Most people who participate in the sharing economy (of which Tutorhub is a part) do so because of its convenience, value or access to products and services that would otherwise be unavailable. But for some, its the reduction in waste that naturally follows sharing things that you aren’t using. I once rented an Airbnb from a guy in Bristol who was passionate about allowing other people to use his stuff when he wasn’t. He rented out spare rooms, he rented out his car when he didn’t use it. And it wasn’t because of the money – he really thought it was a waste for most cars to be parked up by the roadside for most of its life. He may have a point, some estimates place the amount of time the average car goes unused at over 90%.
Whilst its not immediately obvious how, this concept of ‘unused capacity’ that goes to waste applies to the tutors who offer their skills on Tutorhub. An education acquired over many years is a valuable commodity, an asset that can ‘earn’ a return. When its not earning, its being wasted. I’m not aware of any studies that have looked at the economic value of skills and knowledge acquired and not put to use, but presumably its a big number. In general, education is valued ‘for its own sake’, but in a knowledge economy, learning drives earning.
There’s another particular twist in the case of education and learning, because unlike a car or a spare room, knowledge wastes if we don’t use it. It ebbs away. Knowledge is more like a muscle than an object, it gets stronger with use.
What this means is that the sharing economy has particular power in education. It offers particular benefits for those who are willing to embrace it. Students get access to the knowledge they need in a way they want; they get access to rare and difficult skills, they get access at times they otherwise couldn’t without the pressure of peers in attendance. Tutors earn a return on their hard won knowledge at times and in a manner to suit them. They also get to use the knowledge, to keep it alive. And what would be worse, after all the effort that goes into becoming a graduate, post-grad or doc than to see that knowledge slowly drift away …
A quick shout out for a very nice bunch of people who I came across this week.
With the avowed intention of bringing a little of ‘independent bookshop advice’ to the web, lovereading.com looks like a nice way to hear what other people think about that book you have your eye on or just a nice way to get a recommendation. The area of recommendation engines has always been a tough nut for web companies to crack and I’ve never thought anyone has got their algorithm entirely right (I’ve looked at it myself – don’t get me going on the solar magnitude problem).
But Lovereading avoid the problem entirely by using real people to do the recommending. Worth a look.
Its unlikely that any of us will forget 2016 in a hurry, but amongst the political fireworks and celebrity mortalities, Tutorhub turned in another record year. Record visits to the website, record visits to the blog and record numbers of lessons held. Tutorhub hosted more than twice as many lessons in 2016 as in 2015.
Every month might bring a new record, but on behalf of all of us in the Tutorhub Team, we’d like to say a big thank you to students with their thirst for knowledge and to tutors who continue to show up in their droves with knowledge that stretches from the mainstream through to the most specialised corners of academia and professional education.
Replacing the nineteenth century model of learning model has been surprisingly slow and difficult. It may be due to the role that government plays in education, the politicisation of education on many countries or even due to resistance from parts of the teaching profession, but there is no denying that despite the advent of MOOCs, online learning environments and web resources, innovation has happened at the periphery, not the core of education. Given the importance of education and status of qualifications in our society, this is perhaps as it should be; no one wants to be the guinea pig for a failed educational revolution. Technology has had to prove its value and innovation has happened in a step-wise fashion. Which makes the emergence of social-networked learning in tertiary education particularly interesting.
Global access to high-quality online materials, open courses, peer discussion and a decentralised perspective to create communities of learning comprising teachers/lecturers and students form the architecture of social-networked learning. These building blocks are gradually being put in place and a tipping point may be closer than we think. The promise of lower cost, greater flexibility and increased access are very real, but the key may be that it does not require revolution, but evolution. Implementation can occur from the periphery towards the core and slip from tertiary through to secondary via more obscure subjects that lack critical mass – witness the uproar in the UK when certain subjects such as Art History were recently scheduled for elimination from the A level syllabus.
At long last, a path to innovation in education is becoming clearer. Change may be happening at a slower pace than some predicted, which is understandable, but the direction of travel is becoming clear. As with all things, once you know where you are going, the journey is much easier of you know where you are going.