Think back over how much Education has changed in your lifetime, in the past 10 years and even in the last 3 years…
The internet, the emergence of English as an international lingua franca, and globalization are revolutionizing education and specifically ELT at a very fast pace. As an EFL teacher and social media manager for a small ELT publisher, I’ve followed these changes with great interest and this past month my team at Edulang revolutionized the way we’re sharing our elearning applications (TOEIC® and TOEFL® test preparation, as well as a daily news lesson based on Voice of America). Our new direction has everything to do with how we see the industry changing, so I’d like to share 4 driving factors in online education that brought us to where we are today.
1) Open (and free)
With elearning these days many professional sites have fremium options or a short trial period for full access, but at some point a firm price wall descends. E-learning was developed to lower instructional costs and to make it available to a wider public, and yet this has yet to become a reality for many reasons.
For many international learners these costs are simply not realistic, which is the number one reason why we’ve introduced “Pay What You Want” this month. Anyone that wants to be able to use our apps should be able to. Students and teachers now decide what they pay for access to the entirety of our applications and the revolutionary part of this move is that it transfers the power to them. Even if they’re unable to contribute much, at least our materials are going to good use and the number of users sharing our materials increases. This also provides…
2) Visibility (and transparency)
The internet and specifically social media have revolutionized how companies and clients interact. It is now a two-way channel. A company’s noble deeds and its transgressions are now shared widely via facebook, twitter, linked-in etc. We know that by transferring the pricing power to teachers and students they will recognize our positive intentions, be more interested in really using our applications and have greater respect for the efforts we’ve dedicated to developing them.
In the same vein, we’ve decided to donate 50% of our new user’s financial contribution to charity. A perusal of Room to Read’s website will convince anyone of the wonderful direction they’ve taken and we’re very excited to support their efforts. This is something learners and teachers can identify with, and it provides transparency to what our company is really like. We are a team of writers and programmers that love creating quality ESL materials, sharing them as widely as possible, and all the while contributing to the global educational movement in a positive way. As new users approve these efforts, they are also participating in a new form of…
These days (again thanks to the internet) brand awareness and product improvement can occur in collaboration with teachers and learners which is revolutionary for small companies like us. The traditional business model for publishing is based on a marketing approach where commercial agents and advertising campaigns push out product awareness and sales of materials. This is an expensive process which increases the cost of materials (another reason we’ve avoided that path). We know teachers recognize quality pedagogical materials when they see them so our concern isn’t pushing them out, but making them visible. If they’re visible, appreciate and shared, who needs marketing in this day in age ? But, in the end, one of the greatest changes for us is that the world is now…
Distance learning, autonomous learning, flipping the classroom… and all of this becoming available from one corner of the globe to another with the click of your mouse. A small company that chooses to not have a commercial force can now reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of loyal clients via social media. Whereas before our applications were on CDs and mostly served a European community, now it is anyone, anywhere. Create something new, worthwhile and make it accessible to all, and it can instantly be in the hands of millions. That’s the revolutionary nature of our times.
I hope this has given you some insight into where we think the online industry is going and why we’ve decided to take a path that separates us from the current standard. We encourage you to take advantage of our offer as it is a way of doing business that feels more in line with the values of education than business. Share it with your colleagues and students, and in this way, we will continue to support Room to Read, tailor ESL applications to our users’ needs and extend this great opportunity to more and more learners worldwide.
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***NB this post has been added to the EdTech Blog Carnival 2012