A giant classroom where the teaching never stops
Xia Peng wants to use the best materials and simplest methods to help the Chinese people improve their English — and the former world English-speaking champion has realized it thanks to the Chinese social media platform WeChat.
More than 16,000 students are learning English on Youlinyouke, an official account on WeChat, which Xie founded. The 32-year-old said he has more than 10 top teachers in the venture.
Xie won the International Public Speaking Competition hosted by the English Speaking Union in the United Kingdom in 2005.
In addition to winning many other awards, Xie was much sought after in China’s biggest English-training school, New Oriental Education & Technology Group.
He said that WeChat users account for 80 percent to 90 percent of mobile Internet spending, so it was easier to start his program on WeChat rather than creating an app himself.
“We think that adult learners’ English-learning market is definitely online, and mobile terminals are more and more important. Also, on WeChat we have to invest little,” he said.
Moreover, with WeChat, students can study anywhere any time they want, for example, while commuting, he said.
On WeChat, teachers can, in addition to text, send pictures and videos to students, and interact with them on WeChat groups, he said.
“Internet is like a classroom without boundaries. For example, when I teach a book that is about 700 pages, about 6,000 students are studying at the same time. It is also cheap, as the 700-page materials and the whole teaching course that takes about 300 hours costs the learners only 500 yuan each. It is impossible to have a course like this offline.”
He has seen many exam-oriented education programs that he dislikes, so teachers on his program have combined different ways of learning English and then deliver the information in a humorous and interesting way, he said.
“Our concept is to use the best English materials and simplest English-learning methods and offer the best teachers.
“Moreover, we have so many students in the online community they won’t feel alone while learning.”
He needs to pay only about 0.5 percent of his income to WeChat, and, of course, does not have to spend on rent for physical classrooms, he said.
“You need to pay to support a platform, so that the platform will be able to continuously serve you and innovate.”
However, he said that there are some special functions, such as live broadcasting, and intellectual property rights protection that WeChat cannot offer at the moment, so he is considering to creating his own app.
“But even if we have our own app, we would still be connected to WeChat.”
Ren Chao, a researcher with the big data analysis and ratings firm Analysys International, said starting a business such as e-commerce, services, marketing or media on WeChat has become common, and WeChat is encouraging more people to do that.
The functions that WeChat offers still cannot match what a specific app could offer to startups, but in the future, the gap will narrow, he said.