Fair practice and low cost in our #ELT industry


In the modern world where many of our day-to-day products come from all four corners of the world, a tough, yet fair question to ask is “Is it possible to have a quality product at low cost with an ethical footprint?”


Of course, this question is also valid for Education, especially these days as the game is changing very quickly with the rise in digitalization and online learning; nowadays anyone can develop materials and teach them from anywhere, which begs the question:

The cost may be low, but what about the human process behind it and the real quality?


I don’t know that we can make sweeping generalizations, but I do know that our industry is changing fast and the way and where teachers work is changing quickly too.  With so much movement, it’s important to stop and take a real look at the human impact to these changes. For what it’s worth, I’m proud that our little team at Edulang is excelling beyond what many other players in the game have been or are doing as far as quality and ethics goes.  And to that end, I’d like to share just a bit more of how I see it here.



Our clients pay what they want and can have a year of English learning at one dollar.  The only thing lower is free, and really, as the expression goes “nothing’s free in life”.


Lowering the cost of our applications to a minimum of a dollar makes them available to everyone.

Above that amount, each person is able to add a contribution depending on how they value the fruits of our labor and fifty percent of that goes to Room to Read.

We pay our authors well.  Our team internally is well compensated too, and no, we’re not outsourcing development as some actors do.


We want to change the rules of the game.  We feel that elearning can be inexpensive for many and don’t think it’s anywhere near comparable to the hourly wage of a trained teacher (though others in the industry seem to think so and want to charge so).

We are courageous.  Our team has often taken a step out on the limb because we know that we have to as a small publisher.  Taking risk also gives us great opportunities.

There are 500 million English learners out there and most of them have access to the internet and a $1 barrier is within the reach of all.   Thanks to the magic of the cloud, it doesn’t cost us an extreme amount more to serve 10,000 clients or 1 million,  so our costs of developing quality materials remains the same whether we have 10,000 or 1,000,000 clients.

By changing the game, by democratizing online learning, we have the possibility to make a real impact and that, above all, is what drives our team.  I must say it’s a nice direction to be involved in.



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About Brad

--- i'm a learner-teacher, language geek, outdoorsy kind-of-guy --- U might miss the next tweet... Wanna subscribe by email ? ;-)
  • http://twitter.com/MarianSteiner Marián Steiner

    It’s immensely inspiring and encouraging to see what you and your team have set out to achieve, Brad. Whenever I read about your efforts and the ideas behind them, the reaction  is “Yes!!”. It might not be a short distance run with immediate results, but I’m sure that, in the long run, it’s the way to go. What’s more, it’s the right way to go. 

  • Andy Hockley

    Hi Brad
    Can you explain this: “We feel that elearning can be inexpensive for many and don’t think it’s anywhere near comparable to the hourly wage of a trained teacher (though others in the industry seem to think so and want to charge so).”
    I don’t really understand what you’re saying here? That teachers shouldn’t be paid well? That making things cheap is the goal regardless of the costs involved? (I am absolutely sure I’ve misunderstood here, but I really can’t get what it is that this sentence is trying to say)

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Yes and yes.  Feels right, is doing well in the short-term and I think in the long-term it is a very, very promising way of engaging new learners.  Thanks so much for your support, Marian and I’m really glad to have you behind us!  Cheers, Brad

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Hi Andy.  Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    I can see how this sentence could be misunderstood, or simply not understood… wish I could say I was always clear but sometimes moving thoughts in head to words in blog is not the simplest equation.

    My point is that if you look at the price of elearning in general it is relatively high, though the true cost behind is in developing the material, not the infrastructure or continual use of it.  Hence, it can be available at a low price for users, especially if there are many of them.  HOWEVER, this is not the trend we see within elearning as the price is still relatively high because most of the actors are traditional actors that have higher costs of marketing and an old way of looking at “sales”.

    Teachers are the opposite of this equation.  Their cost is continual, and the more students they have the more challenging this can be.  So a teacher’s salary or a physical school’s overhead is higher and constant.  As clients grow the infrastructure cost grows as well, whereas with elearning this is much less so the case.  Hence, basing elearning’s price on the hourly wage of a teacher is not fair.  A teacher and school should and need to earn more than a system of computer networks with a program developed during a certain period of time with a certain cost and then decreasing costs over time.

    Is that a bit clearer?  Maybe it wasn’t clear because it really did take 10 sentences instead of one.  

  • Andy Hockley

    Thanks for the clarification.  I’m sort of writing a couple of posts on costing and pricing of elearning at the moment (hope to get them done next week), and I think I still disagree with you slightly.

