This blog originally was posted here: http://www.innovatenewalbany.org/entrepreneur/the-uberization-of-education/, with much appreciation and thankfulness to the folks at Innovate New Albany.

 

 

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?