Education’s Gig Economy…Can You Put A Price On Teaching?

Here’s an interesting one.

Outschool (live online classes for up to 18 learners) just announced a series D at a valuation of $3b. That’s a lot of Outschool. And it’s the third round of funding in the past year.

A friend observed this morning that with 7,000 teachers that’s a value of about $428k per teacher – organizations can join, too, but for argument’s sake 7k freelance teachers. Assume that there is some multiplier in there based on future value and perhaps it’s maybe $140k per teacher if it’s 3x, more or less depending on the assumption.

Is that a lot? Depends how you think about it. In some communities, ranging from Washington, D.C. to tony suburbs teachers make six figures annually. On the other hand Outschool offers value for teachers as well as students – flexible schedule, audience, payment processing, lower barriers to entry, and opportunity for creativity for instance. Outschool is pretty cool.

And despite the occasional headline, $140k is far more than the median teacher is seeing on any of the peer to peer teacher sites where teachers can sell their wares. So’s even a fraction of that.

But that’s not what Outschool teachers make. Outschool says the “average” teacher makes $50/hr. It’s a 70-30 split. Traditional teachers are not making $50/hour, but they do have guaranteed hours and employment for a set period of time. They also get benefits, sometimes really good packages.

An obvious question is, is this a good deal for teachers? For some teachers? Is this a better deal than unionized teachers are getting from their unions? Is a teacher gig economy desirable for some teachers? Should teachers see more upside with Outschool? You can argue those questions both ways – especially depending on what you value most. The New York Times op-eds write themselves, “I was a teacher unionist, then I discovered Outschool” or “I was an Outschool teacher, now I’m a building rep.”

For my part, I like Outschool* and think it fills an important and interesting place on the landscape – and is just one part of the a la carte or unbundled approach to schooling that is coming. Interestingly Outschool wants to work with employers. This was all coming before the pandemic, but that experience created more appetite. It’s not a substitute for trad school, but it’s a derivation that right now is offering real value.

Homeschooling has grown during the pandemic and an outstanding question is whether this will increase the demand for more a la carte services from schools by homeschoolers. Schools have traditionally resisted this although some states let homeschoolers take classes a la carte now. It might be a great time to build some bridges if broad support for publicly funded education and some sort of mass customization is the goal rather than pointless turf fights.

But what does it mean for teachers and how should Outschool teachers feel about this new deal and where it places them? I don’t know.** But it does signal change and probably more aggregated opportunities outside of traditional teaching roles in the future.


*No formal relationship, the co-founder and head of school spoke to a class I taught last year.

**Sorry Ned, two days in a row!