Free Online Training and Value Perception in France
Gail Tidey
, Laurent Dedieu
, Annabel Levert
and Jean-Christophe Sakdavong
My Green Training Box, 3 rue de la Boucherie, Nailloux, France
CLLE CNRS UMR 5263, University of Toulouse, 5 allée Antonio Machado, Toulouse, France
Keywords: Free, Online Training, Value, Quality, Benefit.
Abstract: Digital training has taken on a major place in our society with the health crisis. Among the many online
training offers available, some are free of charge, so that the user does not have to pay for his or her learning,
and we can sometimes wonder about the value of these training courses: do they offer the same quality as the
paid ones? After collecting data from 245 people, our study shows that the price of an e-learning course does
not necessarily influence the value that the user attributes to it, and that a free course can have the same value
and interest as a paid course. Moreover, free training is a significant marker in the decision-making process:
it gives the training an additional benefit, which goes beyond the mere monetary savings made, compared to
the same paid offer. Therefore, free training can give the user the perception of a greater general benefit than
paid training.
Associated with non-market and humanistic values,
the notion of free goods carries the seal of sharing,
and humanity has functioned for centuries without
systematically trying to put a price on objects and
services. However, the idea of the commons -
belonging to no one - has shrunk to a trickle since the
term market no longer refers to a gathering of a few
merchants in a village square on a Sunday morning...
A utopia, free access? For Heyman and Ariely
(2004), there is, alongside the money market, a
"social market" in which gift, friendship, social ties
exist. Nevertheless, when the two markets - monetary
and social - coexist, inevitably the former tends to
take over the latter (Heyman and Ariely, 2004). As
soon as money intervenes, the value of the donation
is immediately degraded and what remains of free
becomes suspicious.
This explains why, in consumer society, we are so
wary of the word "free": we find it difficult to extend
the social market beyond the sphere of family or
friends. As a result, depending on the circumstances,
it may be in one's interest to use the term free, or on
the contrary, one may seek to conceal it - to avoid
suspicion - by insisting more on the idea of freedom
in the proposal instead of the absence of price.
Our study concerns the free aspect of online
training, and in this field, the Internet has contributed
in recent years to restoring a place for free by opening
up access to a large number of unpriced services in
the field of knowledge and training: collaborative
online encyclopaedia (Wikipedia), open source
software, freemiums, MOOCs (although payment is
sometimes made on the certificate), videos and
tutorials on YouTube, etc.
However, what value can one attribute to this free
access? Wikipedia has long suffered - and still
suffers, despite its massive use and recognition by the
scientific community - from its free nature, with a
reputation of being a non-quality product, containing
erroneous information, which should absolutely be
distrusted (Hu et al., 2007). The same applies to free
online training courses: produced with funding other
than that of users, with intentions not always clearly
expressed, they can be the object of distrust.
How can the public, accustomed to gauging the
quality of products through the prism of the money
market, choose quality products if the market value is
not quantified by an explicit price, and if the value
itself - in terms of quality and potential benefit for the
user - is not legible as a result?
In this study, we will therefore look at the extent
to which price can influence a user's decision-making
process when choosing between paid and unpaid e-
learning. Can a free course have the same value and
interest as a paid course in the user's perception? Is
Tidey, G., Dedieu, L., Levert, A. and Sakdavong, J.
Free Online Training and Value Perception in France.
DOI: 10.5220/0010977700003182
In Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2022) - Volume 1, pages 38-48
ISBN: 978-989-758-562-3; ISSN: 2184-5026
2022 by SCITEPRESS Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved
free training a marker in the decision-making process
for choosing a course?
First, we will review the different articles in the
literature related to the notion of free training, in the
purchase decision processes and in the links that can
exist with e-learning. We will then outline the
research methodology used, explaining how we
sought to verify the hypotheses posed before the
survey was carried out for this study. Finally, we will
discuss the results obtained, their significance, and
the new studies that could be carried out to enrich this
2.1 A Plurality of Representations of
Free Access
2.1.1 State of the Art
To take stock of the situation of free access in our
society is to measure from an economic, but also a
social, ethical or political point of view, what remains
of non-market relations in human affairs.
