp Schmidt, founder of the Peer 2 Peer University, “The expertise is in the group.”

A Call to Support Open-Source Knowledge

In the short term, coding will become a new literacy (Horizon Report, 2016 K-12 edition). Technology education prepares the next generation to become part of a technology-based world, but strong disparities persist in access to Edtech. Having free access to technology knowledge has become a fundamental human right.

For now, only 5.3% of courses provided by higher education faculty are using openly licensed educational resources (source: Babson Survey Research Group, 2016). If people share what they know with an open access to the sources of their content, millions would be empowered to learn, make the content theirs, improve it and transmit knowledge in turn.

There should be no copyright on technology knowledge.

The time has come to break down the barriers to the creation and sharing of technology content by joining the Open-Source Knowledge movement.