A few days ago I received an email from Toffler Niemuth of italki.com about their announcement of launching a language tutoring marketplace on their site.
Back in january I already did a brief post about this platform but I think they are a decent alternative to Myngle.com and eduFire.com which are in the same market segment for the asian and indian sector. Therefore, lets have a look what italki offers to teachers and students.
italki is now the fourth platform besides eduFire, Myngle and Livemocha that offers online one-on-one language lessons. What are the differences?
italki started as an online community for language exchange. Up to today they have around 400.000 members. One of the main differences between italki and its competitors is the board of directors and advisors. italki has experienced managers like Eric Pang, or William Bao Ben as directors and Porter Erisman, former VP of alibaba.com, or Tom Soohoo, former CEO of eLong.com as advisors. This is a huge concentration of business knowledge this start-up can profit by.
italki offers language material for ESL teachers in partnership with languagesoutthere.com as I mentioned in my recent post about partnerships in the education 2.0 market.
A unique thing is the payment system. Students buy ITCs at a rate of $1 = 10 ITC directly from italki. Teachers set their prices in ITCs and get paid by italki on their teacher account. If your account reaches more than 30 ITCs you can withdraw the money to your PayPal account. italki takes a commission of 15%.
The second major difference to its competitors Myngle and eduFire is the that italki makes a difference between professional teachers and tutors. I think this is a great feature to make the choice easier and more comfortable for the students.
An interesting decision of the company is that italki seems to go for the low cost language sector.
Quoting William Bao Ben:
“We have created a platform for educators across the globe to find students and enables students to find teachers and tutors in any language at reasonable fees.”
And Toffler Niemuth:
“It’s also a huge boon for students interested in studying foreign languages. Many teachers are charging as little as 50 ITC (about US$5) per hour for private 1-on-1 language instruction, which is far less than you’d pay to go to a language school!”
$5 = $4,25 after deducting commission = 3,15 Euro per 60 minutes. I don’t see many European or North American teachers work for this price. Meaning that there might be a market for European students learning at low prices with Asian or Indian teachers but not the other way around.
That brings me to the last difference. italki is the first platform that announces how many teachers they want to bring into business:
“We aim to create as many as 10,000 part- and full-time jobs through the service by the end of 2009. Anyone can offer their services as a language teacher and earn additional income in these tough economic times.”
With the $5 per 60 minute approach I see these jobs mostly in the Indian / Asian part of the world.
Don’t get me wrong. I still think italki is a great platform. As I already mentioned, I like the design, the functionality and the fact that they distinguish between professinal teachers and tutors very much.
The question is though if they will be able to attract teachers from the European and North American countries if the other teachers offer their services for a price between $5 or $10. But this may also be a deliberate and reasonable business strategy. Speaking for myself I can only say that these prices are not possible for me. I will nevertheless try to offer my services on italki on my normal price level because as italki is a free market place and the teachers set their own rates it might develop differently, too. We will see.
Myngle for example seems to prepare itself and its teachers for the other direction which I will cover in one of my next posts.
Exciting times in education, that’s for sure!