Caillé and Chanial (2010) recall that this question
was a major issue in the aftermath of the Second
World War when the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights was drafted (1948), particularly with
regard to access to knowledge, education, health and
protection against unemployment. Equality of
opportunity between individuals is conceived as the
mark of unconditional human dignity, and this must
be non-market, and therefore free, the glue of a
society built around an ideal of human progress.
However, Caillé and Chanial (2010) believe that
this idealistic discourse, which seeks to re-enchant the
world in the aftermath of a barbaric conflict, is now
undermined by “the splintering of the discourse on
free access into three totally disjointed, if not opposed
and contradictory, blocks”:
The first discourse focuses on the fact that nothing
is free in the natural state: global warming proves
that Nature no longer has anything free to offer us
and we cannot count on it. There is therefore a
conflict between those who want to monetise the
depletion of natural goods, for example by using
"rights to pollute", and those who support the need
for negative growth on a global scale.
Since the 1980s, a second discourse has been put
forward by the proponents of neo-liberalism and
homo œconomicus, sweeping away centuries of
economic and social functioning centred around
the notion of non-profitable exchanges (peasant
cooperatives, hospitals administered by religious
people, etc.): there is no longer any place for free
services in this world, and public services
themselves are destined to give way to a
generalised subjugation to the principle of
financial assets. There is no area where
privatisation has not extended its reach:
education, health, pensions, insurance, energy,
mail, personal services, etc. The spirit of
efficiency and profitability has penetrated into
unsuspected areas, for example through fee-for-
service pricing in French hospitals or the
analytical and normative accounting of the
number of daily reports drawn up by police
officers. Money is no longer a simple means, but
the means “par excellence” and therefore an end
in itself, the universal regulator of human
relations. Caillé and Chanial quote Georg Simmel
(1987): "Money, the absolute means and therefore
the meeting place of innumerable teleological
series, has a significant relationship,
psychologically speaking, with the idea of God...
The profound essence of the divine thought is to
unite in it all the diversities and contradictions of
the world."
A final discourse is based on the universalization
of free access promoted by the Internet. Numerous
services are freely accessible, without monetary
compensation, whether it be information (articles,
studies, databases, images), open source software,
or search engines, including in the cultural
domain. Is the web the place for community
resistance to the capitalist organisation of the
world, for the invention of a public space
accessible to all and defined as a common good?
For Anderson (2009), an apostle of free software,
there is no doubt about it, "we are entering an era
where free access will be considered the norm and
not an anomaly."
2.1.2 On the Scarcity of Free?
For Grassineau (2010), this original and intrinsic
presence of free on the Internet questions precisely
the widespread presupposition of considering free as
a rare and abnormal phenomenon. For him, on the
contrary, free access, in a Copernican reversal of
perspective, calls into question the reliability and
validity of the dominant beliefs in the orthodox
market economy.
In his study on the case of the Wikipedia project,
he first proposes a descriptive typology of the
different types of gratuity: natural / constraint /
Free Online Training and Value Perception in France
networked / commercial. In the latter case, for
example for free newspapers, the economic model is
tripartite: "advertisers pay for the media to reach
consumers, who will make advertisers live."
Anderson (2009)
For Grassineau (2010), gratuity questions our
representation of commitment to work, or even the
entire economy: since on the Internet intrinsic
motivations prevail in collaboration networks (many
Internet users spend hours contributing to the
functioning of Wikipedia, without any remuneration),
why does the labour economy of the whole society
not work on this model?
2.1.3 Free versus Gratuities
The magazine Vacarme, in its issue devoted to free
(n°50, 2010), stresses that we are not dealing with the
general idea of free, but with different gratuities,
which can be classified according to the different
methods of production:
Free as the production of a non-market sphere in
the economy, conquered thanks to socialized
financing: this is the model of the school, libraries,
hospital, and the very definition of public
Free access as a refusal of individuals to submit to
the laws of the market - piracy, free software,
cooperative work - "all forms that creep into the
folds of capitalism, develop spaces or undermine
it from within".
