A gi­ant class­room where the teach­ing never stops

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS -

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.

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