Sharing Everywhere: How the Sharing Economy is ‘Uberizing’ Education

by Tania Rak

The innovation of exchanging existing goods is not new. Ever since ancient times, people have used bartering to efficiently and effectively trade resources amongst each other. As one of the first forms of commerce known to humanity, it has enabled us — then as now — to maximize our potential through mutual benefit.

With the development of technology and the spread of the Internet, this practice has reached a global scale. These days, the possibility of sharing is not limited to the location or social circle of the consumer — sharing the cost of services with like-minded people has become a reality around the world.

What is the sharing economy?

The modern understanding of the term “sharing economy” can be ambiguous, but classically, it refers to the economic principle of the exchange of goods or services based on the use of technology. This is made possible through the use of a common marketplace, collaborative platforms, or peer-to-peer applications.

The sharing economy was first talked about in 1972 — the advantage of introducing a new economic principle was explained by the fact that the demand for goods and the speed of using resources to satisfy them exceeded their quantity and the speed of recovery. So, in 2011, the Independent published an article stating that “humanity consumes as many resources in 7 months as nature produces in 1 year.”

How are sharing technologies used in business?

Under the influence of the sharing economy, many traditional businesses are forced to change their way of working. Lower operating costs help companies operate in a leaner way while improving the quality of their customer and partner experience. Today, the most popular industries using this model are car sharing and rental services.

The most famous example of car sharing is the Uber taxi service. Uber revolutionised car sharing and became the world’s most valuable startup. Using modern technology, they made it possible to order rides and split bills with friends as well as connecting drivers who only owned cars — transforming transportation for millions of people worldwide.

To date, New York City alone has about 4.5 times as many Uber drivers as yellow cabs. This has caused the cost of taxi medallions in New York City to drop from a high point of $1 million to less than $200,000 today.

However, Uber is not the only service that can reduce transport costs. Other value-added services include Didi ($50 billion) and Lyft ($11 billion).

Another area that is actively using the sharing economy is rental services. For example, Airbnb allows you to rent accommodation in the short-term from people who have living spaces they don’t inhabit. This can be a great option for people who don’t want to commit to the high cost of hotel stays — or those looking for a unique experience — while allowing property owners to generate a side-income.

From the considered examples it is clear that the sharing economy speeds up the process of obtaining services, and also reduces transaction costs.

Modern technologies — modern challenges

The sharing economy can be seen as a way to address environmental problems resulting from the depletion of the planet’s resources, as well as a way to meet consumer needs at a relative cost reduction. Sharing solutions are also demographically supported. Today’s younger generation is increasingly moving away from individual ownership of resources in favour of quick and cheap access to services. Older people, according to global trends, are also leading an active life longer and resorting to the help of sharing services.

It should be noted that the development of this model entails the interest of the state in its regulation. And although in 2016 the European Commission’s report “European Action Plan for the Collaborative Economy” published recommendations not to restrict trading platforms, a number of states still introduced transaction limits and a tax levy.

The search for new technological solutions allows businesses to quickly respond to the introduction of restrictions by the government, as well as influence the level of privatization, deregulation, and reduction of the influence of the state and the public sector.

The advantages of such sharing models bring services to a fundamentally new level. At the same time, the high level of competition leads to an uneven development of the market and forces them to cut prices, invest in expensive advertising campaigns and make risky investment decisions.

Uberization of education

Uber gave birth to the neologism “uberization”, which refers to companies that turn from suppliers of specific goods into service providers. So, Uber does not offer the car itself, but the service of moving from one point to another.

How does this apply in education? The introduction of the sharing economy allows students to reduce costs, from textbooks to finding roommates. This allows students from low-income families to get quick and high-quality access to educational materials, and teachers to monetize their knowledge, while sharing the best teaching practices with colleagues — thus raising the level of the education system.

There are concerns about the use of sharing principles in education — this area is different from classical business models and has its own similar stones. For example, will this lead to a large loss of jobs? What should be done with the accreditation of higher education institutions? How can we avoid an information monopoly and how can we avoid copyright infringement during the dissemination of information through social networks?

It should be understood that education in the 21st century is not just about reaching more people, but about improving the quality and diversity of educational opportunities. Social networks and open educational resources allow each user to try himself as a content creator and even as an expert. By using We-Commerce for good, it is possible, through legally obtained public content, to get a better and more voluminous educational product.

Cooperative learning

Since more and more people now live at a very fast pace, they do not want to spend a lot of time on education without getting quality results. That is why online collaborative learning has so many advantages over classical academic approaches to education. 2020 showed that the whole world can go online at the right time. This has increased the number of educational courses and programs on LinkedIn learning, Coursera and YouTube. The use of such courses brings a double benefit – students can choose the lecturer and the amount of information; watch the course at a speed of 1.5x, thereby speeding up the acquisition of material; return to watching lectures anywhere at a convenient time; and work on practical projects instead of standardised test preparation. On the part of online lecturers, this makes it possible to receive analytical reports on the effectiveness of training, involve their audiences in the content produced, and monetise their knowledge. Therefore, the use of collaborative learning technologies helps both the improvement of lecturers and the education system as a whole and the development of an individual learning model at the request of a particular student.

From teacher to entrepreneur

As mentioned earlier, the new collaborative learning model helps educators monetize their knowledge. This has led to the emergence of the neologism “teacherpreneur” — teacher-entrepreneur. Young teachers can save time by accessing the best materials and teaching methods from their experienced peers, while the latter can earn from it while delivering the best content to students. Established in 2006, TeachersPayTeachers, for example, allows educators around the world to share the most relevant experiences while speeding up lesson plan preparation.

Today, teachers are allowed to sell their lesson plans while working at particular educational institutions. This leaves open the legal issues of claiming ownership of these materials by schools and universities.

The sharing economy can change the approach to pay and taxation — if teachers find alternative sources of income, then how much can they qualify for legislative salary increases, and social and incentive bonuses? Should they register this type of earning as a business activity? Most likely, such a model will have a positive impact on the work of teacherpreneurs, but a negative impact on the work of those who so far prefer the traditional model of work in the field of education.

But since the teacherpreneur model is quite new, it is still difficult to predict what its development vector will be in 10 years.

Modern educational platforms

The e-peer learning industry is really booming. In 2015, the global e-learning market was valued at $165.21 billion and that figure is expected to rise to $275.10 billion by 2022, according to Stratistics MRC, a global market research company. The same study projects a constant CAGR of 5% through 2022.

The advantage of this format is the similar experience of the students — they have a better understanding of the problems they face on a daily basis than the invited consultants. People are more comfortable in peer learning situations than in traditional learning environments — with face-to-face contact, the audience immediately becomes more receptive. In addition, mutual learning in itself contributes to the establishment of strong communication ties.

Limitless Learning

If we embrace the ‘uberization’ of education, we can dramatically shift the learning landscape in coming years. We are entering an era of “hyper-personalised” education – one in which every student is able to tailor their own individual learning experience, based on the unique skills and needs they bring to the classroom. With the right technological advances, we could revolutionise the way in which people acquire knowledge — the possibilities are limitless.

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