Englishtown is a global platform linking students at the same English language level from around the world in virtual classes with help from remote-located native English speaking teachers at class times offered 24hrs a day 365 days a year at 16 separate levels.
Your teacher pool consists of 27,000 teachers. Where do you find them?
Englishtown and EF Professional English, our new division in China, are both part of EF Education, a 45-year old global business and one of the world’s largest education companies. We utilize EF’s network of offices in over 50 countries to recruit native English speaking TEFL and TESL certified teachers looking to make a difference in the lives of students through language education.
How do you select your teachers?
We search for certified professionals with classroom or virtual teaching experience and a real passion for education. We are a young, spirited team and cultural fit is important.
How was Englishtown first conceived? What sparked the idea?,/b>
Englishtown was developed when EF realized that students around the world lacked sufficient access to quality teaching and real practice opportunity – we leveraged EF’s history and experience in education and harnessed the power of the internet to address this. We today are a leading innovator in online education and operate the number one on-line language training platform globally.
Our business in China, called EF Professional English, is a hybrid on-line/off-line model that we developed in 2004. We’ve grown this platform to become the leading language training provider for young professionals in China’s Tier One cities over the last six years.
How was it first funded? Who invests in it now?
Englishtown and EF Professional English are both 100% owned and operated by EF Education.
What’s the future of scalable language learning on the web? What happens in its next iteration, or how does it evolve from here?
On the Englishtown side, we already have expanded with a platform that allows students from over 50 countries to take highly interactive classes any time 24hrs a day with students at exactly the same level from anywhere in the world. When coupled with our online curriculum, this platform has tremendous growth opportunities, whether these are in business focused programs or specific skills modules. On the Professional English side, though that business is currently just in China, we have great potential to bring this model to other markets.
Can you explain the process by which students learn through EF’s programs in China?
It’s very easy for students to get started from any level. After having a level assessment that coordinates with the European Union language standard system, students begin our online program that is centered on a “Learn-Try-Apply-Certify” study methodology, developed in partnership with Cambridge University. Students are able with each unit to take live online classes that correspond to unit topics and at the same time select off-line classes at one of our 27 language training centers across Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen. These centers are like language club houses where students can not only take group classes, but also meet with study advisory who track their individual program, get online, meet friends and socialize in a pure immersion environment! We offer a full range of extra-curricular activities including cultural seminars and social events, and business skills programs and career services.
Chinese are heavy smart phone users in the urban areas, is Englishtown mobile-ready?
Not only China, Japan, Korea and other Asian countries are all very mobile-centric. We are developing a mobile extension of our platform at the moment.
There are plans to bring more mobile smart phones and broadband wireless to rural districts. What does this mean for EF?
This is great news for us as this will give more students the ability to access the programs we offer on line and soon via mobile.
Foreign companies in China have stiff competition on the ground when it comes to local marketing and partnerships. How have you faired on this level?
EF has been in the China market since 1994. We are the market leader in language education with over 150 schools across the country and are a very well-known brand in Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, the four largest cities. We were chosen as the official language training supplier of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 and of the Guangzhou Asia Games in 2010.
What are you listening to on your iPod these days?
Jay Zhou Jie Lun, Wang Li Hong (both Chinese pop singers – karaoke is big in China if you want to build guanxi!), audio book Snowball (biography of Warren Buffet), Oscar Peterson Trio. I’m a runner and use an MP3 player whose form factor I like better than the iPod.