“Who do you train? What do you train them on?” This is a pretty typical response I get when I tell people I founded BigSpring, a mobile learning platform. And I find it confounding. Does anyone ask Netflix, “Who do you entertain? What do you entertain them on?” That sounds absurd and I can’t wait for this to be equally absurd in the world of learning.
Today’s technology can easily allow learners the self-driven and constantly evolving experience they enjoy when they browse recommended videos, navigate to a restaurant, or track daily fitness on their smartphones. But our mental model of education is still bound to physical facilities that don’t scale and are expensive—these constraints make education subject-centric (versus people-centric) and therefore elitist. As evidence, only about one-third of the population in the US possess a bachelor’s degree and in India it’s one-tenth.
Digital learning largely caters to roles like software engineers, data analysts and enterprise sales but these are a small fraction of the global workforce. While online learning partly addresses the problem of scale and cost, what it doesn’t solve for is inclusivity.
This poses two problems.
First, you can’t drive an improvement in NPS by upskilling only your white-collar managers (or any specific silo, for that matter). McKinsey says 80% of an organization’s workforce plays frontline (blue/grey-collar) roles. And, at BigSpring, we’ve seen a sizable chunk of the “workforce” that meaningfully influences business doesn’t even sit within the organization—channel partners, vendors and influencers. As a platform committed to enabling our enterprise clients to achieve measurable impact, BigSpring necessarily caters to every person, every job.
Second, catering to a specific role establishes a floor and a ceiling. Only people who meet a set of criteria (age, past credentials, etc.) can “enter”. And they can only go so far as the ceiling allows. A platform that caters to all workers enables upward mobility—this enables a janitor to progress to say, a data analyst, and a data analyst to become a leader.
Today, the pandemic has put the educational divide in stark relief. According to a McKinsey, 70% of jobs affected are paid under $25,000 a year, while only 14% of those earning over $70,000 a year have been affected. Traditional “EdTech” is doing the world a disservice by perpetuating the flaws of the offline system and with it, inequitable outcomes. Instead of catering only to full-time, higher value, white-collar employees, there’s an opportunity to democratize learning and include everyone.
It’s time we turn the tide and usher in economic justice. Technology provides the path forward to an inclusive and market-centric system that fulfills the promise of skilling for everyone - large to small enterprise, white-collar to blue-collar, college graduate to school dropout, experienced professional or convict reentering the workforce, person due for promotion or parent returning from parental leave. This approach starts with a person’s goals and guides them with the requisite skills, without qualifying by credentials or lack thereof. It delivers lifelong employability, at scale, at favorable unit economics, aligning the needs of the marketplace to assure its acceptance and enduring relevance.
BigSpring focuses on what we believe is the only important question— how do you effectively provide lifelong skilling towards gainful employment for every worker and every job? At the heart of this, we’re working to solve inequity—turns out it’s also good business.