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Saturday, January 07, 2017

Uberversity – tertiary education faces another shake-up from digital disruption | The Australian Financial Review

Photo: Tim Dodd
"Universities are like taxi companies: regulated, protected from competition, charging high fees and ripe for uberisation." notes Tim Dodd, writes on education specialising in business education, apps and opinion. 

Uber is more than a company, it's a digital disruption process and it's about to start hitting the established education providers.  
Photo: AP

Every Sunday night, except during semester breaks, hundreds and sometimes thousands of university students go online to tap into a network of more than 500 tutors who help them with their academic work.

Students from about a third of Australia's universities use the service, which delivers help to them quickly, whenever and wherever they need it. Interestingly, peak demand time is Sunday evenings, when students realise they need to catch up to be ready for classes, or to hand in an assignment, in the coming week.

"There's an enormous body of students looking for help," says YourTutor's founder and executive director Jack Goodman. Most of those using the service are students who could be in danger of failing or dropping out without the extra assistance.

The insight behind Goodman's business is that technology has changed the game of education. Effective personalised tutoring can be delivered online. It doesn't have to happen on campus, or even face-to-face.

Education is being disrupted and Goodman's tutors are the Uber drivers of learning. They don't work for a traditional education provider and they are not highly regulated. Their asset is their academic expertise and they match their skill with students' needs via an online platform.

Many of Goodman's tutors are subject specialists, offering help in disciplines such as maths, science subjects or economics. But a fast-growing part of the service is giving feedback on written assignments. Students submit a draft of their work to one of YourTutor's academic writing specialists who, within 24 hours, give advice, not on the content of the writing but on its structure, grammar, organisation and referencing.

Measurable impact 

Most things students do are online these days – so switching to an online tutor is as easy as sitting down at a desk in the university library.

"We are delivering just-in-time, affordable, academic learning support that has a positive, measurable impact on student success and student retention," Goodman says.

It's very different to years past when a student wanting assistance would have to go to campus, check the office hours of their tutor or lecturer, and knock on the door when they were available.

This new way of providing tutoring assistance is very popular. Students are voting with their feet. In 2016 Goodman's tutors (who also work with TAFEs and schools) have had over 200,000 interactions with students. That's a 50 per cent increase on 2015 and he expects similar growth in 2017, taking the number of annual interactions to over 300,000...

Value of experience
For example Deakin University recognises that some of the most valuable knowledge people have comes from the experience they gain, day in and day out, in their workplace. In other words the experience gained at work is one of education's Uber drivers, teaching employees what they need to know. People don't usually get degrees for things they learn on the job but this year Deakin broke new ground in higher education by offering to credential this type of learning.

If students can show Deakin evidence of the skills they have in 12 areas – self-management, digital literacy, teamwork, communication, collaboration, emotional judgment, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving, global citizenship, cultural engagement or professional ethics – the university will give them credit towards a new range of professional practice masters degrees.

Source: The Australian Financial Review