Part III – I Overview of the Online English Learning Industry
I. Definition of the online English learning industry
Literally, online English learning means English learning via the Internet — activities of conducting a series of English learning via mobile phone, tablet PC and computer. As for online English learning, the common misunderstanding is to make traditional English textbooks, video and audio online. Such an understanding is not comprehensive, especially at the era of fast-developing mobile Internet, big data and cloud computing.
The development of the mobile Internet makes it possible to learn at any time any place and make learning interesting and efficient. New English learning modes, including mobile social English and games-playing English, have become a favorite for many education software developers and English lovers. The concept of “fragmented learning” appears with the development of online Internet, and short micro course becomes increasingly popular to online learners, especially busy white collars.
The application of big data makes English learning products better understand users in many aspects, for example, which words users want, which English information users like and which basic English knowledge users lack, as they are used for a longer time. Intelligent English learning products understand and recommend the most appropriate contents to users. Cloud computing improves English learning mainly in voice recognition by helping learners correct their pronunciation and their reading tone and having a dialogue.
The reform in English learning pattern is not just embodied in mobile terminal. The sharply accelerating broadband network on traditional PC terminal speeds up the acquisition of resources, having a huge effect on the propagation velocity and the range of English video resources. New online courses and online one-to-one English learning patterns are loved by the public. Meanwhile, the development of new network interaction technology and the shift of web style bring in better experience of online English learning products to users. For example, the more beautiful and interesting answer way for English assessment is accepted by young English learners.
On the whole, online English learning is not just making traditional English courses online but making English learning simple and efficient with the use of the latest Internet technology. Fragmented or experiential learning is a new model of current online education and online English learning.
II. Segments of the online English learning industry
Even though English learning has been segmented to the greatest extent in terms of subject in online language learning industry, yet English learning can be further segmented in the aspects of targeted group (audience), product type and content due to its dominance in the market as well as the detail of English learning subjects.
- Classification of audience
According to China Online Education Research Institute’s research, online English learning’s target group is now roughly categorized into preschooler, primary and secondary student, university student, adult and comprehensive (two or more targets). Products for preschoolers account for 2% and the figure is 25% for primary and secondary students, 13% for university students, 25% for adults and 35% for comprehensive target.
It can be concluded by comparing the audience that comprehensive English learning product dominates the market, meaning that mass entrepreneurship now advocates making a success in vertical segments, but most of companies in English learning industry still hope their products are targeted at more groups to form a complete industry chain.
According to group-oriented correlation data, products for adults and primary and secondary students all come in second. It can be seen that employees and primary and secondary students under pressure of getting admitted to high school have the same demand for English learning and training. Even though university students sit a series of English exams including Band-4, Band-6, IELTS, TOEFL, GRE, etc., products for primary and secondary students are almost two times that for university students. First of all, there are far more primary and secondary students than university students; secondly, university students usually only take Band-4 and Band-6 exams while a few college students who do not major in English take Band-6 exam and few sit IELTS or TOEFL for studying abroad. Preschool English has a very small share, meaning that the demand of children at the enlightenment stage for English learning in China is now very small, and a few parents guide their children in early childhood to learn English.
- Classification of product type
Products can also be roughly classified into online live class, course/courseware, online assessment/question bank, web portal, transaction platform, educational game and online answering. The proportion of live class is 55%, and the figure is 18% for course/courseware, 11% for online assessment/question bank, 6% for web portal, 3% for transaction platform, 3% for educational game and 2% for online answering.
Online class, including online one-to-one and live class, is an innovative English training model and the hot investment in the capital market. Therefore, live class occupies more than half of the product market, far higher than other types of products. At present, some companies with a capital of billions spring up in the market, e.g. Hjclass, 51talk, VIPABC, etc.
Most of course/courseware products, mainly including listening resources, test resources, publication resources and others, have appeared during the first wave of the Internet in the late 20th century and the early 21st century. Video resource is now generated with the accelerating broadband network. Even though such online English learning products are ones in the old century, yet according to the concept of online English learning, they have a large share in the market, so they are discussed in this paper.
Online assessment/question bank products have emerged at the beginning of the rising of the Internet to test students’ English with a lot of vocabulary or item banks. In the era of mobile Internet, most of such products have been shifted onto mobile APP. Mobile terminal is characterized by not being limited by space and time. Good mobile interactive technology brings in unexpected learning experience to users. Importantly, it knows students’ demands, causing many students to utilize them.
English learning portal is a product led by three portals in the first wave of the Internet. Many traditional English learning portals are used by a lot of learners as the reform in the Internet towards mobile Internet just begins, and they occupy 6% of the market.
Transaction platform is also called the e-commerce of online education. Most products on English transaction platforms are video courses for learning English, and some transaction platforms are established as an entry of live class.
Online assessment, a bigger player in the market, is the most innovative product among learning APPs in recent two years. It has been deeply loved by primary and secondary students and parents upon its launch, especially photographing and question answering APP, which is the software many primary students’ parents must install on their mobile phones, e.g. Afanti, Xueba100, Zybang, etc.
Educational game is a traditional PC web game and another is the English learning APP game in the era of the mobile Internet. English learning game APP is not only loved by primary and secondary students, but also white collars.
- Comparison of industrial development region
The online education investment fever in today’s Internet market is the second wave of online education in the history. The first wave of online education is first created by entrepreneurs in the first-tier cities in China and subsequently joined by entrepreneurs in the second-and-third tier cities. English learning industry is also a hot investment in online education. Regions of companies mainly selling English learning products are shown as follows by proportion.
It can be seen from the chart that a great majority of companies mainly selling English learning products are based in such first-tier cities as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong and Shenzhen, and the rest in coastal provinces, suggesting that the whole English learning and even the online education market still dominate the first-tier cities and developed coastal cities are catching up with first-tier cities.
- Part II – VII Analysis on the Demands of Online Primary and Secondary Education Industry
- Part III – II Features of the Online English Learning Industry
This is a series of articles from Blue Book of China’s Online Education Industry, authored by our partner China Online Education Research Institute (COERI). Each post is a chapter from the blue book.