Free as an element of the consumer society and its
sales techniques: free products calling for paid
versions, or financed by advertising or derivative
2.1.4 Free of Charge and Price:
Non-monetary Costs
Free does not necessarily mean disconnected from the
concept of price: what one does not pay with money
can however represent a cost: the time one spends in
a task, whatever it is, the intellectual or physical
efforts that it supposes, the sacrifices or
compensations that are required in the operation, so
many non-monetary costs that the contemporary
economy struggles to quantify and really take into
For example, Le Gall-Ely et al. (2007) studied the
impact of the lack of pricing at the entrance to
museums, and the obstacles that prevent a massive
attendance subsequent to this offer, as it is in the
United Kingdom in National museums, or in France
on the first Sunday of each month or on heritage days:
"Other non-monetary efforts are reinforced, even
created, by gratuity (...). In this context, the free
entrance fee represents only the elimination of one of
the direct monetary efforts of the visit: an absence of
an entry price within an overall price".
If we do not contribute monetarily to a benefit we
receive, we always pay with a part of ourselves: our
time, our attention, our energy.
2.2 Link between Gratuity and Value
It is difficult not to associate the notions of price, cost
and gratuity, with the concept of value... Gratuity is
often perceived as an indication of the intrinsic lack
of value, but the latter term can seem complex to
define precisely.
2.2.1 Exchange Value and Use Value
According to Aurier et al. (2004), value analysis must
be viewed from the consumer's point of view. It is
approached in marketing from two perspectives,
global or analytical, which correspond to the
traditional dichotomy of economists between
Exchange Value and Use Value:
Exchange value: For Zeithaml (1988), this
corresponds to "the overall assessment of the
usefulness of a product based on perceptions of
what is received and given". What is received is
perceived as a benefit or a profit; what is given
constitutes a set of sacrifices, monetary and/or
cognitive costs. Since evaluation compares
benefits with the sacrifices associated with
consumption, it is therefore the relationship
between benefits and perceived sacrifices
(Grewal, Monroe and Krishnan, 1985). Perceived
value increases with benefits, and decreases with
sacrifices. According to the neoclassical theory of
economics, the "rational" buyer, as a good
calculator, will choose the offer whose value
offers the best compromise.
Use value: it refers to "a relative preference
(comparative, personal, situational),
characterizing the experience of an individual
interacting with an object" (Aurier et al., 2004).
Extensive experience reduces perceived risk and
limits the search and processing of information.
The consumer will then trust his routines. On the
other hand, a weak experience will lead him to
look for information to cope with uncertainty.
According to more pragmatic and interactionist
theories, value is neither intrinsic to the good itself
not consubstantial in a way – nor totally subjective,
CSEDU 2022 - 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
even if there are undeniably variations from one
subject to another. It is simply "updated during an
interaction with a subject" (Marion, 2013).
For Baudrillard (1972), quoted by Poels and
Hollet-Haudebert (2013), "once exchange value is
neutralized in a process of giving, free access,
profligacy, expenditure, use value itself becomes
As a result, when there is free, the dual
relationship Exchange Value / Use Value disappears
to be replaced by the relationship Sign Value /
Symbolic Exchange Value. The latter can, in the
context of free visits to museums or monuments, be
understood as the social meaning devolved to a good
or service (Bourgeon-Renault et al., 2009): society
speaks through the individual.
2.2.2 Free of Charge and Offer Devaluation
Free of charge often has a depreciative connotation,
and studies show that a zero-price offer will be
perceived as having less value than the same offer in
its paid version (Gorn et al., 1990). Devaluation can
also apply to the perception that the individual has of
himself by using the free service (Prottas, 1981).
For this purpose, Poels and Hollet-Haudebert
(2013) conducted an exploratory study on free
newspapers distributed in the subway, which are
generally considered of lesser quality than those
purchased on newsstands are. Their survey, based on
observation and interviews, shows that readers of
these free newspapers hold a depreciative discourse
on the content, having few expectations of the quality
of the articles; they handle the object itself
unceremoniously, throwing it away very quickly or
abandoning it on a seat. Conversely, paying for a
traditional newspaper marks a commitment and
recognition of the work of others.
