The advent and tremendous growth of social media have empowered consumers with real time information on where we eat, what we purchase, whom we date, and where we travel. For many who previously felt powerless about the decisions they made, social media and technology have democratized their lives.
Decisions are best made using timely and quantifiable information. The most recent Path To Teach blog, "Tinder and Match-Making For Educators: Building a Student Profile for the Right Education Program," established how future educators benefit from being informed about which teacher preparation programs are best for them based on how they've served other students with unique characteristics. Students value information a lot, especially information from other students. Social media and apps like Tinder and Lyft are leading the way in information sharing, and higher education can learn from them.
Millennials use apps like Tinder and Lyft multiple times a day and they continue to shape their decisions on whom they date and how they travel. Lyft riders, in particular, rely on information from fellow riders and Lyft drivers rely on information from Lyft riders. The interdependence created by Lyft's customer-centered rating system informs users, leading to a more quality experience.
In a small focus group of students currently in teacher preparation programs, participants shared how difficult it was to gather timely information about teacher preparation programs from a student perspective. These students also shared that they had little voice in improving the quality of their own teacher preparation program. The experiences of these students sounded more like those of taxicab riders prior to Lyft, not the Lyft generation of today.
Apps like Tinder and Lyft are shaping how millennials make decisions and teacher preparation programs need to lead in "meeting applicants where they are" by building on what they already trust and use everyday. Teacher preparations programs could benefit from a tool modeled after Lyft in the following ways:
Data-Driven: Lyft currently uses a 1-5 star rating scale with 1 representing a poor experience and 5 representing an excellent experience. Teacher preparation programs could create a rating system using student and recent alumni responses to rate the application process, professors, courses, administration, student-teaching experience, and job placement and licensure process.
Impactful: A driver's rating can affect whether a rider accepts a ride from him or her and whether Lyft dismisses a driver. A rating of 4.5 or lower over a week can trigger dismissal.
Timely: Lyft uses the quantitative rating system along with rider comments to generate a weekly rating report. Teacher preparation programs could receive a summary of their rating on a regular basis. The summary could include an aggregate rating, rating by category, but also student comments on what leads to low or high rating.
Informative: Lyft informs their drivers about what riders value. Lyft-generated feedback to drivers is critical to them responding to their riders' needs, increasing their chances of a higher rating. For example, low ratings often come from a driver having poor knowledge of their city. Drivers are also informed that offering water or gum increases chances of a higher rating. Teacher prep programs can be given a similar lists of values generated by students.
Comprehensive: Currently students use social media to comment on a specific school or program, but lack a rating tool that allows them to compare programs. An Lyft-like rating tool would allow users to pinpoint those with similar characteristics by disaggregating ratings and comments by race, income, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics.
When Lyft drivers compete for riders, the quality of the ride improves. When teacher preparation programs compete for students, the quality of the educational experience will improve. Social media and apps like Lyft demonstrate that information leads to informed decisions, and informed decisions lead to better quality and satisfaction.
Millennials value information, in particular information from other millennials. Higher education and teacher preparation programs should see the views of millennials as an asset in how they make their programs competitive and the education experience one they can brag about!
-- Curtis Valentine