Sixteen years ago, my brother, Boaz, and I started eTeacher with a vision that seemed impossible at the time – creating a virtual school for private lessons and classes. This was at a time when most households did not have High-speed Internet, and Distance Learning was a distant dream.
During those 16 years of non-stop action, we followed the developing industry very closely. Over the years, I’ve presented countless presentations about eTeacher, and always said that we did not invent anything new. We took the oldest learning method in the book, the one that has been used in traditional education for centuries – a classroom in which a group of students studies with their teacher. All we did, at the end of the day, is adapting a method that has proven to be effective throughout history by making it work online.
I have to admit that we also followed the business advantage of the non-synchronous model. This model allowed fast growth and high profitability, along with the ability to present lower pricing and sell online, via an e-commerce site. On several occasions we felt we made a mistake and chose the wrong path.
But we didn’t… eTeacher became a leader in the online synchronous teaching industry, while the rest of the industry was going in the non-synchronous direction. We followed the industry with great interest, along with the different learning models that were available. Most of the solutions relied on self (non-synchronous) study. These included video, adaptive learning, animations, and 3D visualizations. Impressive technologies combined content and pedagogy with great innovation, yet without a teacher and without a group. I honestly believe that one of the things that made us unique was the combination of excellent teachers in real time and small groups of 10 to 15 students. Since the beginning of the millennium, hundreds of thousands of students from 200 countries attended our schools and studied with hundreds of professional teachers from different locations worldwide.
We have seen and accomplished a lot over the years. I would like to share with you some conclusions concerning Distance Learning that I’ve reached after 16 years in this area.
- Asynchronous learning is similar to any other learning method without a teacher, in that it is suitable for the best of the best! Only a small percentage of all students has the ability and motivation to learn without a teacher. Technology and great contents could help, but they cannot solve this basic fact. I’ve come across theses date in many meetings with companies in the industry, and recently it also appeared in a number of published studies.
- When it comes to studies which require practice or exercises, such as science, languages, or programming, the challenge is even greater, and only a rare few are able to learn without a teacher.
- The number of students that drop out during synchronous studies is much smaller.
- The most important factor in the success of synchronous learning is the teacher.
- The operational complexity of operating large-scale synchronous courses is immense. It requires dedicated management systems, support and service centers, talented teachers, and excellent contents.
Thus, after 16 years of Distance Learning, we received confirmation that creative and advanced technology, combined with amazing content cannot replace the teacher.The teacher’s main role in the learning process has survived the online revolution. At the end of the day, there is true value to human interaction in the learning process.
The online learning business is so much more than just a good product. eTeacher’s experience proves that there is business feasibility in synchronous learning. However, if you want to succeed in this business, you have to pay attention to the basic ingredients of a good learning process; you have to work within the infrastructure that’s required to operate this complicated process efficiently; and you need to have an operational marketing and sales system that allows you to establish an international virtual synchronous school on a large scale. Once you have that, you can operate in any domain you may choose.
Here at eTeacherGroup, with all that we concluded and learned along the way – we have the ability to establish a virtual school in any field and teach anyone anywhere worldwide.