Free Material – open source training content

On an ASTD thread ( today I caught up with a discussion on free course material.

The debate was an interesting one and where one individual raised the comparison with the software market – where great programs like Open-office etc are available free.

So having reflected I wondered if this could work for the training and consultancy fields.

Open source – would it work for training materials?

Taking the similarity with open source software – lets look at how this works…
Generally a number of like minded people start and build the basics – they then make this available to the wider world.
Then as people take and add to it they also make their additions (not usually deleting anything previously added) available to the world – often they bundle it with their product – generating an income stream.
So if the same were to happen in T&D…
  • Person A would create an outline
  • Person b would add some content and then publish
  • Person c would add more content.. etc.

It seems that many in our field are happy to take and add – but few prepared to put back into the public domain again for further development.

So if we want to do this we need to be more open – are we willing to do that? Where would the publishing space be?

Would users honestly include a page of contributors at the back of their handouts – in the same way this is often embedded in software? Recognition of contribution seems to be important in the software model – so why not for a training model.

Training – a commodity market place
As we become a more commodity based market this is not a bad idea – but it needs to start somewhere… ultimately though this will impact on professional products.

For example – on a thread on another forum recently there was a discussion about mind-map/ concept mapping software. Several people said ‘why buy when you can get free versions?’.. the reality is that someone somewhere has to put time in – they cannot do it as a charity.

The fact that the paid for products were better seemed to be missed by a population that has learnt that just because material is free why pay.. Its like having a website – why pay for hosting when you can have a free site – all be it with adverts for stuff you do not own – and reasons for people to leave your site! Buy hey it is free.


One of the barriers we have is use of ‘proprietary’ models. For an open source approach we would need to re-engineer much of what we use. Could we persuade some of the ‘old school’ like Peter Honey, Pedler, Kolb, etc to ally use of their models if appropriate copyright was attributed?

May be access to existing theories may well be one of the limitations of such a system, unless this issue can be overcome, in a way which engages original thinkers and current authors.

The ‘open source’ market is a good idea but we all need to realise the implications. Will this be started in the UK, US, AU or some other part of the world first?


Mike Morrison is director of RapidBI, an organisational effectiveness consultancy. He has been involved in HR, OD and strategic development for over 20 years. He can be contacted via

© This article is copyright RapidBI 2006, 2008 – it may be copied providing the authors are credited, and direct links maintained

Management and Leadership development are importent to you and of course to the team here at RapidBI. We hope you find this information valuable, if you do please tweet or facebook like this page. Thanks

Read more management articles from the team


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


  1. Useful Blog post: #hr

  2. Useful Blog post: #hr

  3. Useful Blog post: #biz

  4. RT @247tweet: Free Material – open source training content. #article

  5. Free Material – open source training content. #article

  6. Useful Blog post: #rapidbi

Speak Your Mind