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Interview with OpenEnglishWorld



Torsten:
Mike, according to the information on your website you started Open English World in 2005 with two of your partners. I also know that the three of you met while earning MBA degrees. Could you please tell us a little more about the three co-founders of Open English World. How did your friendship develop?

Mike:
The idea for Open English first developed while all three of us were taking a class on entrepreneurialism. During a break, David and I were talking about one of his prior ventures in ESL, and it was at that point, that he and I first realized that we both had been English teachers. From there, we started talking more and more about how we could help out English teachers and make their lives better, but at the same time provide high-quality lessons for students. Through this brainstorming process, we got the third founder, Raghu Bala, interested in our ideas, and we were excited about bringing him on board because of his prior experience starting companies. We later solidified our ideas and began to work on the project in earnest when we took another class focused on writing business plans.

Torsten:
So Open English is not just another ESL website but an Internet start-up enterprise founded by three business savvy MBA graduates. What about the name of your corporation. How did you come up with Open English World?

Mike:
We wanted a name that was easy to recognize, but yet captured what we are trying to do. Naturally, we wanted the word «English»in the title. However, we also liked the idea of an open community, open communication, an open forum for ideas, and so on. We added in «World» because we really wanted to reach out to the entire world and open the world of English to everyone -- both students and teachers. So, when we put it all together, it became Open English World.

Torsten:
To me Open English World sounds very friendly and inviting and I can imagine how your company's name helps you promote your services. Speaking of your business, would you please explain your concept a little further. As far as I understand, on your website you match students who might come from anywhere in the world with qualified ESL teachers. How exactly does this process work and what about the various additional features your clients can use?

Mike:
Yes, we try to be inviting and friendly because we know how hard it can be to learn a new language for many students. We therefore try to be as welcoming as possible in everything that we do. We see ourselves as a market maker for online English language instruction. We accept teachers from all over the world and let them set their own rates and times. We basically enable teachers to be their own bosses and deliver lessons remotely through the internet and VoIP. For students, we also accept students from all over the world and match them with our teachers based on the student's needs. As we grow, we will enable more and better features to take care of all aspects of delivering remote lessons, including a full curriculum, online classrooms, scheduling, certificates of completion, and payments.

Torsten:
This means, Open English World is a place where ESL teachers can find students and deliver customized English training via the web. It obviously is a very useful concept. Could you please tell me what your definition of good English teacher is? Are there any requirements a teacher must meet in order to sign up with Open English World?

Mike:
We certainly believe that both ESL teachers and students will find our services useful. As part of our fundamental objectives, we want to open the world of English to everyone. Therefore, our fundamental requirement for teachers is that they are honest in what they say about themselves and enthusiastic in how they conduct themselves.

More specifically, here is what I mean. We do not have a particular set of requirements for our teachers. Instead, we want teachers of all types and all levels to list their qualifications on our site and set their own price. We then leave it up to the students, or as we say «market forces,» to determine which teachers get lessons and the «market clearing rate». As you can imagine, a fully-credentialed teacher from North America with 25 years of experience is likely to receive a higher rate than a relative newcomer from India. But that is just the market at work.

We of course closely monitor our teachers and students and if a student is not satisfied, we fix it. No questions asked. We also ask our students to provide teacher feedback ratings so that the good teachers can demand a premium for their services. In this way, we hope to provide fair rates for students and a fair return for independent teachers.

Torsten:
Mike, could you please also elaborate on the lesson plans, curriculum and certificates you are going to offer? Are there any specific topics such as accounting or presentations your materials will include?

Mike:
Our initial focus will be on a basic English conversation curriculum from beginner through advanced levels. We feel that this type of program is what our students want most. Our lessons will include both in-class content for the teachers to deliver as well as online exercises that students could do on their own to reinforce the lessons. From there, we also want to branch out into more specific areas, such as test preparation, grammar, or business or medical English, because we see a demand for this type of curriculum. For every program, we want to have levels so that students can chart their progress and so that we can monitor the quality of our program and the teachers. After completing each level, we would award students a certificate. We recognize that such certificates can be important for students who are seeking jobs that require a measure of proficiency in English.

Torsten:
What about promotion -- how are you advertising your site?

Mike:
Right now, we are sponsoring search terms on the various internet search engines. In addition, we are placing some banner advertisements on selected sites, primarily targeted at students. Longer term, we want to provide the community of ESL websites with an affiliate program where we partner and work together to line up students with online lessons.
Author: Torsten Daerr