More generally, the interviews show that the
social image interferes and that there is a
"contamination" between the newspaper and its
readership: reading only free newspapers is
considered very insufficient by the respondents.
However, these reading media are widely used, and
the authors highlight the paradox of never really
including oneself in the readership of free newspapers
despite the uses.
Against all odds, the most interesting advantages
identified by the authors are not played out from the
point of view of individuals, but more generally from
a social point of view: "The use of free newspapers
gives opportunities for social exchange, thanks to
easy access to information, it is a lever for social
inclusion and enhancement of the social image."
Reading free press makes it possible to maintain a
minimum degree of information necessary for
exchanges around the coffee machine. In addition,
leaving the newspaper on the subway seat allows
other transit users to read it, creating invisible
connections between people.
Moreover, from a societal point of view, the
interviews show that individuals attach great
importance to the culture of free access and that the
newspaper becomes an example of this in the same
way as other cultural goods such as music and films
(which are themselves the subject of collective
reappropriations that are not always legal).
The "devaluation" of the free offer can therefore
be compensated, in the end, by its ability to become a
rewarding marker of a positive social model, based on
the right to information, the democratization of access
to cultural goods and on the notion of sharing.
2.3 Impact of Free Access on
Behaviour and Decision-making
2.3.1 The Irrational Force of Free Access
Free access has an appeal that simply goes beyond
saving money, and some authors have showed that the
traditional economic theory according to which
people "rationally" choose the option with the
greatest cost-benefit difference is not effective when
free interferes.
Thus, Shampanier et al. (2007) conducted a study
to show the quasi-magical effect of free: during an
experiment conducted on students who are offered a
quality chocolate (Lindt) at 15 cents and another of
lower quality (Hershey's) at 1 cent, 73% of
individuals opt for quality at the expense of the
financial economy; on the other hand, if we maintain
the same difference between the two chocolates (of
the order of 14 cents), but the second is free, 69% of
individuals will choose the latter to take advantage of
the windfall of free, paradoxically willing to eat a
chocolate recognized as inferior and which they did
not want in the first experience.
For the authors, when an object is free, the
perception of losses and sacrifices disappears, along
with the rationality of homo œconomicus: faced with
a choice, people do not simply subtract the costs of
the benefits, but rather perceive the benefits
associated with free products as higher. The zero
price of a good not only cancels out its cost, but also
adds to its benefits.
Free Online Training and Value Perception in France
2.3.2 Reduction of Perceived Risk and
Authorisation of Error
Free admission can also remove certain physical and
psychological barriers that hitherto inhibited action,
for example in a museum context: for some visitors,
the process of crossing the doors of a cultural
establishment can be facilitated by the absence of
pricing, and free access thus intervenes in the
decision-making process (Bourgeon-Renault et al.,
2009). The public concerned feels that there is little
"risk" of making a mistake when entering a museum
if it is free, and the negative consequences of a bad
choice are reduced anyway: "Free would act as a
stimulus to the consumer's exploratory trend.
Regardless of the probability of error that may remain
high, this right to trial allows you to enter a museum
or monument simply out of curiosity." (Bourgeon-
Renault et al., 2009)
However, regarding the link between free
admission and museum attendance, all authors of the
literature agree that, without educational and cultural
support, making museums free is not enough to bring
the most culturally distant audiences to this very
specific universe. Free access alone cannot change
the decision-making process in this context.
2.4 Value and Training
Since our study seeks to analyze the impact of free
education on the decision-making process in a
training context, it is necessary to recall here what
makes it possible to measure, according to the
literature, the value of training.
Bourgeois (1998) in his study on engagement in
training refers to the paradigm of expectancy value
developed since the 1970s: "The individual will be all
the more willing to engage in training, to consent to
its costs, that on the one hand, he is sufficiently
convinced that the training envisaged will actually
bring him benefits (and that these are sufficiently
important, for him), and that on the other hand, he
considers his chances of success in the company
sufficiently high."
The estimation of the value of a training strongly
depends on the benefits perceived by the user for his
life, at a given moment in his trajectory. Let us recall
the four categories of motivations listed by Biggs and
Moore (1981) to qualify these perceived benefits,
cited by Bourgeois (1998): extrinsic / social / related
to self-fulfillment / intrinsic motivations.
