Not the Next Uber

If I read another “Its like Uber for ….” headline I will scream. For one, it’s usually not and two, Uber is the worst model you can possibly imagine to replicate. Their whole business is improved user experience through absolute and desperate exploitation of their workforce. And that’s while they have a workforce – because the long term plan is to remove them as they are an unwanted cost burden. That’s right – the workers who do the actual driving bit, the actual service you use – they’re the burden. Wouldn’t it be better to get rid of the middle man that gouges out a cut from every fare? But I digress.

Netflix is to me the champion of user centred design and something that more businesses should be seeking to emulate. Netflix demonstrates clearly the power of the Aggregation model (suggested above) in the digital age. By utilising the power of the internet to eliminate distance and the need for seperate infrastructure Netflix with it’s subscription business model points to a way where there is viability in an ad free environment. Netflix was also able to do what most companies that sold analogue products were never able to do and migrate their business into a digital age. In many ways it’s a clear demonstration of the path that broadcast television should have followed, but it was too entrenched in it’s ad driven income to gracefully make the transition. This ties into my point – that there’s real potential for disruption, but its in the changing those underlying models not what you can do within the current one.

Netflix’s ad free subscription and aggregation based model shows a viable way of operating that could be transitioned into other areas like education. Even the user behaviour and features that Netflix encourages – the binge watching, user informed recommendations, long tail content, always available collections – are all features that could be adapted to education or a future model for it. They reflect the contemporary reality where carving out time into our schedules is difficult and our schedules are often fluid, insecure and need to adapt to changes in work and life. The “take a vacation from life” model of residential higher education seems at odds with this reality. Sure it has appeal for certain groups of students, but it leaves many under served. And how does that work exactly for “lifelong learning”? Do I need to schedule in study sabbaticals or leave? How can anyone actually afford that in this day and age?


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