alipay

Alipay

Learning English is the primary goal of most users on italki, which is natural given that the majority of users are not native speakers of English. Our largest group of users come from China (20% of total users). We’ve just started a marketing partnership with Alipay to make it easier for Chinese users to purchase italki credits.
Alipay is a payment platform owned by the global e-commerce company Alibaba. Alipay works similarly to Paypal, and is very popular in China. For the month of August, we are offering a 10% bonus to purchases of italki credits over $30 USD through Alipay.

Learning English in China

alipay_page

Alipay - italki page

We hope that by making it easier for Chinese users to pay online, this will lead to more transactions on the italki marketplace. There is certainly an immense demand for learning English in China. Chinese students start learning English at an early age (depends regionally, but average age of 10-13). However, after studying English for five years or more, many students graduate with “哑巴英文” (mute English). They often have not had any opportunity to use their English, and the vast majority are taught by Chinese teachers with varying levels of proficiency.

Given the demand for English, English training centers in China are a huge industry. These centers often are very expensive (10,000 – 20,000 RMB or ~$1500-$3000 USD). This amount of money also needs to be viewed in an economic context where the average monthly salary is roughly between $200 – $600 USD (depends on the city and region).

Anecdotally, we’ve been told that many Chinese find their experiences at these teaching centers to be disappointing. The centers are strong at marketing, but weak at delivering real improvement for students. Students have very limited access to teachers and are stuck listening in large classes.

Naturally, we believe that online learning can change this equation radically. italki partners, like Eleutian, can deliver an online product (SpeakENG), direct to students at an incredibly low costs. Students can get Eleutian’s certified teachers or find independent teachers which they can schedule according to their own time needs. In addition, student tuition doesn’t go into supporting building rents in expensive city districts, massive marketing campaigns, or large school administrations. Given the natural benefits of online learning, we think this will become a major alternative to offline learning in the near future.

View the English press release (PDF)
View the Chinese press release (PDF)

The italki Team

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etcon-logo250x75This morning (China time), we had the opportunity to attend the E-Teachers Academy Conference on Virtual Classrooms, hosted by Kirsten Winkler.  It was one of the most interesting conferences we’ve seen on the future of the virtual classroom, and the panel was made up of some of the most forward-thinking companies and teachers in this evolving space (view list of panel speakers).

We were definitely impressed with the potential in virtual classrooms, and we’re sure that as the technologies mature, we’ll begin to see more of these classrooms gain wider acceptance.  There are many important features which are not presently integrated or handled well by standard communication tools like Skype, such as whiteboards, direct document viewing, shared screenshot viewing, and group / class management.  One thing that is clear from the conference is that virtual classrooms are being designed with significant input from teachers.

If you’re interested in following this debate, you can follow Kirsten on twitter (@KirstenWinkler) as well as the ETCon twitter itself @ETConference.  We’re definitely looking forward to the next conference.

Kevin and the italki team

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SPEAKENG Course 1Y 10000004-2 We wanted to write more about our first partner company, Eleutian Technology, and its product SpeakENG.

Eleutian is based in Wyoming, USA, in a little town called Ten Sleep (google map).  Their mission is to teach the world English, using online courses and US-based teachers.  In a time when much of the US is in recession, Eleutian has been hiring certified teachers to satisfy the global demand for learning English.  Eleutian is an interesting globalization story in that English teaching is being “in-sourced” to the US. Another intriguing aspect about Eleutian is its surprising technology infrastructure (news report).

screenshot of SpeakENG

click for detailed explanation page of SpeakENG

The other part of Eleutian’s SpeakENG product is online courses that are powered by Pearson’s English Language Learning and Instruction System (ELLIS).  SpeakENG (Pearson ELLIS) has an impressive amount of English content for online self-study. There are video lessons, scripts, recordings, skill drills, in-depth explanations of grammar points, and much more.  We’ve been told the package normally retails at a very expensive rate, and that the pricing on italki reflects Eleutian’s desire to grow aggressively in this market (this pricing might not last).

If you want to find out more information (pictures and walkthrough), take a look at our in-depth explanation on Eleutian SpeakENG.

Eleutian SpeakENG is offering to italki users:

You can see the full list here.

If you’re learning English, we really can’t recommend trying SpeakENG enough. It’s an amazing product for self-study and combined with tutoring from US certified teachers, we’re sure this is something that you shouldn’t miss out on.

View the press release (PDF)

The italki Team

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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

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John Warnken

John Warnken

It is amazing the things that can happen when people get connected online. John Warnken (italki profile, facebook profile) was teaching US senior citizens in Arkansas how to use the internet, when he found italki. He found that connecting people through italki and Skype was a popular activity for the seniors he was working with. However, one person John met on italki was Endang Palupi, a school teacher from Pekalongan, Indonesia. She asked John if he would be interested in volunteering to teach some basic English to high school students.

John began teaching classes through Skype, and since then, John has become a celebrity in Pekalongan. He’s been featured in the local newspaper, and he’s been introduced to the mayor of Pekalongan. He even gave a graduation address (through Skype) to the high school.

He’s written up his own story on the Oprah Angels Network.  He’s also posted his story in this italki group.

John had a chance to be on a Central Java radio station, and he invited me to join him on the show. During the show, the mayor phoned in, as well as the local school superintendent. A number of students also went to the studio to talk on the air with John.

Unfortunately, at the moment when I was supposed to introduce myself, and talk about how the internet could be used to help people learn languages — I ran into some technical difficulties with Skype. The irony was not lost on me.

You can listen this segment of the radio interview here:

(I believe I said a number of things, but…)

Nevertheless, it was inspiring to hear how much this town appreciated John’s help in teaching English through Skype. John also let me know that the station has been receiving hundreds of texts and phone calls since the radio show aired. The station may make a talk with John a weekly program.

Here are pictures of the radio show in Pekalongan.
jbwarnken_2c jbwarnken_3c

If you know of other stories about how you have used italki to help people (or have been helped), please let us know at feedback at italki dot com. If you’re interested in helping John with teaching English classes through Skype in other countries, you can contact him through italki (John Warnken) or post on his group discussion. We’re excited to see how projects like this develop.

Kevin and the italki team

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