Posted by: crudbasher | November 24, 2010

A Radical Idea for Connecting Students and Teachers

Post card from 1910

I tend to like to think 5-10 years into the future in regards to education.  I don’t teach K-12 (I’m in higher ed) so I tend to stay out of the current arguments over standardized testing and funding and such.  I look at those things like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  Of course I freely admit those things matter to the kids coming through the system, but as I said, I’m a longer term thinker and prefer the big picture.

In trying to put together the pieces of what learning will look like in a decade (notice I didn’t say the education system) I have been approaching it from several angles.

1. I have been watching technology trends and forecasting how they might disrupt the current way of doing things.

2. I have also given a lot of thought to how learning might be organized and credentialed. (eg. not by grade level, not by degree).

While I have spent some time discussing how learning might be accomplished I have been missing a piece.  This just hit me and so I excitedly turned to the blog today. Here’s what’s been missing.

Question: Assuming that a lot of future learning will happen online, how can we match the right teacher to each student?  Not only that, but how can we open up teaching to anyone?

Yesterday I realized there is a model online that already does exactly this:  Phone Sex. (did that get your attention?)

Press Read More for my explanation. Now I am sure your first impression is to question as to if I have lost my mind. Maybe but let me explain.

The way phone sex works (and this is all second hand believe me lol) is there are websites you can go to. These sites have a list of performers on them.  Each performer lists the various um, topics they are willing to discuss.  The sites are searchable for specific topics or ideas.  Clients then call or webchat with the performer.  Most importantly, after each session, the clients are allowed to rate the performer and leave a comment.  This ensures a system where performers that are poor are rapidly weeded out because their comments scare potential clients away.  Performers come and go and are only available when they want to be.  Most of them have other jobs and just do this work on the side. They set their status to “online” when they want to work.

Ok so how does this relate to education?  Let’s change the wording of that paragraph.

Let’s set up a website very similar to a phone sex site, but in this case we will have teachers looking to freelance tutor people.  I’m going to call it Teacher Connect.

The way Teacher Connect works (and this is all second hand believe me lol) is there are websites you can go to. These sites have a list of teachers on them. Each teachers lists the various um, topics they are willing to discuss.  The sites are searchable for specific topics or ideas.  Students then call or webchat with the teacher. Most importantly, after each call, the students are allowed to rate the teacher and leave a comment.  This ensures a system where teachers that are poor are rapidly weeded out because their comments scare potential students away.  Teachers come and go and are only available when they want to be.  Most of them have other jobs and just do this work on the side. They set their status to “online” when they want to work.

Do you see how that works? The technology to do this is available right now. The best part is, you don’t even have to be a teacher to be a part of it.  Once you pass a background check you are set. You can work as much or as little as you want so it’s very flexible.  Even housewives who stay at home can make a little extra money teaching all sorts of useful things.  Elderly people have a wealth of information from their lives and are usually very willing to talk to you about it! (grin)

For example, let’s say you are an auto mechanic.  At night you go online and offer to answer questions from students on how a car engine works. It might be someone who is learning about engines in a science class and just needs 5 minutes of time.  The student has an education fund therefore the mechanic gets paid a small amount of money to lend their time and talents.  The best part is, there can be various levels of people to talk to.  If you just want a basic question answered, it would be very cheap and you might talk to just a mechanic.  If you want to pay more money, you might get to talk to a designer of car engines at an automaker.  It’s very market driven.

It is very important to get regular people involved in the learning process.  If you want to learn about the Vietnam war, how about connecting up with someone who was actually there?  Not only is it more authentic, but it will greatly increase the number of teachers, allowing more individual hours of instruction.  When you mix in various other web resources, it can be hugely effective in differentiated instruction.  For example, the Vietnam war vet could screen share with a students and use Google Maps to illustrate what happened to them.

This system could be up and running within a year.  As I said, the phone sex industry has been doing exactly the same thing for years.  It works.

I would love to hear any feed back to my radical idea!

(I’m taking a few days off of blogging for Thanksgiving. I wish everyone celebrating it a wonderful holiday!)

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Responses

  1. Andrew,

    I love your idea and think it will happen in some form soon. My only issue would be the credibility of the instructors. Assuming anyone can teach anything, how do we ensure that the quality is there? Will that be based on ratings alone? Will there be biographies of instructors? I know I would take a course from you but if little info is available then I might opt out on others. I think I just answered my own question.

    • Hey Ron thanks for stopping by! Yeah I have been giving that a lot of thought too. Some ways to figure out if an instructor is any good include: The rating and comments, what their day job is, how long they have been on the site, what their bio says, they could do a personality profile to help match with students. I think also with social media, word will get around quickly in a class on who is good. I’m sure there are other ways too.
      Thanks for commenting!!

  2. Believe it or not this model exists…the problem is that most aren’t aware it exists and it exists in a variety of pockets online. Udemy.com is one that comes to mind but it certainly isn’t the only one. I think the hurdle is allowing students to have these types of learning opportunities as part of their ‘main stream’ education. I envision a sort of match.com or eharmony for schools that makes some suggestions and recommendations based on teacher/student profile.
    How do you think word gets out to students/parents to connect them with teachers in this way?

  3. This model could be highly effective. On the technical side rating system can rate the effectiveness of the instructor’s methods that lead to highly effective long-term memory encoding. These ratings would reside under each instructor’s thumbnail image along with social, personal, and other information that would assist a personal learning environment for students. The social networking aspect is vital. Perhaps a model like UDUTU Teach & Learn combined with Facebook and a Google Site.

  4. What is the URL to Hurdle?

  5. Edufire or WiziQ also have similar platforms. They offer classes by subject or area of interest, you can read the instructor’s profile/credentials, sign up and take the class…then offer evaluations of the course and teacher.

  6. […] My friend Doug Crets on edReformer posted a great article about disruptive education startups especially in relation to my post on Friday. […]

  7. […] A Radical Idea for Connecting Students and Teachers […]


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