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 …