Author Archives: Toffler

eleutian_logo_400 We’re excited that we have expanded the Language Marketplace to include language companies and schools. Now language learning companies can partner with italki and offer their services and products to italki users. We think this is a major step towards making italki a destination site for language learning.

Our first partner company, Eleutian Technology, targets the largest language learning market in the world: Learning English.  Eleutian uses American certified-school teachers and the highly-regarded Pearson English Language Learning Instruction System (ELLIS) to teach English online.

marketplace screenshot

click to go to marketplace

Language Learning Ecosystem

Our plan is to expand the marketplace to include every language, and to support a variety of services.  By creating an ecosystem for language learning, we believe everyone benefits:  students, independent teachers, language training companies, and application developers.

Students benefit by having more choices.  They can pay for premium services, or use the free community generated ones.  Students are able to share information about different service providers and make informed choices.  Students are also able to pick and choose a combination of services that may be useful to them.  Most of all, a central location helps students find online providers of language education.

Teachers and companies benefit by having an active market with demand for their service.  Companies and teachers can reach out to students around the world, and transact without having to deal with individual payment issues.  Quality teachers and companies also benefit by having their reputation socially confirmed by their customers.

Again, we’re thrilled to be opening our expanded marketplace, and to have Eleutian join us as our first partner.  If you’re not learning English, just be patient — we’re planning to add more companies and services for other languages soon. If you represent a company that might be interested in partnering with italki, please contact us at business at italki dot com.

View the press releasePDF)

The italki Team

Free Online Tools for Teachers

June 21st, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in tips - (2 Comments)

It’s been almost three months since we announced the launch of our Language Marketplace, and we’ve seen thousands of teachers register to teach on italki.  So far, most of our teachers have only been using software like Skype to teach online.  However, many teachers have asked us if there were other free tools that they could use to help them teach online.  Here are some of our favorites:

twiddla

Whiteboard – twiddla.com

  • Twiddla has a great whiteboard that lets you write and share ideas with multiple participants.  It is free, and incredibly easy to use.  You can start typing or drawing on it immediately, and all you need to do to share is to send someone a URL.  The whiteboard also comes with a text and audio chat, and you can also import pictures and documents .
  • You can try marking up this page right here:
    Twiddle this page!

Documents – scribd.comscribd

  • We’ve been long-time fans of Scribd.  With Scribd, you can upload and share word documents, powerpoints, PDF, and other types of files with students and other italki users.  We’ve integrated Scribd into the italki Resources section, so when you upload files to italki, all your students need to view it is just a link.  This avoids clogging up everyone’s mailboxes, and is a great way to spread the word about your services.
  • Note:  scribd.com has been blocked in mainland China.

Powerpoint / Slideshows – slideshare.comslideshare

  • Slideshows or powerpoints can be great tools for teaching or sharing information.  Slideshare has a nice way interface for flipping through different pictures and for full screen views.  If you like to teach with powerpoints, uploading to slideshare might be a nice option to have.

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Geeks on a Plane and BarCamp Shanghai

June 16th, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in event - (9 Comments)

This past week has been a really interesting for the startup scene in Shanghai.  The big catalyst was the Geeks on a Plane tour organized by Dave McClure of the FoundersFund and George Godula of Web2Asia.  This trip brought a number of entrepreneurs, bloggers, and venture capitalists from the US and Europe to Tokyo, Beijing, and Shanghai to learn about the tech scene in Asia.  The Geeks on a Plane tour also led into two other events:  TEDx Shanghai and BarCamp Shanghai.

Barcamp Shanghai was on Sunday, and about 120 people attended this un-conference for presentations and networking.  We even got a chance to do a short presentation about how we think connecting people over the internet is leading to major changes in language learning.  Many thanks to the organizers, which includes one of our team members (Toffler).  We had a great time and met a lot of interesting people.