The reputation of a training institution can help
create a positive expectation and increase the value
that can be attributed to training, to minimize
uncertainties during the upstream evaluation process.
Thus, the public is still interested in the many judging
devices - such as the Shanghai ranking - that compare
and prioritize educational institutions with each other,
in order to infer a "value" of the training offered, even
if it is clear that the classification operation has itself
become a commercial institution (Mignot-Gérard and
Sarfati, 2015).
In reality, how can one presume the value of a
proposed training, especially if one does not have
information on the context or on the reputation of the
training organization that delivers it?
Faced with a new offer, we can think that the user
will use his imagination - subject to many influences,
and constantly reconfigured - to make a value
judgment according to the possibilities of action of a
good (its updatable performance) and the sacrifices it
Rivière (2015) demonstrates, however, in a
quantitative study conducted among 828 individuals
on the public's perception of new offers in the
automotive sector, that upstream of the adoption
process, the perceived value of a novelty is only
influenced by its perceived benefits: it is not affected
by the perception of the sacrifices to be made. The
glare caused by novelty seems to stand in the way of
considerations perceived as unpleasant, and reason
has difficulty interfering when seduction operates
(which intuitively, one would tend to consider as
generalizable beyond the simple field of the
automotive sector...).
2.5 Overview
It is difficult to find in the literature studies on the
perception of the quality of free online training,
because the concept of free training is sometimes
considered as the prerogative of the public sector (and
the question of free training is quickly evacuated as
self-evident), and sometimes closely associated with
marketing strategies in the private sector (freemiums,
loss leaders and samples), which is not the model
proposed by the company concerned by this research,
as the user of the training is never financially
On the other hand, some of the studies dealing
with the notion of price in online education concern
university models that involve collaborative practices
between students, which are rewarding and which
therefore lead students to consider that content and
interactions are more important than price. Again, this
is not the model we propose to study, since the
company in question here offers individual training
with very limited interaction.
CSEDU 2022 - 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
Moreover, studies on free education often concern
objects, and more rarely services. It is therefore very
difficult to consider training as a consumer good like
any other, since the non-monetary costs of any
training are at least as important as the monetary
costs: training requires effort, or even a total
commitment on the part of the user; there is no such
thing as "passive" consumption. Buying a course is
just giving oneself the opportunity to start the
learning process.
Finally, the problem of uncertainty remains a
thorny one in the decision-making process: how can
a course be evaluated before the course itself has been
experienced? The user's perception of training
courses (free or paid) and of the value he or she may
attach to them (and therefore of his or her future
commitment to learning) is based on subjective
criteria and previous experiences, and the user's
evaluation often consists of trying to compensate for
the uncertainty as best he or she can, by betting that
his or her choice is judicious.
It therefore seems necessary to take an interest in
this evaluation upstream of the training, which the
future user undertakes, and to measure the link or
influence that the price may have on the perception
that one has of this training, from the point of view of
its quality and in terms of the benefits that one can
hope to obtain from it.
2.6 Research Hypotheses
First of all, since free of charge can have a
depreciatory connotation and a zero price offer can be
perceived as having less value than the same offer in
its paid version (Gorn et al., 1990; Poels and Hollet-
Haudebert, 2013), we will try to verify the influence
of the price in the qualitative evaluation made by the
user in the context of the decision-making process of
a training choice.
We therefore put forward an initial hypothesis as
follows: The more expensive a training course is, the
more it is considered as qualitative by the user (H1).
In this hypothesis, the factor is the price, and the
Dependent Variable (DV) is the quality appreciated
by the user. The factor and DV will be varied
according to ordinal scales.
Furthermore, we have seen in the literature review
that the zero price exerts an irrational force in the
purchasing decision process (Shampanier et al.,
2007). Since this effect leads to the benefits
associated with free products considered higher than
when they are paid for, we will try to verify that this
effect can be exerted in the same way when the user
evaluates the hypothetical benefits of a training
We therefore put forward a second hypothesis as
follows: When the price of a training course is equal
to zero, the benefit can be considered by the user as
higher than that of a paid training course, even a
cheap one (H2).