    That is that, as you say the costs of infrastructure and overheads are low and fairly fixed. There is a cost of development, but for me the big cost (more or less the only big cost and certainly the main variable cost) is that of teachers’ salaries.  In a sense, for me, the main thing that one could base the price of elearning on is teacher’s pay.  

    But I think maybe we’re talking about different forms of elearning – I’m talking about one in which the teacher plays a very central role – are you talking about elearning with is essentially self-access?

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Hi Andy,

    I look forward to reading your posts, so please do shoot me a DM when you have them up and I don’t think we necessarily disagree, actually.

    I am coming from a perspective of greater student autonomy, or where a teacher is working with a student or students 1/5 or 1/10 of the time they’re studying, so on that level the price an independent teacher would charge wouldn’t be their hourly rate if they were physically meeting the student every day. A typical formula for teachers who use Edulang applications is to offer a 20-hr course for (general example here) $200 with 4 hours one-on-one and 16 hours (or really unlimited) time on our applications asynchronously. So the student is paying 10/hr, and the teacher is making closer to $50/hr for the four hours they teach one-on-one. A win-win situation and one that many students and teachers would choose to repeat over the long-term.

    As Edulang’s applications are pay-what-you-want this gives the teacher a lot of flexibility, or the student considering their budget too. In the end, a teacher’s salary depends very much on their experience and region where they teach, but if they’re supplementing their course with an elearning approach then the hourly cost should and can drop significantly for a student, and in the end can actually be much more effective and reasonable financially because we all know that it’s TIME,
    TIME, TIME that it takes to learn a language.

    I’d be happy to continue this discussion here, on your next post and
    keep digging a bit deeper because I’m learning a lot through expressing
    my perspective on the situation. Cheers, Brad

  • Andy Hockley

    Cheers Brad.

    I think I get it now, and I also think we don;t disagree that much.  So your model has people getting one-to-one synchronous work with the teacher (which is charged at a fair hourly rate) and then a significantly greater amount of non-facilitated self-study through various tasks and activities?

    In that case, I pretty much agree with you.  I’ll be writing my two posts from the point of view of the online trainer (which is actually most of my work these days, and in which reasonable pay scales have yet to be established in my view – but then I don’t have this clear division into “hours”, since I am involved in both the synchronous and the asynchronous work on my courses), and from the view of the manager, who has to come up with a price which pays the teachers fairly yet also offers online learning at a fair rate for the customer.  

    I’ll let you know when they’re posted!

  • http://blog.edulang.com Brad Patterson

    Glad that we’ve found a common point, and always happy to explore all the possibilities. Please do keep me posted, Andy! Cheers, b

  • http://hoprea.wordpress.com/ Henrick Oprea

    Well, well, well… starting something new is always a bit of a headache, I suppose. What got me thinking about this post is that it definitely struck a chord with me as I’ve also decided to start something from scratch, and, obviously, the $$$ matter is always an issue. I can’t seem to be able to deny your logic there – it’s pretty obvious to me that it’s better to have 10,000 people paying $1 than having only 100 people paying $10, for instance.

    The main problem, though, still lies in the lack of knowledge regarding what works and what doesn’t work. I’ve been doing some thinking about it and, the more I think about it, and the more I talk about it with people I way, the more it dawns on me that, maybe, we are still unable to reach out to this massive number of learners who are completely clueless when it comes to finding out what works and what doesn’t work. The other problem lies in writing such a long sentence in this comment! :)

    On the other hand, the Internet has certainly helped people network and, as a result of that, has led to a better informed audience, or at least to having the chance to hear someone who actually knows his onions than a marketing pundit who hasn’t got the faintest idea about what he or she is saying.

    I’m not sure I made any sense in this comment, Brad. But this has given me some food for thought. In the end, are we actually able to reach out to all those who are willing to learn English, or are these people still following the same old trends? I think we’re still in the middle of this shift.

    A big hug all the way from Brazil!


  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    You sir, know your onions, and though some English teachers might not like this compliment, you know your marketing too.  In the end, marketing is understanding people, environments and communication and using all of that to commercialize a product, which as is the current case for Edulang is a product whose channel is far from commercial, it’s 1/2 charitable.  So marketing isn’t all bad, is it?  Not the tool but the person using it, I guess.

