With the enormous changes brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a new kid on the block that people seem to be talking about a lot lately: the uberization of education.
The topic is not new. Once technology became part of our daily routine and online learning solutions (MOOC providers, learning apps, learning management systems, etc.) picked up, it was only a matter of time to see that education had to undergo some changes. The Uber model was a disruptive trend that educators, parents, and decision-makers began to talk about.
In an Uber-like educational system, clients (students) have access to the best service providers (schools, universities, teachers, etc.), and they can build their own learning solutions. To a certain extent, this approach already exists, especially as far as Higher Education is concerned.
In theory, we can choose what we want to study and where, depending on our personal background. Ivy League universities have an incredibly competitive admission program. Only a lucky few manage to get in. On the other hand, Harvard was the one that created one of the first MOOC programs to allow anyone in the world to have a Harvard experience.
Uberization takes the process to the next level. Let’s see some suggestions and analyze their viability in real-life situations!
The uberization of Higher Education: fad or fab?
In an uberized educational system, there is no admission process, and diplomas cease to exist. For example, if someone wants to study finance, they must take specific courses such as Introduction to Accounting. Each student can choose the teacher for those courses. If they know that there is an outstanding Accounting teacher at the University of Texas, they can enroll in their class. Likewise, if there is an exceptional Economics teacher at the University of Chicago.
In a high-tech society, it’s easy to learn online, take exams, or hand in assignments. An LMS is an excellent tool to do all these things — and more. At the end of three or four years, a student has a portfolio of all their classes and assessments. Instead of showing a diploma to potential employers, the student shows their learning history. The same thing could be done even at the high school level.
It sounds great, isn’t it? Well, it’s easier said than done. Here are a few reasons why:
Some universities are powerful brands
We’ve just mentioned Ivy League universities. Most of them would be reluctant to associate their brand with the average community college if students can choose teachers from any higher education institution in the world. Moreover, Ivy League universities have incredibly competitive admission systems, as they want to recruit the best talent available. They are some of the best universities in the world because they can maintain high teaching standards.
Students will choose powerful brands
It goes without saying that students are attracted by powerful brands as well. They believe that taking courses from top universities will open more doors. Although not necessarily fair, this mentality is still very present in our society. So, things might not change all that much. Those who can afford an elite education will choose the best schools.
Employers prefer certain universities
Finally, an educational brand built over centuries of excellence will still be a favorite among certain employers. We see it in legal dramas over and over again: “We only recruit from Harvard.” Well, we see it because it happens in real life as well. Granted, there are exceptions, but a high-ranked institution diploma is usually associated with the quality businesses and other institutions need.
The uberization of Higher Education might seem the next best thing to do, but society is not ready for such a disruptive process. Although we have the technology, it’s fair to admit that mentalities don’t change overnight and can’t always keep up with all the edtech solutions available out there.
Perhaps we will see some form of uberization in the following years, but the more radical type we have presented here is a thing of the future. We must keep an open mind and use the best tools to get the best education. After all, the world belongs to those to make their own rules, not to those who follow the rules created by others.
Veronica is a University lecturer with years of experience in language learning, a translator and interpreter, and a life-long learner.