In this hypothesis, the factor is the price, and the
Dependent Variable (DV) is the benefit assessed by
the user. The factor and DV will be varied according
to ordinal scales.
3.1 Participants
In order to collect sufficient data to achieve our
research objectives, an internet survey was conducted
among a population that does not have an account on
the company's platform My Green Training Box
(from which the videos used were taken) and
therefore cannot recognise the online video trainings
used in the survey, so as not to be influenced in their
The survey was conducted via the internet through
LimeSurvey during July 2021. More than 500 people
were contacted by email or social networks. No
selective recruitment was carried out. 143 women and
102 men responded to the survey.
Data is securely and anonymously stored on the
LimeSurvey server at the University of Toulouse, in
compliance with the General Data Protection
3.2 Experimental Set-up
3.2.1 Basic Set-up
After the usual questions on the identification of
participants (gender, age, socio-professional
category, experience of online training) and
individual consent to take part in this survey
anonymously, the system offers to watch a one-
minute video presented as an extract from an online
video training course.
Underneath the video is a description of the
complete training course, consisting of a general
presentation, 10 video modules of 3 to 4 minutes
each, accompanied by PDF files and podcast
contents, and an end-of-course assessment, leading to
a certificate. The price of the training is mentioned
below, chosen among these three values: 0 € (free
training), 20 € (cheap one), 150 €.
Free Online Training and Value Perception in France
Figure 1: Description of the course.
Two compulsory questions follow this
presentation, one on the perception of the quality of
the proposed training, the other on the general benefit
(personal, financial, etc.) for the user of attending this
For each question, the participant is asked to give
his or her opinion on a 5-point Likert scale as follows:
According to these criteria, what is your
perception of the quality of this training?
Very low quality training / Low quality
training / Correct quality training / High
quality training / Very high quality
In your opinion, what can be the general
benefit (personal, financial...) for the
user to follow this training? No benefit /
Low benefit / Moderate benefit / High
benefit / Very high benefit.
Figure 2: Scales for quality and benefit.
The basic set-up can be summarised as follows
(Figure 3):
Figure 3: Basic set-up.
3.2.2 Extended Set-up
In order to obtain more data and to avoid the results
being dependent on a single training video, the basic
set-up is repeated three times for each participant.
Three different video extracts of equal quality and
length are used from online training courses offered
by the company My Green Training Box on
sustainability-related topics (water, habitat, health),
with all identifying marks (logos) removed.
For each of the three training courses, the price
varies according to the three values (0 €, 20 €, 150 €)
Table 1: Combinations.
0 € 20 € 150 €
0 € 150 € 20 €
150 € 0 € 20 €
150 € 20 € 0 €
20 € 0 € 150 €
20 € 150 € 0 €
Figure 4: Example of extended set-up.
CSEDU 2022 - 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
corresponding to the general modalities chosen for
the experimentation (free / cheap / expensive
training). The order effect is counterbalanced.
This results in the example of an extended scheme
for one participant below (Figure 4). The example
used in Figure 4 corresponds to combination 1 in
Table 1.
All answers are compulsory, but participants can
go back in the questionnaire and change their
previous answers, once they have understood that the
price varies from one course to another.
Since the three videos are considered equivalent,
the data obtained from the three training courses will
be aggregated for the analysis, after checking that
there is no influence of the training video or the order
of presentation on the responses.
4.1 Sample
Of the 500 participants approached, 245 people
completed the survey. From this sample, a profile can
be drawn up with the following characteristics.
A majority of women responded to the survey,
143 versus 102 men. The average age of the
participants is 52 years (50.5 years for women, 54.5
years for men).
The most represented socio-professional category
is managers and professionals (32%), followed by
retirees (24%) and employees (16%).
In the sample, half of the participants have never
taken online training, although the proportion is lower
for women (45%, compared to 57% for men).
4.2 Descriptive Processing of Data
The price factor and has three values/modalities
(150 € = expensive / 20 € = cheap / 0 € = free); the
DVs are called “Training Quality” and “Training
Benefit”; each has 5 modalities, coded from 0 to 4 for
the statistical analyses.
