The substitution of the adult education center by global continuing education platforms

Die Substitution der Volkshochschule durch globale Weiterbildungsplattformen Le remplacement du centre d’éducation des adultes par des plates-formes globales de formation continue
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The Internet is becoming a global marketplace for customized training according to personal budget.

In the following storytelling, only the names of those involved have been changed; any resemblance to people still living is not entirely coincidental.

Willy and Helene have worked in educational professions for many decades. Willy is a trainer and instructor in information technology. Helene is an educator and has retained her curiosity about people through her interactions with children. Now both receive pensions and still take jobs that seem interesting to them.

Willy runs a YouTube channel with several hundred explainer videos. Many of these explainer videos are interesting for professionals because they explain interesting functions of common software. Willy has known Excel since he showed the previous versions on the Apple Macintosh to trade show visitors in Hannover in 1985. He also has decades of experience with databases as a seminar instructor. As an online trainer, he has been teaching his course participants only via video conference for the past 6 years.

Thanks to his YouTube channel, Willy does not have to spend money on advertising. Visitors are informed that Willy offers additional help on the content of the videos for a fee. For short questions, he answers for free in the comments of the videos. There are many requests that cannot be answered in one sentence. Willy has already received several orders from Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Spain.

Before Willy accepts orders, he talks to the potential new customers. It is important whether a trouble-free videoconference is possible and whether the customers can show their questions and wishes on case studies.

If this is successful, Willy can calculate the expected duration and costs.

So far, this has always been a win-win situation for both sides. The inquirers could be helped without delay via video conference. Travel costs are not incurred, new questions and open points during video conferences could be clarified a few days later. Willy’s fee for the completed projects is between 500 and 5000 Euro. This is not much for companies, if their employees acquire high competences with it and projects are brought to success earlier thanks to external help.

What started with an explanatory video on YouTube led to success after the conversation via video and a few video conferences. The key is personal contact and brainstorming on real projects with the goal of finding and improving solutions.

Willy has been working online via home office for many years. Many people from his environment have only involuntarily arrived at the home office since the Covid-19 pandemic. For many people, that was a shock. But some also see the opportunities presented by technology for education and training.

Willy’s wife, Helene, used to take French classes in the county seat. Then the teacher died suddenly and no replacement was found to continue with advanced French conversation. There are courses in the Kassel Volkshochschule further away, but they don’t fit Helene’s schedule at all. If they did, she would have to travel by car for exactly as long as the courses took. In the evenings, there are no suitable train and bus connections in Northern Hesse.

Improving her French skills is very important to Helene because she has many contacts with friends abroad. She can speak English with many of them; her English from school is sufficient for that. Unfortunately, few French people can hold conversations in English and few French people can speak German. Helene’s youngest son has been living with a French woman for years. There is an invitation to meet their family in Savoy. This motivates Helene to improve her French language skills so that she can have the usual conversations during mutual visits.

Willy has been using the Internet for personal education since it became available. There have never been any suitable courses for his needs in northern Hesse. Years ago, he booked a course at Udemy to quickly learn a new programming language via explanatory video. It was no more expensive than a book and much easier to understand because you could see in the picture what the instructor was explaining in English. He didn’t need personal support because he already knew many programming languages and was familiar with the contexts.

When Willy once again talked to Helene about a trip to France, he remembered the Udemy offer and also found a suitable course for Helene: Start at the A2 level in French for advanced beginners to reach the B1 level for independent language use. As a new customer, Helene only had to pay 15 euros instead of the usual 99 euros at Udemy.

The experienced instructor explains well in the videos and his exercises are of good quality to engage with the vocabulary to the sections. However, the direct contact with French speakers is missing. That was the only advantage in the adult education courses. With 8 to 10 classmates, even for a few minutes per double period, one had the opportunity to speak and be corrected when one made mistakes.

Willy looked for opportunities to come into direct contact with native French speakers. He found intermediaries in Hong Kong, China; Kiev, Ukraine; and San Francisco, where there are thousands of teachers to choose from. Helene watched the introduction videos of some French teachers and found Julia in Cameroon, Africa.

In the trial lesson, she found that while there are occasional picture glitches in the video conferences, the voice quality is usually very good. When you only have to pay 8 euros per hour to talk directly to the teacher, you put up with the quality fluctuations of the Internet connection. The decisive factor for the choice was that Julia is very motivated and speaks English and German in addition to French as the main language. One also commits oneself for only a few hours. 6 hours of individual lessons with Julia cost about 50 euros. As the schedule, which can be seen from both sides, allows, you take the individual hours as it just fits. Optimal with Helene are 2 to 3 hours per week. If you book more hours, you get a quantity discount.

With group lessons at the VHS, you can’t reschedule appointments. Helene missed some appointments because her grandchildren suddenly had to be looked after. With Julia, she can arrange everything to fit and a video conference room is always free when an appointment is set. Even if the platform in Kiev is down because of the problems in Ukraine, they can meet. Julia and Helene have tested Skype as well as Google Meet and Zoom and can switch rooms during the conversation.

Helene now has the perfect learning environment, and at a cost she used to have to pay for a VHS course: learn French on her own from the Udemy conserve at any time and then use it with Julia from Cameroon in the arranged video conferences. So far, the combination is working out very well because she gets advice from Willy on technical issues.

Helene’s friend is married to a French wine grower. If she wants to join her on a wine tour through the vineyards of the Medoc, she buys the course “Expert en dégustation de vin en 50 minutes” at Udemy for 25 euros. If Julia from Cameroon can’t do an expert talk on wine tasting, Helene books some videoconferencing with Cindy from Burgundy “Bonjour, je m’appelle Cindy, je suis française originaire de Bourgogne ,région de dégustation de fromages et de vins.” Cindy can be found on the Chinese platform italki and is currently teaching from South America. Her extensive language skills can be seen in the video on top.

When adult education centers close again during the next lockdown or have no suitable offerings, people configure the right continuing education for leisure and work on global platforms. What seems like science fiction today will soon be possible thanks to virtual reality. As pensioners, Willy and Helene will no longer be able to travel carefree through Africa or the Andes. But soon they will be able to buy 3-D virtual reality glasses. With them, they could travel through Cameroon or the Andes with their teachers from their sofa at home. All that’s missing then is the right food and drinks for the breaks. Perhaps in a few years, biotechnology will supply 3-D printers for preparing exotic food to complement the shared taste experience.