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Online English teaching has been with us since 2013.
One or two companies were doing it before then but this was on a much smaller scale. The technology wasn't up to speed to accommodate online English classes for the masses.
Then the arrival of the two big players — namely VIPKid and DaDa. These companies changed the entire concept of online teaching and brought it to the mainstream.
Today we can see what the industry is today.
Since then it has grown on a massive scale. We can see entire websites and YouTube channels devoted to online teaching. There are podcasts, books and courses dedicated to online English teaching too.
And why not?
After all the English teaching industry is worth a considerable sum. There are no exact figures to its true value but one thing is for certain — it is a multi-billion dollar industry.
It is growing at a rapid rate. There are now thousands of teachers living in America, Canada and the UK having online English classes with students around the world. China makes up the lion’s share of online students.
That said, there have been many complaints voiced by teachers and students alike. There is little to no communication between a prospective student and a teacher on one of the big platforms. Everything is very closely guarded — this has caused resentment in the industry.
Teachers are now venturing out on their own. Away from the larger platforms and teaching their own students. They do this either via Skype or the popular Chinese messaging app, WeChat.
The online English industry is in its very early stages so anything could happen in the future.
Online English Teaching — Loved by Parents
The average Chinese parent spends a lot of money on extra-curricular classes for their children. And a lot of time too.
This could be for subjects such as learning a musical instrument, ballet classes or some sport activity. But the large percentage of students will have to study an academic subject. Either math, science or English.
It is English that takes precedence though.
Parents can easily spend two hours after school on weekdays taxiing their children from their school to their English class. This class is often held in a private training center in a commercial hub of the city.
At the weekend, there could be all-day classes devoted to learning English. Classes on speaking, reading, listening or writing.
For the student, most of their waking hours are spent on improving their English skills.
For the stressed-out mother or father, it is ensuring that their child gets to these after-school classes on time.
It’s exhausting for everyone.
Then came online English teaching.
Now the students can have their English class at home. In the living room or his bedroom. Safe and secure and right where mother can see them.
Online English teaching was a godsend for everyone. Particularly the parents. Cheaper rates than the chains of English schools around town. Plus no need to rush around being the taxi driver in rush-hour traffic.
Things were going great. There was no end of Chinese students willing to have online classes. Plus an unlimited supply of teachers in the west ready to teach the classes from America, Australia or the UK.
For a while the teachers were happy, the students were happy. More importantly, the students' parents were happy.
But then the teachers found that they could only post one introduction video on to the online platforms. They wanted to have more than one video, maybe one video that introduces them to potential students and another two or three videos of them doing a real ‘live’ class.
The students' moms wanted to have more information too.
Where was the teacher from? What teaching certificates did they hold? How about some recommendations from previous students?
The information was very limited.
And the big platforms had no means to provide this information. Either that or they simply didn't want to pass any information between the student and teacher than was necessary.
What the students' parents wanted
Ultimately, they wanted more choice. But also a more defined choice.
Could the teacher teach IELTS prep classes?
How about English literature or writing?
Did the teacher have any experience with the IB program?
They wanted answers to these questions but none were available.
They also wanted to negotiate with each teacher and arrange their own terms without the interference from a third party.
It was frustrating.
What the teachers wanted
The teachers wanted more autonomy.
They liked doing online classes but were tied to the payment schemes, terms and conditions of the online teaching platform.
They also wanted to show more information about themselves.
More videos — an introduction video but also videos of the teacher in class. Maybe other videos to show the teacher as a real, live human being. This would be great for creating a personal brand.
A blog — where the teacher could offer advice about learning English. More information about himself so that students could get a better idea who the teacher was and what they could offer.
A calendar — to show the teacher’s available times and schedule.
Even to have some free exercises for the student to download would be a great marketing plan for the teachers.
None of this was available on VIPKid or DaDa.
Then things changed…
Say Hello to SuperClass
SuperClass is an app that serves the online teacher and the online student equally.
They provide an entire system for both parties. A platform for students to find a teacher of their liking. And to also use the platform to host the online classes. But without any interference from SuperClass. They just provide agency between the teacher and student and then leave them to it.
Now the teacher can show multiple videos. An introduction video of them saying hello to potential students and explaining what skills he or she can offer in class.
But also videos of him in previous online classes. Or any other video the teacher wants to offer — maybe explaining a certain grammar point or some vocabulary terms.
Plus, he can also offer live-streaming videos. This means that prospective students can ‘spy’ on his class and see him in action. No pre-recorded tom-trickery here — this is the real deal.
But even more importantly, mom can now check in on her son or daughter and make sure that everything is as it should be.
Apart from video, the teacher can also host a blog on the SuperClass platform. The blog is a great addition — not just for the teacher but the student too. Imagine being part of a teacher’s group where he showcases the best writing by his students.
This is great for students’ confidence and now they are part of a live, online community.
There is also an interactive calendar that shows the teacher's current schedule. So much easier than waiting on a third-party to make bookings and class arrangements. Now, this can all be done between the student and the teacher directly.
All parties prefer this.
And for the student — or parent — they have more access to what the teachers can offer.
They can see multiple videos of dozens of online teachers. This makes it much easier for them to compare teachers and pare down to the best choice for their son or daughter.
There is a filter system so they can not only look for online English teachers but streamline down to IELTS or TOEFL teachers. By using the filter they can exclude any teachers that are not suitable for their requirements.
It’s a great time saver and something that parents yearn for in classes for their kids.
Now instead of merely accepting any online English teacher, they can shortlist down to a select few that meet their exact needs.
A great weight off mom’s mind for sure.
This is the future of online English teaching. SuperClass provide the platform for teachers to host online classes — but they are left alone and are now more in control of what they are doing.
It becomes more like a private business for the teacher.
And the students’ parents can now communicate directly with the teacher. No longer do they just have to blindly accept any teacher that is offered to them. Now they can choose for themselves. More choice, more control — this is what they want.
With SuperClass, they are offering what the main online teaching platforms do not offer — complete transparency.
This is something that is greatly appreciated by the teachers and students alike.
And something the industry has needed for some time.