After the fear of a MOOCs revolution in the business school world (see my 2 years old post: MOOCs, certainly a storm but how big is the tea cup?), the new trend is to be afraid of an “uberization” of business schools. Should we really be afraid?
“Uberization” is often (wrongly) associated with disintermediation, which is about eliminating middle and supposed-to-be useless stakeholders in the value chain of a process. In fact, Uber is not exactly or fully about disintermediating, nor is Airbnb; it is in fact about offering a better medium of intermediation between in these two examples, independent drivers and passengers or independent owners and short term tenants. The main difference is that, through Uber, customers are supposed to have a better service than with traditional services (cab companies or independent cab drivers). The downside is supposed to be that drivers being independent (cab drivers are also in many countries), their situation is more instable. And on overall, at least for France, Uber is not cheaper than regular cab companies.
So, how would that translate into the world of business schools / higher education?
The direct translation would be a web-based service offering to link individuals offering training (online or offline) with individuals having training needs. The credentials of the training providers would or not be checked/validated by the web service. And we could imagine a notation system, evaluating both the providers and the customers.
Does it sound realistic?
Partially yes as there are very close services already. Youtube for example, offers all sorts of training by individuals, with more or less skills and credentials, with the videos evaluated and… it’s free. But did Youtube revolutionize higher education (or education in general)? Not yet. MOOCs providers offer also training, free or for a fee if you want to get some recognition out of it. Again, it’s not the forecasted tsunami but more the slow answer to an unmet demand, which started by the way with elearning 15 years ago.
So, despite Christensen’s strong wish, we don’t’ see fast disruptors in higher education. Finally, the business schools market is a bit like the toilet paper market: there is a lack a suitable substitute and everybody seems to be happy with the current offer. Markets were so far rather stable with rather low competition. In many countries, business schools were almost sure to have the same number of applicants or more so why bother changing anything to the service offered? Parents, and recruiters, were comfortable with the reproduction to the younger generation of the type of training they had. This inertia of the entire system was a strong deterrent to the appearance of new business models.
I use the past tense as the trend is changing: the business model of the business schools is based on an inflation of the costs (see my latest post) and it appears that worldwide we are reaching a limit.
What could more surely come next is the appearance of low cost and/or no frills business schools, focusing on the essentials and offering options. That’s partially the idea of online business schools, with some success, but it never really diffused to brick-and-mortar or hybrid models. With the strong discussions on fees in many countries of the world, there is now room for the emergence of a new type of business schools. So instead of uberization, the discussions should be on « easyjetization », a real danger for many of the current players.