When Innovation Kills Good Jobs

In case you have not noticed, there is a short term crisis that has necessitated the closing of many schools, a re-orientation toward distance learning, and a growth of innovation surrounding this changed condition.

Distance learning has been an ongoing thing for some time already and the use of technology in education is no spring chicken. [Some of the big college MBA programs are delivered exclusively through distance learning with limited to no degradation of the experience.]

One distance learning company has an outstanding call for 5,000 teachers to provide classes through its platform.

Good idea?

I will leave that for you to consider after you assess what will happen.

 1. First, the delivery of education via distance learning via the Internet will smooth off the edges and become a much better delivery system — necessity being the natural mother of invention.

Some great innovations will happen and are happening.

 2. If classes are delivered remotely, they may require gobs of teachers to teach them. Makes sense, right?

 3. These teaching jobs will become “gigs” as the normally unionized teacher compensation program with her collectively bargained for salary and benefits package is shattered.

 4. These gigs will have no pricing protection, will offer no benefits, and will unleash a race to the bottom as it relates to pricing.

Teaching is already a difficult profession on a value v comp basis. This will exacerbate that problem.

So, who benefits, Big Red Car?

Who benefits, dear reader, is the entrepreneurs, the founders, the CEOs, and their venture capital enablers who are providing the platforms in the short term.

[I suppose one could imagine that the National Education Association, the teachers’ union, will not take this lying down, but will attempt to either develop a platform of their own or inject themselves into the discussion. Stay tuned. They are not going to allow a virus to eat their business.]

Make no mistake that the prospect of engaging teachers in a “side hustle” arrangement or in the current crisis is intended to deliver education at a lower cost.

Where does the savings come from, Big Red Car?

The savings will come, in part, from teachers selling their services at “gig” prices rather than under a collective bargaining agreement.

Globally and in the long term, distance learning will also save gobs of money in real estate, administration, and other costs.

What’s the downside, Big Red Car?

The downside is the loss of collective bargaining protections for teachers in the form of compensation and benefits, the commoditization of teaching, and the long term race to the financial bottom.

The other consideration is the learning style of the pupil. For some students, the absence of a teacher in a classroom will be an impediment to learning. For others, the distance learning style may accelerate self-paced learning.

There is also the issue of diminished social interaction and thereby failure to build social skills.

Bottom line it, Big Red Car

Innovation that kills traditional jobs, that dumbs down performance, that initiates a race to the financial bottom for teachers may not be such a good idea. Just saying.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car with a third grade education. Be safe out there. car