Baking cakes with the Pope of e-learning

In Europe we have our own richness of different cultures, different monopolies and many forms of corruption. We also have the rather powerful pan European government – the European Commission – that is both regulating and supporting citizens and their businesses. To make your business successful around the continent you better do some lobbying in the Commission.

Yesterday in Rome I was lucky to hear a presentation of a representative of the European eLearning Industry Group. ELIG is a group of publishing and ICT industry trying to get their perspectives heard in the Commission and in the national Governments. To make the European e-learning industry flowering we need certificates that are sold like salvation in 16th century. Welcome to Europe!

FLOSS and open content movement are slightly shaking the boat of the educational publisher. There is a real fear that the role of the publisher in the value chain will change. It looks that what is left for the publishers is the editorial work and marketing, as the actual content creation and distribution will be done online. Also many Governments are reconsidering how educational materials should be produced, delivered and used in future in schools.

To keep the educational publishers in business, ELIG‘s one proposal is to introduce pan-European certificates and licenses for all possible professions. For instance: If you are a baker in Italy and want to run a bakery in France, the French government should ask you to show a certificate proving that you can bake. To get the certificate you should study – online of course – learning objects about baking. Then you take a test. The learning objects are naturally published by one of the ELIG members and the test is taken on ELIG member’s platform.

To make this real, ELIG needs the Commission to make a directive about the European certificate for baking. Maybe you are asking how ELIG is going to sell the idea for the Commission? They will tell them that the certificates will help free movement of workforce – one of the core ideas behind the whole European Union. Oh lal a! It really makes sense to send some cakes for those Commission officers responsible on e-learning. Jamm..

In the end of his presentation the ELIG guy, by the way Italian and representing educational publisher, made a very interesting point.

From his slide:

“We must face the Guttenberg Syndrome again and again and again.

1490. Dear Gutenberg, Wonderful but … what else can we do with it part printing bible?”

I am not sure if he think this way, but the answer to this question is rather obvious. In 1517, Pope Leo X got the right answer. He started to sell Indulgence with Johann Tetzel: A little pieces of paper printed with Guttenberg’s printing press and then given for people as a certificate of salvation.

Sellingt salavation is the greatest business model ever. Happy customers who are willing to pay all they have to get the right certificate from the Pope. A business that was able to scale across the Europe with the Guttenberg’s printing press. As long as the people are not questioning if the piece of paper really give them salvation we are doing pretty well. It’s a little like saying people that you will learn to bake in an online course. We just must keep our customers non-educated.

So, if the ICT is a new Guttenberg’s print and doing e-learning, as it is done today, is printing bibles – what could be the Indulgence of e-learning? Who is the Pope of e-learning?

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