Google announced Friday, “a free digital skills training initiative.” Equally interesting, it was launched with shadow treasurer Chris Bowen.
What Google’s got: There isn’t a bunch of content on Grow with Google and the skills on offer are generic – Lynda will not be losing sleep. But, and it is indeed a very big, government agencies, industry groups, trade associations, and a private business college are partners. The potential to provide micro-courses and skill primers is as big as Google and partners want.
A googol of challenges for trainers: The potential for people to learn what they need, when they need via Google could become an alternative to formal VET courses and sub-degree platforms, expanding on the way students now use social media to acquire specific skills at their own speed. As Victor Callan and Margaret Johnston set out in a paper for the estimable National Centre for Vocational Education Research, “trade teachers in apprenticeship programs reported that their apprentices were major users of YouTube, as the videos show the performance of practical skills, often over several steps.”
The Googleisation of training also makes a challenge for the Australian Qualifications Framework – how to maintain the authority and credibility of formal accreditation when people can assemble their own informal credentials outside the regulated system.
With political appeal: And if you think this is overblown Chris Bowen does not appear to – which should alarm the training establishment. For a start, Mr Bowen is a big-ideas bloke and as shadow small business minister a new way to up-skill start-ups and support self-starters will appeal. Plus, as possible treasurer after the election, he will undoubtedly be acutely conscious of the costs of his party’s promise to restore demand driven funding of undergraduate places and his colleagues talking up resourcing TAFE.
And a great history: There’s a precedent for all this – back in 1993 a Labor Government funded the Open Learning Agency of Australia, as an open-access alternative to campus-study.