The education sector in China is booming, especially the English learning industry. Onwards Learning is a startup that wants a foothold in this sector by building social networks and cloud computing solutions for the education sector in China .
The three co-founders comprise of Irish nationals, Carlo Crighton and Cormac Kelly, and a Chinese national, Boyu (Chris) Zhang, who have been personal friends for over ten years. They are equal shareholders in the firm. The firm leverages cloud, distributed and social network IT consultancy project work undertaken between 2008-2012 by Boyu and his team of 20. These projects include Chinese government departments, public sector agencies, educational organisations and professional associations.
The education startup has offices in Dublin (Ireland), Shenzhen and Beijing and is currently engaged in a series of projects creating custom social networks and marketplaces. After signing a partnership deal with China Computer Correspondence College (CCCC) which the company values at 3.75M Euros, they signed a partnership deal with EOL, which is part of the Chinese Ministry of Education organisational structure. The CCCC deal value is the total gross turnover forecast for 1-3 year sales through CCCC.
The startup’s primary offering: Cloud-based online marketplace ‘Learn on English’
The startup rolled out its cloud-based online marketplace LearnOnEnglish (LoE) in China in November 2013. LoE was built by the company for Chinese people to browse, try and buy branded, high quality English language learning products and services – e.g. courseware, web-apps and tutoring services. These e-learning resources are provided by 100’s of publishers, developers and service providers from around the world.
LoE is available as a public web service; a HTML5 app for mobile devices is in the LoE product road map in 2014. LoE is designed for all types of students and business professionals studying all levels and elements of English. LoE’s Social Network Service (SNS) has all the popular social sharing functionality and features embedded in it.
Users are also able to use LoE as a social learning ‘dashboard’ and synchronise all their posts and comments across the leading Chinese social networks e.g. Sina Weibo, Tencent Weibo, Renren and Kaixin. The SNS in LoE uses the firm’s own legally held Intellectual Property (IP).
‘Learn on English’ platform monetization
Onwards Learning operates a co-marketing referral, rebate agreement with their partners. The LoE platform is a B2B2C offering made available as a web portal on the online properties of large scale educational providers, governmental agencies and professional organisations in China. Long term distribution agreements with active marketing campaigns provide LOE with access to their large user communities. These web portal distributors receive rebates based on the total gross turnover comprising the purchases of all their own registered subscribers. LOE is operated as a two-sided marketplace and offers a standardised app store net revenue split of 70:30 in favour of content partner.
The LoE marketplace is being made available extensively in China via a series of distribution agreements. These are signed with large scale Chinese organisations in education and the government sector, individual colleges and universities, and public sector agencies. LoE distribution partners so far include the CVAE , CERNET (the Chinese Educational Research NETwork, the national network backbone for education management owned by the Chinese MoE ), Phantosys, Inner Mongolia Vocational Institute, CCCC and EOL.
Partnership deal with China Computer Correspondence College (CCCC) and China Education Online (EOL)
CCCC will promote the LearnOnEnglish.com as an internet portal within its own website to all its 1 million students across China. China Computer Correspondence College is a nation-wide organisation founded in 1987 providing computer education and vocational education. More than 800,000 students have been educated to date across 400 locations in the CCCC network which extends across every province in China. CCCC was the first organisation to implement a large scale national computer vocational training programme. The college offers full-time adult education, computer and related professional vocational education, job skills and training, as well as correspondence and online distance learning.
China Education Online (EOL) is China’s largest integrated education according to Onwards Learning. EOL serves all the educational information and advisory needs of students, parents, teachers and the education sector. The organisation sits within the China Ministry of Education organisational structure. Over 70% of EOL users are in college education. LearnOnEnglish.com will be hosted and promoted through eol.cn as a branded mini-portal across its extensive web properties which are accessed extensively by the public in China, occasionally achieving daily page views as high as 150 million.
Apps listed on the LoE platform
“LoE content partners are international brands with digital resources for online English language learning. They include software apps, couresware and learning path systems, tutor services, assessment tools and accreditation programmes. We currently have +100 apps going live (from approximately 30 partners) which will grow to 100-200 content partners during 2014,” says Carlo Crighton, Co-founder of Onwards Learning.
Content providers submit their server-based resources, apps or web services to LoE as web-apps which are framed and accessed by subscribers through the LoE platform. LoE shares the subscriber details with the content partners through Single Sign On and all payment processing is via Alipay, a payment service by China’s biggest e-commerce company Alibaba. Each content partner has secure login to the LoE content management system where they can manage and edit their web-apps in real-time (price, product, promotion etc), offer customer support and as well view their sales and revenue reports.