It can be seen initially that the median for the three
price groups is at the level of the intermediate
modality 2 (Correct Quality / Moderate Benefit), as
can often be seen in a 5-point Likert scale (Min 0 –
Max 4). When in doubt, participants often respond
with a value that is not binding on them and that they
consider neutral.
When we look at the frequencies (Tables 2 and 3),
we can see that the perception of the quality of a
training course does not systematically lead to a
perception of the benefit according to the same
modality: thus, while the perception of the quality of
the training courses presented is mostly perceived as
correct (and therefore centred around modality 2 -
Correct quality - of the DV Training Quality), the
responses concerning the benefit provided by these
same training courses are more dispersed over
modalities 2 (Moderate benefit) and 3 (High benefit).
Tables 2 and 3: Frequencies.
This suggests that a training course judged to be
correct (modality 2) may provide a greater benefit
than moderate (modality 2), whereas intuitively one
might think that there is a systematic correlation
between the perception of quality and the benefit that
can be expected from it (the greater the quality, the
greater the expected benefit).
The dispersion of values increases as the price of
the training increases. In our sample, the price does
not appear to be a guarantee for the participants,
either in terms of quality or in terms of general
4.3 Inferential Statistics
In order to evaluate our hypotheses and to generalise
the results of our sample to the whole population, we
carry out a rank comparison test between the groups
0 € / 20 € / 150 €, which correspond to the
3 modalities of the main factor.
Since all the variables are ordinal and the 3 groups
can be considered as independent, we carry out a non-
parametric ANOVA with the Kruskal-Wallis test.
The ANOVA is one-sided, since we assume the
existence of a difference in one direction only (an
effect of price on the perception of quality and
expected benefit). We are looking for the ratio
between the inter-group variance and the intra-group
Since the three groups are considered independent
samples, independence is respected within the
groups, and the measurement scale is ordinal, the
conditions for using the test are respected.
Care is taken to check that the training course
(whose content is identified by a number) and the
order of presentation have no effect on perceived
quality and benefit, also by means of a non-
Free Online Training and Value Perception in France
parametric ANOVA, in order to aggregate the data
from the three training courses.
The following results are in table 4:
Table 4: Non-parametric ANOVA about price over quality
and benefit.
χ² df p ε²
There is a significant effect of price over the Training
Benefit measure (p=0.014). On the Training Quality,
there is no significant effect (p=0.506).
The strength of the experimental effect is
measured by the proportion of variance in the benefit
explained by the price and is denoted by the epsilon
squared, which is 0.01166 here. We can conclude that
the effect of the price on the perceived Training
Benefit is small, but it does exist.
The sample pairs are compared for the DV
Training Benefit using the Dwass-Steel-Critchlow-
Fligner test (Table 5).
Table 5: Pairwise comparison test.
W p
The effect of the price on the perception of the
Training Benefit is visible and generalizable between
the values 0 € and 150 €.
The hypothesis is partially verified for the
Training Benefit, which allows us to confirm the first
part of H2: When the price of a training course is
equal to zero, the benefit can be considered by the
user as higher than that of a paid training course.
The second part of H2 (When the price of a
training course is equal to zero, the benefit can be
considered by the user as higher than that of a paid
training course, even a cheap one.) cannot be verified
here: there is no significant difference in the
perception of benefit between training courses at 0
and 20 €, nor between training courses at 20 € and 150
Detailed analysis not exposed here make it
possible to identify more precisely the factors that
influence the general result, thus confirming our
hypothesis H2. Women over 50 years of age, not
belonging to the category of executives and higher
intellectual professions, attach the most importance to
the difference in price between paid training, even if
it is not very expensive, and free training, when it
comes to measuring the general benefit that this may
represent for the user.
The results of our study show that there is no evidence
of a significant influence of the price of a training
course on users' perception of the quality of an online
training course: it is not because a training course is
presented as expensive that it is perceived as more
qualitative than a training course presented as free; a
free training course does not therefore seem to be
perceived as less qualitative than a paid course. In the
sample itself, the statistics even tend to show the
opposite effect. In this sense, our first hypothesis is
not verified: it cannot be said that price has a clear
influence on the value attributed to a training course;
it is not because a training course is expensive that it
is necessarily considered as qualitative by the user.
