Over the last few months, we’ve taken in feedback from both students and teachers about how the Language Teachers and Language Courses work. We’re now releasing a set of changes, based on your feedback, to make the system easier and more useful. In the next two blog posts we’ll tell you what you need to know about these changes.

New Scheduling System
We have made a number of changes to the scheduling system with the goal of making it easier for students and teachers to match up.

Scheduling

When requesting a session, students are required to select an available time from the teacher's calendar.

Teachers now set a schedule which shows when they are available. When students try to book a session with the teacher, they must choose from those times. This helps avoid the situation where students schedule a lesson for a time when the teacher is asleep. Therefore, it is critical that teachers update their calendars with all possible available times. If a teacher has no available times, students will not be able to request a lesson with them.

In addition, students must request sessions at least 24 hours in advance. This gives teachers enough time to respond and prepare for a lesson.

Teachers will allow be able to set “vacation times”, or dates when they know they will not be able to teach classes. (We will be sending a message to your inbox with a full list of changes.)

Language Courses
We have also made some initial changes to the way Language Courses are handled. Eventually, we hope Language Courses will give teachers a way of showing off specific classes or skills that they can teach. Likewise, we hope it is a way for students to find a specific teacher or structured teaching plan that fits their goals. Notably, if a student wants help on test preparation, translation, or business vocabulary, this would be the place for students to browse.

We are still making many improvements, and we are definitely interested in hearing your suggestions about how to improve Language Courses, the scheduling system, or anything else about the website. Please feel free to send us ideas through our feedback form or via email at (feedback at italki dot com).

Finding a teacher that’s right for a student can be a time-consuming process. Every student has different goals, and comes from a different background. Right now, students have to take the initiative to find a teacher. However, shouldn’t there also be a way for students to post what they are looking for, so interested teachers can contact the students?

That’s why we’re trying an experiment that we’re calling Learning Requestshttp://www.italki.com/teachers/learning_request.htm (you must be logged in)

With Learning Requests, students can submit information about their:

  • Background in the language
  • What type of lessons they want
  • Their budget
  • Time availability

After a student submits a Learning Request, italki will try its best to match up teachers that would be the most capable of helping the student to achieve his or her learning goals. italki will contact those teachers. Finally, italki will return a list of suggested teachers back to the student.

Only students that have purchased italki Credits (ITC) can use this feature.

Learning_Request

We hope that this feature will be helpful for students who need help finding a teacher. We think this feature will eventually evolve into a system where teachers can easily view the demand for their services. If you’re a teacher and would like to be on a recommended list for students, please send us an email to teacherhelp at italki dot com.

If you have suggestions about how we can help match students and teachers, please feel free to send us ideas through our feedback form or through our email at feedback at italki dot com.

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