Education is featured regularly in forecasts about the next big thing on the Internet.
Over the last few years, the education industry has seen lots of startups, established companies, and corporates launch new online language learning products and services. This has lead many to assume that the market quickly became saturated.
However, our users and our daily business experience tell a different story. There is a lack of competition and very few people compare options before making their choice. There is also a lack of clarity about what defines the language learning market.
Allow me to differentiate between the current offers and the market as a whole by exploring their different ‘dimensions.’ These dimensions could also be applied to other online learning segments.
Age of the Learners
Every product is aimed towards a more-or-less specific age group. In the learning medium of language products, we can separate three main groups that have different needs, capabilities, and preferences by asking the question: are we teaching kids, students, or adults?
Motivation for Learning
Following the education type and the learner’s age is the question of why she wants to learn a language: is it to pass an exam, to get a job, or to relocate? Is it for professional meetings abroad or for a more fuzzy reason like self-improvement, general education, or peer pressure? On a more trivial side, might it just be for travel?
Type of Education
Learning products and services also differ significantly according to the type of education being provided. These products could be used for formal education, corporate training, or private learning.
The first dimension of online language products that I will explore is the learning medium. To understand this medium, it’s important to ask if it is an old-school classroom, a book, a program with audio or video content, a piece of traditional PC software, an online service, or a mobile app.
The learning method is, of course, not fully independent of the medium. It still helps to distinguish some major areas of the method , like blended learning, immersive learning, etc. When considering the language learning method that’s right for you, it’s always important to ask if you learn better from a teacher, from other learners, or on your own.
Learning is always done by individual persons. But there are very different ways for products and services to reach these individuals: public institutions may organise the learning, companies may provide educational materials to their employees, and private customers may simply decide for themselves.
Learning products can be monetised in different ways. Very few are truly free, based on donations, or volunteer work. Most teachers, authors, editors, programmers and didactic experts are looking to get paid for their work. There are different business models: money provided by the state, money provided by an employer or institution, and money provided through advertising. It may be paid up-front or on a monthly basis.
These dimensions are neither independent nor exhaustive. However, they can help to bring some structure to the vast market of language learning. They help us to define our segment as a private language learning service that is online, mobile, and self-directed,. Our customers are adults who choose to learn of their own motivation, make the decision to use our product themselves, and are willing to pay a moderate monthly fee for as long as they use it.