About 6 months ago i stumbled upon a bunch of bootstrappers at Edinburgh University trying to set up an education platform for the 21st century – ultimately modulable, global and crowdsourced.
Tutorconnect is a peer review platform for online tutors. anyone can be a teacher, and anyone can learn. you can teach Nigerian basket weaving and use the money you earn to get one-to-one accountancy tutoring. literally every subject is covered. The website makes it easy to match tutors to learners and handles all the transactional and organisational hastle through a simple interface, tutoring takes place on the groundbreaking Tutor Trove platform.
So what does this mean?
Sir Ken Robinson gave an interesting talk at the RSA about the ossified educational paradigms we have inherited from the Victorian age. Essentially he argues we treat education in the same way as a factory system – we lump together thousands of children based on an arbitrary categorisation (age) which often bears little relation to ability. we then batch process them through standardised institutions (homogenous teaching and testing). The net result is to have graduates who have simultaneously had their lateral thinking/creativity crushed, and taught an arbitrary skillset which has little relevance to any aspect of their lives post graduation.
Any good student will tell you they have felt frustrated that their degree program is taking up valuable time they could spend learning about what interests them.
The question is, why should educators be letting an institutional curriculum get in the way of a student’s education? and why should students stand for this?
The implications of platforms like Tutorconnect are clearly far reaching – just think of this scenario:
You want to move to Italy and start a business, instead of speeding your way through a business degree that may or may not bear any relevance to your goal, you could:
- Get an Italian tutor to learn the lingo.
- Get startup advice from serial entrepreneurs
- Get yourself an Italian law tutor to teach you the basics on contract and employment law
- Learn some accountancy with a third tutor.
No more waiting for term to start, paying upfront, applying to programmes, sitting through irrelevant lectures.
We can even envisage a scenario where a learner pays for his education with accumulated credits from tutoring in an area of existing expertise – like an A level student paying for his tutoring by teaching the GCSEs he learnt the year before.
In essence, if tutorconnect takes off, it will give anybody anywhere access to whatever education they want, in intensive one-to-one hourly slots that they can fit around their lives for a fraction of the cost and time of a degree.
For students or young professionals it offers an easy way to make extra money, whenever they want, straight from home.
Changing educational paradigms? quite possibly.