On Monday, the Geeks tour was present at TEDx Shanghai, where there was a full day of presentations (you can catch the videos here).  We managed to meet a few of the Geeks after the presentations and also at the Geeks and Glamour after party.  Here are just a few of the people we wanted to give a mention to:

goapDave McClure
Mark Hendrickson
Benjamin Joffe
Dan Martell
Dug Song
Adriana Gasciogne
Larry Chiang
Marcus Nelson

Overall it was a really exciting time to be in Shanghai and in the technology space.  Hopefully, it won’t be another year before we see an event like this again!

The italki team

New Features: Official italki Groups

June 3rd, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in announcement | feature - (3 Comments)

One important aspect of learning a language is getting connected into a community of students and teachers.  That’s why we revised our Groups function on italki.  We wanted to make it easier to have discussions about every aspect of learning a language.  

What we’ve done is create official italki Groups for every languageEach language now has five official groups called:

  • Learning the language
  • Teachers and Schools
  • Tests and Exams
  • Culture and Society
  • Travel, Living Abroad and Study Abroad

We made this change in order to consolidate discussions in each language.  All of the previous user-created groups still exist, and you can still create your own group.  As with before, each group is basically a forum where members of the group can create a topic and start a discussions with other group members. 

We also wanted to highlight a few interesting ways you could use groups.

Many teachers have asked us how they can reach students who are interested in paid tutoring sessions.  Teachers can now post information about themselves in the Teachers and Schools Group (example: Teachers and Schools for learning English).  We think this could be a great place for teachers to market to students, and for students to learn more about a teacher’s background and teaching style.

Another interesting use of groups could be for sharing test knowledge (example: Tests and Exams for learning English.   Now if you are taking a language test such as the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foriegn Language), the HSK (the main test for Chinese proficiency), or the AP Spanish test (US College Board’s test of Spanish competency) — you should be able to find discussions about how to prepare for them in the Tests and Exams group for that language.  

groups

In general, we just wanted to make it easier for the italki community to connect and communicate with each other.  If you have any questions about how to use groups or want to send us any feedback on the site changes, please click on our feedback link or send us an email (feedback at italki dot com). Your opinions really help us understand where we need to improve the site. And keep reading our blog — we’ll be letting you know about our future updates here.

Language Marketplace: Two Months Later

May 26th, 2009 | Posted by Toffler in announcement | marketplace - (2 Comments)

language-marketplaceIt’s been two months since we launched the open beta of our Language Marketplace (announcement), and we wanted to say we’ve been very pleased so far. The Language Marketplace is where students can pay for online lessons and teachers can get paid to teach a foreign language. In this short time, we’ve already had over 2500 teachers register to teach 70 languages online! Of the teachers, over 20% are professionals, meaning we have over 500 experienced language teachers ready to teach you on italki.

Through looking at our marketplace, we’ve also learned a lot about paying students. It’s not a surprise that English is the most popular language to study. Over 50% of the sessions taught have been for learning English. Given that most non-native speakers have a general desire to learn English, we think this is a sign of how much unmet demand there is for English language teachers. Interestingly, learning Chinese Mandarin is the second most popular choice, followed by learning Spanish. As Chinese Mandarin grows in importance, we believe more and more people will look online to find a teacher. In many areas around the world, Chinese teachers may not be available, and online teaching rates seem very reasonable.

We’ve also found that many students are using the Free Trial feature to find the right teacher for them. This is a great way for students to test out a couple of teachers and find the one that has the most compatible learning style. It’s also a good opportunity for teachers to get a better understanding of how the system works, and a student’s particular needs and ability level.

Overall, we think the growth in the number of students purchasing italki credits and bookings sessions with language teachers is a sign that people are getting more comfortable with the idea of learning online. This should be good news for all the internet startups in this space (Edufire, WizIQ, ForteMall, Sclipo, and Moontoast) who have a similar vision that education will eventually come from many sources.

Keep telling us what you think about the site and our Language Marketplace. And keep following the blog — we’ll keep you updated as we put up new features. The italki team