This post is the result of several talks I had with a couple of different people in our industry during the last year. The final impulse to write this down here is on the one hand a discussion in the E-Teaching community on WiZiQ. I will mention the second impulse at the end of this post.
All this brought an idea back to my mind I already had back in late 2008. And a couple of weeks ago I discussed basically the same with Jason West, the founder of Languages Out There.
Hence today I would like to set up a simple scenario that could fundamentally change the way people in developing countries could get access to high quality education.
The whole concept is based on a simple fact: access to the internet in most parts of the world is only possible via Internet Cafés.
We in the western world might have forgotten about them as we all have individual access at our homes but if you take a look at India, China, the Middle East, South America and Africa you will see that Internet Cafés play the key role for public Internet access there.
Other than in western countries people there have also another mindset about using the internet. They need and also want to make the effort to go to a place and use the internet. For us internet is part of our monthly expenses like electricity, water, telephone and groceries. We don’t actually think about it anymore, it is “just there”.
Now lets take a look on the WiZiQ platform. It is built for large scales. Even with a free account a teacher can host a class with up to 500 participants, premium accounts allow up to 1000 participants. The center piece, the virtual classroom is developed for and based on the feedback of actual teachers.
Now lets remind ourselves what the biggest problem of our industry is: paying students. Why is it like this? Because the target group, the whole idea of online classes is based on, the student who connects to the internet to take those classes simply does not exist.
Right now we are in a transition phase. Online education will play a major rule in the next generation to come. The signs are already there. Therefore it is crucial to survive until enough students who are aware of the possibilities will search the internet for private lessons or lectures because they already use the internet during their regular school or university time.
So what to do? The answer is simple. Get the students where they are. In Internet Cafés.
WiZiQ should start with a simple experiment. The first step was to contact their best teachers on WiZiQ if they would be willing to take part in the “WiZiQ Academy”. Teachers have to charge at least $1 per participant to participate and need to be experienced in the use of WiZiQ and in the topic they teach.
Based on the feedback WiZiQ would then build a lesson plan covering all topics of interest from English to GMAT and science. This plan would be accessible at a subdomain of WiZiQ and fix like a classic University planing.
The second step is to send out some of the employees in the streets of Chandigarh or go to Google and search for Internet Café Candigarh. Contact the owners with the following proposal:
We help you to turn your Internet Café into an online school. Just reserve two or three hours a day some of your PCs for potential learners according to the WiZiQ Academy lesson plan. You can go to WiZiQ.com and get a printer ready version of our special lesson plan and brand it with your logo for your Internet Cafés. We have top teachers from around the globe who offer a variety of courses starting at $1 USD per lesson.
Just hang the lesson plan into your window, place some flyers on the desks and see what will happen. There is no extra investment for you (as most Internet Cafés have headsets these days). If you see an increase in demand, simply offer more places for learners.
Going back to the potential students. As they are already paying for the internet access itself, $1 or $2 for a quality lesson won’t be the problem I suppose. If they see the lesson plan at the walls or the flyers on the desks, the will for sure take a look at WiZiQ and I think there will be a very high conversion rate if they see what kind of lessons are available on the platform.
Later on Internet Cafés could specialize themselves even more by getting accredited by WiZiQ and then collecting the payments for students who don’t have a PayPal account or credit card.
The beauty of this is the triple win situation.
Internet Cafés can easily add a high quality service to their general offer without investing a single Rupee. Over the time they can decide if they open their Café to a wider audience by reserving more space for learners and or offering longer times.
They won’t even have to fear competitors as each Internet Café has its own customers. Of course, if they learn that other Cafés offer this service they will be interested to know more about it and to offer the same to their clients.
Teachers on WiZiQ will get paid for their lessons. $1 USD does not sound much but as I said, WiZiQ and this concept is made for big scales. Take 10 Internet Cafés with 10 students each. 100 students pay $1 USD = $100 USD for the lesson minus the commission for WiZiQ.
Which brings us to the last winner, WiZiQ itself. Right now most classes on WiZiQ are offered for free. This is nice for the students of course but as WiZiQ is a company, it needs to make money some day. With this concept WiZiQ could build up an educational network across the country.
If this experiment would work, it could be easily implemented in other cities. WiZiQ could hire people to market the idea in different areas, paying commission if an Internet Cafés takes part in the system.
It would also build up a loyal student base for WiZiQ because even if those students will get their own internet access at home they would already know about the service and use it from their appartment.
The possibilities are really endless reaching from special hours after school for children to classes given in cinemas on the big screen via laptop and LCD projector.
I really believe that this easy approach could change the way people learn and have access to education not only in India but also in other parts of the world. It just needs someone who starts the revolution, the teachers will be happy to follow, you can read it in the WiZiQ community.
Dear Harman, now it’s up to you and WiZiQ.
As I mentioned at the beginning, there has been a second impulse to write this here down. I think most of you have heard about the discussions between Microsoft and Rupert Murdoch to make a deal that Bing gets the exclusive right to index the content of News Corp. Other publishers are also in talks with Microsoft.
What this has to do with the above? The simple but powerful idea behind this comes from Jason Calacanis. After Gary Vaynerchuck left the weekly Twist show (This week in start ups) on October 23rd the idea came up spontaneously in the discussion. And basically the exact same thing is now happening. You can watch the part of the show below.
As you can see a simple idea might now change the whole industry. Just by questioning the status quo you can start something ground breaking.