    So what are you starting from scratch, Henrick?  The $$$ always is the issue and most entrepreneurs know that at least half of the time it doesn’t work out (and often a much higher percentage), so it does take courage, risk and a smart business model.As far as the 10,000 at $1 goes, that is true and yes it is a challenge, but the good news is that the average person is giving much more than $1 so it’s moving along well.  I agree as well that many times even us teachers don’t dig to the bottom of the pedagogy of what’s available on elearning these days, so how should learners know?  Well, they’ll know because eventually the more curious among us will dig to the bottom of many of the apps available and see them as either a simple digital reprint of books, or as not really have a solid pedagogy at all (as I was exploring in this post http://www.edulang.com/blog/how-the-internet-is-changing-the-way-we-learn-languages/)I warmly accept the big hug all the way from Brazil, and shoot you back a similar panda bear hug from Paris.  Cheers!   -b

  • http://hoprea.wordpress.com/ Henrick Oprea

    Hi Brad,

    I’ve decided to start my own language school from scratch. I’m not so sure this is what happens in most countries, but Brazil is being over-riden by big franchises of language schools, most of which run exclusively by business-people who can’t tell their methodology from an IWB. Add to that the lack of knowledge of the average joe when it comes to learning English, in a country whose level of proficiency in English is considered poor by most researchers, and voi-lá (if that’s even correct French!).

    We’ve been running our school for 6 years now, but this is the first year we’re actually open to all. In the first six-years we were located inside a regular primary and secondary school in Brasília. So this has been pretty challenging, and very demanding as well. I mean, it’s only till we become our own bosses that we realise how much work we need to put into it. You suddenly see yourself having to don way too many hats in order to see it thrive, which usually doesn’t happen overnight. There’s nothing more rewarding, though, than seeing that all you’ve been doing is actually working. When we’re looking for the answers in many different ways, we end up with lots of useful questions – being the co-owner and the one in charge of the academic department of the school gives us a lot of freedom to try things we believe that might work. The good part is, they’ve been working thus far!

    On the other hand, playing against the major franchises and more traditional schools is also part of the game, but we’ll get there. So far, we’ve chosen the path of investing in teacher training, development and education, which has proven fruitful for word-of-mouth advertisement. It’s been a helluva lot of work, but it’s also been fun. And, boy, the amount of learning is beyond any other experience.

    Hope we can chat more calmly about things eventually. Perhaps one day it’ll be possible for me to partake in one of those Europe-based IATEFL or TESOL conferences and finally have the chance to meet some of the finest people of my PLN. :)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    I’d love nothing more to meet up one day.  Lucky Shelly got to shoot down that way and I’m still waiting for my turn ;-)

    I knew you had a school, but I know understand that its expansion beyond what seems like public borders is quite the challenge, and I’m sure the investment both financially and as you’ve mentioned time-wise.  

    Word-of-mouth when you have a 6-year old community should help a lot indeed and magical things are happening these days too online with social media which might be an option to explore at one point, but yeah, grassroots is the best way to launch something like what you’re doing.  Advertising and spam works to some extent for the biggies, but that power is slowly but surely fading away.  True service is what keeps people in and brings them back and it’s much more likely that you and your team are able to provide that in a personal way when compared to other big chains.  That being said, it really all has a lot to do with management as you’ve mentioned so I’m sure there are some great chains out there, but when business is what’s in mind and the rest is secondary, well then… the rest is secondary.  That doesn’t cut it.

    Thanks for taking the time to fill me in here and I’d love to chat about it all at any time via skype or even better “live” one of these days be it there or here.

    Best to you and your new project Rick!!!


  • http://www.epicenterlanguages.com.mx Aaron Nelson

    This is a great post Brad. Really challenging. I wonder how you managed to pay your development team so well as you were developing your product? Did you have outside funding?  (Hehe. I know this is not really any of my business, but I just got curious about how you managed that part of it.)  

    Do you also envision working with people friendly companies as a content provider/developer? :)

  • http://blog.edulang.com/ Brad Patterson

    Hi Aaron.  

    Thanks for stopping by.  I’ve enjoyed our exchange recently and am now subscribed to your blog to follow more of the action!  Our business was run a different way while we were financing the development, so we can’t compare apples to oranges as this new business model changes the possibilities.

    From there, we have a fairly frugal operation with no marketing costs or commercial investment which keeps our overhead pretty low too.  Our pay-what-you-want model really has enormous potential for success as it lowers a lot of barriers to both learners who couldn’t afford such a service before, or others hesitated to invest a hefty price into an online application.   

    Indeed, our goal is to provide quality applications to learners and schools all around the world, and of course people-friendly companies sounds great to me!  Did you have someone specific in mind?  ;-)  

    Cheers 4 the convo.  -Brad