Paying

The Business of Sharing - Sharing as a Business

I have already shared my thoughts on note sharing between students here on Big Think and other outlets. But there is also some sharing going on between teachers and like the popular note sharing on the student’s side there is money to be made.

A couple of weeks ago, an article on TechCrunch draw some amount of attention to a platform that is pretty self-explanatory: Teachers Pay Teachers. Especially, the fact that some teachers earn not only some pocket money but apparently more than the President raised some eyebrows. Is the state of public education and in this case education publication that bad that teachers are willing to pay colleagues for materials? Apparently, it is.

But there are free alternatives as well. One that just launched is Share My Lesson, a joined effort of the American Federation of Teachers AFT and TES Connect, the world’s largest network of teachers which is based in the UK. Both institutions put in over $10 million worth of cash and working hours according to an article in the New York Times.

Share My Lesson already features more than 200.000 lessons in a variety of topics and for different grades. These lessons can come from publishers and other companies in education as well as individual educators. Teachers can follow interesting publishers, rate the lessons and communicate with each other. Sounds familiar to you? Better Lesson obviously thought the same and published a post on their company blog.

Now, while I always feel that blog posts that underline the fact that the new cat in town is in no way related to what my service offers and competition is appreciated basically say the exact opposite e.g. “we are all doomed” the post was apparently meant to be for Better Lesson’s investors and not the teachers who are using the service. But surely, the entrance of a joint partnership between two heavy weights with more financial resources and a huge reach through their members can’t be a reason for popping champagne in the Better Lesson office. Share My Lesson also features some pretty interesting content partners right from the start like Green.TV or the Teaching Channel. I do agree with the Better Lesson post that this is also a validation of the market, though.

While most part of the platform is free for teachers, Better Lesson’s business model is based on schools or entire districts signing up for the premium offer which then enables the administrator to create a branded and closed network for their school or district. Better Lesson signed a deal with KIPP schools last year, for example.

The other difference between Better Lesson and Share My Lesson is that Better Lesson is focused on entire curricula from high performing teachers. They see the school year in its entirety whereas Share My Lesson seems to be about single lessons and I tend to be on Better Lesson’s side here.

I am also pretty sure that this won’t be the last launch in this vertical. I would be astonished if Pearson was not entering this market. They may even acquire Better Lesson at some point in the future.

The remaining problem is to build a business on a social if not altruistic behavior: sharing. On the student’s side the argument against sharing is of course cheating and taking money to help other students to cheat. That’s different with teachers and lesson material, of course. And in the end, teachers are the ones who will decide which model succeeds. Are they going to support colleagues by purchasing their lessons? Are they going to share their lessons for free? Or something in between.

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