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The ‘Uberization’ of Education

What impact will (is) it having on the world of entrepreneurship?

Uber.

What is [an] ‘uber’? Would you have asked this question even five years ago? Think about it. Don’t be shy or think we’ll judge you if you say ‘yes’ …

Presently, Uber is such a part of the fabric of our nation, especially if you live in a metro area, it’s now being used as a verb!

Further, we are even to the point of using it as an adjective. “Uberization” is now quickly becoming shorthand for disruptive businesses, their service models, and/or creative approaches to challenge old/mainline industries which are most always launched by entrepreneurs.

In this post, we’ll focus strictly on education, and the impact that will ripple into business as a whole, and most especially, the arena of entrepreneurship.

First, we’ll embark on a quick tour through history …

Our current educational system can be divided into five separate tracks:

  1. Pre-school/Pre-K
  2. K-12
  3. Collegiate/university (undergrad)
  4. Graduate programs
  5. Doctoral & postdoctoral studies (PhD)

The largest majorities of Americans complete the K-12 years. This track, in its present form, grew out of a combination of the agricultural and (blue collar) Industrial Age, first seen in the 1850s, spreading further by the 1870s (its core decade), and becoming almost ubiquitous by the 1910s.

Undergrad college/university’s current structure can be traced back to the post WWII years: the G.I. Bill’s passage, and the book, “The Organization Man”, each serve as lines in the sands of time for when these years became the baseline expectation for higher percentages of our nation’s citizens.

As the sands trickled through the hourglass, into the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s, and into the ’80s, America quietly entered the Corporate Industrial Age. This era is best known for the rise of the resume, the growth and increasing size of corporations, and the introduction of benefits alongside wage/salary compensation.

In the latter half of the ’80s, and early to mid ’90s, though, early signs of cracks in the foundation of both the K-12 and the university tracks became visible. Entrepreneurs and educational innovators (sometimes one in the same), realized this, and began to create and promote parallel options, such as charter/community schools, and homeschool curriculums.

Americans then were shocked as ever more massive changes shook traditional education to its core as we moved into the new century:

  • Y2K/War on Terror
  • Bursting of the dot-com bubble
  • What some call the ‘Great Recession’

This question lingers through: Why haven’t more businesses and individual entrepreneurs realized the above and adjusted? Where was the ‘uberization’?

Actually, this disruption was ongoing, just below the radar of over 90 percent of the population. The diffusion of innovation curve kicked in, and the innovators, visionaries, and early adopters, built upon the foundation of their predecessors in the ’80s and ’90s.

What did they do? They began to roll out additional parallel options to both tracks in larger numbers, while harnessing the almost limitless power of the Internet to spread their ‘gospel’ through word of mouth as they built networks and communities.

Have you heard of any of the below?

There are now six recognized philosophical approaches to the K-12 years ( *some overlap from pre-K & carry into post K-12 ).

We can lawfully educate our youth in six different types of physical buildings (*these are specifically for Ohioans ).

There are nine options which exist side by side with the traditional collegiate/university track.

I’d surely call that ‘uberization’, wouldn’t you?

We now have clear market signals of a competitive landscape emerging. As business owners/entrepreneurs, we are used to this reality, whether we offer a product(s), service(s), and/or specialized knowledge in the marketplace.

Uber, as history books yet to be written will explain to our grandkids, isn’t all that popular in some circles. However, it is the market that will be the ultimate arbiter of this Gig (sharing/P2P) economy innovator. For instance, have you used Uber? What about UberEats, its brand extension? If you gave it four to five stars, I bet you shared your experience on social media, right?

In the educational space, look to companies like Udemy, Ed2Go, Lynda.com, Udacity, and UnCollege, to continue to grow and prosper as more Americans not only awaken to these seismic changes, but also choose to pursue entrepreneurship in larger numbers.

‘Uberization’ is definitely not a ‘bad’ thing; if it were, its historical precedents, such as the printing press, the cotton gin, the assembly line, the PC, and the Internet itself, would not have thrived through past generations, as each has.

The question that I’ll leave you with: Are you willing to explore ALL available options so the ‘uberization’ of education spreads further, faster?

SJ is a CMA (Consultant, Mentor, & Advisor), as well as the founder + C.E.O. (Chief Encouragement Officer) of SBSL, an Educational Solutions Provider. He is 41 years old and has been an entrepreneur in the education field for 5 years as of the fall of 2016. His business model includes designing &/or implementing customizable solutions for business owners to address three deep, fundamental problems with the traditional approach to the K-12, college/university, & also graduate tracks of education in America. He is presently involved (or has been actively involved) in the following mentorship and/or advising programs / organizations: YEA ( Young Entrepreneurs Academy ) Teen Entrepreneurial Camp AWANA OWU's EMF ( Econ Mgmt Fellows ) Sundown Group's 'Ask an Expert' Program HECOA's special events ( Sept 2015; April 2016; Sept 2016 ) ECDI 's Professional Advisory Network (PAN) He is a National Steering Committee member. He serves his alma mater, Ohio Wesleyan (OWU) on the Central Ohio Alumni Leadership Board & is also an active member of a non profit board (ChefVet). His favorite pastimes are traveling; reading ( 220+ paper & audio books in the past six+ years' time ); listening & watching inspirational content; connecting people who may not otherwise have met in the course of time; and being a futurist/visionary when it comes to organically transforming the education system for the Gig Economy age/era in which we now find ourselves.
  • Jason Melton

    Great post. I love the topic. I definitely believe there is room for disruption in the educational space. After graduate school I have been involved in Higher Education for the past 15 years as a faculty member, Assistant Director of a graduate program, board member and volunteer. You will notice that my perspective is focused on Higher Ed, but I think some of the ideas could apply to other educational environments.

    As funding has been pulled out of education at the state and federal level, and the cost to go to a four year institution continues to increase, having alternatives is a needed option for many wanting to further their education. The challenge with the Uberization of education is that it passes significant responsibility onto the consumer. I haven’t decided if I feel that is a bad thing yet. I certainly don’t have any data suggesting it is. One concern is adherence to quality. Not necessary accreditation per se, but some body to review what is being offered.

    The responsibility to make sure all your credits from this place transfer to that one, transcript management, etc. become the responsibility of the individual. This transferability is similar to the direction the medical field is headed where competition creates opportunity to use other resources/services, but unless there is a system in place to allow easy management or transfer of information (records, files, etc.), you have to take them with you and deal with the friction of transfer from place to place. Additionally, with the Uberization of education, there would not be one common entity to intervene if a student starts to show indications they are struggling (poor attendance, bills not paid on time, etc.) that many institutions offer intervention services for.

    If there was a multi-sided platform that would help the user through the educational journey, we may see more life long learners as opposed to thinking that completion of a degree is the end of the journey. That platform could be an aggregator, or offer a plug-ins, for others to plug their educational services (programs, curriculum, tutoring, services, etc.) into, and possibly even provide some accreditation and/ or governance, in addition to a user based rating system. That would actually be a great one-stop-shop to supplement the formal educational journey (primary, secondary, higher ed, home school, charter school) and continue the Uberization I believe you are talking about. I look forward to seeing where this road takes us. (and if you think you can build this platform, ping me and lets discuss :))

    • SJ Barakony

      Greetings! Thankful and most appreciative of your superlative summary nee response, along with your very kind words, sir. Apologies on the delay in responding: Had an issue with setting up my profile on this platform. Be glad to talk further – by the level of scholarship of your feedback alone, I see it as well worth the time investment. Please see my bio for my website – which has a multitude of ways to connect. Best of best.

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