As regards the general benefit that a user can
expect to derive from an e-learning course, our study
shows the presence of a slight effect of price on this
perception of benefit for the future learner: if the e-
learning course is presented as expensive, the general
benefit appears to be less important. A free course is
more interesting from this point of view for the user,
which allows us to verify a large part of our second
hypothesis: when the price of a course is equal to
zero, the benefit can be considered by the user as
greater than that of a paid course.
However, the existence of the “zero effect” cannot
be verified by comparison with a low price, as
described by Shampanier et al. (2007). It seems that
the perception of benefit for the online courses
proposed here is based more on the contrast between
the free courses and the more expensive ones: the
"zero effect" only works in this context, as far as our
study is concerned.
Various explanations can be found for the fact that
free education does not seem to influence the
perception of quality in e-learning, contrary to what
can be found in the literature on the devaluation
suffered by e.g. free newspapers (Poels and Hollet-
Haudebert, 2013).
CSEDU 2022 - 14th International Conference on Computer Supported Education
It is assumed that part of the public is used to
learning on the internet, for example by looking for a
way to perform a specific task by watching a free
tutorial on social networks. Online resources offer the
possibility to develop one's knowledge and skills in
an unlimited and independent way, without
considering direct monetary costs (one still has to pay
to access the internet). Price may not be an important
factor in the decision making process of Internet users
when choosing an online resource to learn how to
perform a task or obtain specific information.
We can also consider that the study itself -
proceeding by iteration - has induced a form of
"levelling": the same training format having been
offered three times to each participant (since we only
vary the price), one can consider that the 3 successive
training courses are similar and thus no longer pay
attention to the price. Moreover, the 5-point Likert
scale often leads to choose the middle option as a
"neutral" solution, to avoid having to make a clear
statement. The solution would be to ask participants
about a single course (instead of 3), still with a
random price, with a 4 or 6 point Likert scale, to avoid
this repetition and levelling effect.
We could also check the participants' level of
knowledge about the topic addressed in each video,
as well as the impact that this video may have on this
specific knowledge: both elements could have an
influence on the two DVs.
As far as the perceived benefit is concerned, our
hypothesis H2 is partially verified and goes in the
direction of the literature, which considers that there
is an additional and irrational benefit consubstantial
with free access. However, we can recognise that the
effect is quite small for our study and seems to be
limited to one category of people, women over 50
years old and non-managers: are they less used to
online training? Are they more sensitive to spending
money wisely? One can also wonder whether the
perception of "cheap" / "expensive" varies according
to socio-professional categories.
Furthermore, the way in which the questionnaire
was conducted - via the Internet - only allows it to be
addressed to a category of people who are used to
using this method of communication. It should also
be remembered that the questionnaire was not fully
completed by some of the people contacted.
It is regrettable that there are few studies on the
impact of free access on the decision-making process
for digital training. However, there is no doubt that
online training is becoming increasingly important
due to the health crisis, and in order to be trained, one
has to make a choice among all the proposals.
Whether we like it or not, free education is closely
associated with the notion of training: state schools
have instilled the legitimacy of access to knowledge
in us at a very early age. Lifelong learning is therefore
a right, and free education is an important modality,
which research will certainly explore in the years to
Our study has shown that the price of an e-learning
course does not necessarily influence the value that
the user attributes to it, and that a free course can have
the same value and interest as a paid course.
Moreover, free training is a significant marker in
the decision-making process, and our study has
shown this in the second hypothesis put forward and
partially verified: free training confers an additional
benefit to the training, which goes beyond the simple
monetary savings made compared to the same paid
offer. As a result, free training can give the user the
perception of a greater general benefit than paid
It is therefore tempting to say that there is no
reason to doubt the "value of free training" in digital
training, and that it may be an interesting
development model for companies not to make their
users pay the online training courses they create.
What remains now is to convince funders of the
benefits of contributing to a social model based on the
foundation of free education - a benefit that would
take the form of a supplement of soul.
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