Free online education: can it be governed?
A decade ago when the concept of evidence based medicine (EBM) started to emerge as the basis of clinical decisions and treatment guidelines, the medical community was soon overwhelmed with the amount of ‘evidence’ that was generated based on clinical studies and other forms of experts’ recommendations.
At some point the focus of the medical community turned towards critical appraisal and evaluation of the vast amount of ‘evidence’. This transient phase of ‘not all evidence is evidence’ led global efforts to govern the evidence-based practice through a systematic classification of the quality of information provided as clinical evidence. This also led to enforcing various ethical, medical and legal controls on how studies are being conducted to generate information. In parallel, in the 21st century, the open sky for information flow and technological advancements have provided freedom and escape from such controls. Consequently, a significant share of the governance responsibility to identify and adopt only quality evidence, was laid on the shoulders of the physician. With the revolution that the field of education is undergoing on the global level, and the growing interest to invest in education, extensive educational programs and initiatives were delivered to grow the sector and improve the educational outcomes of students.
The extensive educational reform promoted other aspects related to content development, accessibility to resources, assessment and accreditation, best practice, teacher training and benchmarking of educational processes and practices. One aspect of particular interest is the birth of numerous web-based educational platforms that provide free educational content to the learning generation.
The target beneficiary of such platforms in the Middle East are the less fortunate students who have been either displaced or unable to attend formal school education. Higher quality paid-for platforms do also exist but are restricted to access. The free online platforms can be generally described as an informal form of educational resources, which cannot be used as part of a formal institution-based education. Some of these lack true interactive digital content and many do not comply with the required national educational outcomes. Furthermore, these platforms may not provide the most suitable content to address the specific needs and suit the circumstances of some learners such as refugees.
Is it the time to call for evidence based education (EBE)?
It is practically difficult to impose some sort of governance on what is being provided as free, philanthropic, web based educational content. In some countries certain aspects of philanthropic projects are governed by a central body, for example the Queen Rania Foundation in Jordan, but in many other countries NGOs and NPOs directly plan execute and deliver.
Do we need to start looking into a more formal governance on what is being provided to students when we are reconsidering what we have learned or taught to our kids trying to eradicate violence? Is it the time to call for evidence based education (EBE)? Intellectus Education is addressing this need by providing a comprehensive free web-based platform that provides internationally benchmarked content and deliverables for formal learning pathways whilst addressing the specific needs of the Middle East students.
Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.
Dr. Amer Amous, Co-Founder of Intellectus Education
Dr. Amous worked as a clinician in private, public and institutional healthcare systems in various countries. He held senior roles leading Medical Affairs operations in the pharmaceutical industry. He is experienced in identifying medical needs and leading health reform utilizing clinical research, supporting medical education and facilitating access to medicine; he has several publications in this field. Dr. Amous supports health, medical and science education projects and has an invaluable evidence based approach in supporting projects especially in joint health and education initiatives. He is also leading initiatives in digitization of undergraduate medical content.