K-Cups and EdTech

Coffee, labor and education.

October 1, 2013

How has the way the you make and drink coffee changed over the past few years?

I live in a K-Cup universe. A Keurig machine at home, a Keurig machine at work. My dentist has a Keurig in the waiting room.   

Memories of brewing a pot of coffee are in the hazy past, back when we made calls on our mobile phones and we purchased computer programs on DVDs.

What does the rise of K-Cup teach us about educational technology?

1. Coffee as a Service:

Single brew coffee systems have not succeeded on the basis of their cost or quality advantage, but rather because they offer coffee as a service. We are outsourcing our coffee making process to the maker of the K-Cups. What was previously a production process (grinding, brewing, cleaning, etc.) has become a consumption event.   

The shift to coffee as a service follows and mirrors the trend to only consume the technologies that we once produced. How many of want to run our own servers? Our own e-mail and storage and backup and application servers?  We know that the future of edtech is edtech as a service, we are all just getting to that future at different speeds.

2. Deskilling and the Substitution of Capital for Labor:

Everyone knows 2 things about single-cup coffee systems. They make drinking coffee more expensive and they produce coffee that is mostly inferior to the coffee that we used to grind and brew ourselves. How can something that is simultaneously worse and more expensive become so dominant? Blame it on the power of deskilling and the allure of substituting capital for labor.  
Any idiot can make the same quality cup of coffee with a Keurig every single time. It takes no more skill to make a K-Cup of coffee than it does to push a button. What we lose in quality and pay for in expense we gain in convenience. No more cleaning the coffee pot. No more grinding (if we ever did grind). No more having to think about how old the coffee is in the pot, and if it has been sitting around too long to drink. No more asking who will brew the next pot.    

When it comes to our education platforms we will choose, have chosen, tools that are both worse and more expensive - but are easier and faster for everyone.  

What is the LMS if not a K-Cup?  


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