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Platform ‘Uberizes’ English-learning from US educators for Chinese students

Dive Brief:

  • An online English-learning platform called 51Talk — which pairs U.S. educators with Chinese students for 25-minute, one-on-one videoconferencing lessons — is the latest to be hailed as the Uber of education.
  • Three educators using the platform shared their experiences with eSchool News, citing improved work-life balance, ease of use, and the helpfulness of trainers they were provided to adjust to the model.
  • Additionally, all three note the respectful, hard-working and excited nature of the Chinese students they teach, with two suggesting these traits were even more pronounced than in many American students they had taught.

Dive Insight:

Recent years have seen education become a top field for freelance work. This embrace of the gig economy can be traced to a number of factors, including low pay increases, perceived lack of public support, and high demands on time that come with the teaching profession.

With teacher shortages already a concern nationwide, this is a trend that policymakers and administrators will need to pay attention to. If the reputation that the teaching profession has gained from the aforementioned conditions — real or perceived — is already dissuading talented people from entering, greater attention will also need to be paid to efforts to retain talented people already in the field if other opportunities prove more lucrative.

Some states and districts have worked to do this with salary increases and other financial incentives, but giving teachers a greater voice in decision-making rather than mandating initiatives from the top-down can also embolden them and improve morale. In one Minnesota district, a superintendent worked with teachers who wanted to try a new approach with more autonomy, fostering greater teacher collaboration and more personalized learning opportunities for students.

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