At this time last year, with Nova gone, LJers in the forums were talking about how Skype and lessons online would be the future of eikaiwa. A year to the day that thread was started, J-cast News ran a story on the rapid growth of eikaiwa lessons online. The article reads more like an advertisement than a piece of journalism as it only focuses on three very new online schools, so it's difficult to gauge the popularity or success of online eikaiwa.
The article mentions three schools.
- Set up just this past September.
- For 6,000 yen a month allows you to take up to two 25-minute lessons a day via Skype. On a per lessons basis, that works out to 100 yen per lesson.
- Why are they so cheap? Their teachers are in the Philippines and work from their homes. Japanese staff travel to the Philippines to recruit experienced instructors and university grads.
- In just two months Gungun has 600 registered students and 30 instructors, with plans to hire another 10 to 20 instructors.
- Some of the instructors even speak Japanese and Gungun uses this as a sale point to reassure beginners.
- The "school" day runs from 10AM to 25PM, (Yes, the article says 25 o'clock. Only in Japan will you find the 25-hour, 26-hour, or even 27-hour clock.). The usual pattern is housewives in the morning followed by salarymen in the evening.
- Online lessons are already popular in Korea. (Nice dig at Japan, J-Cast. If the Koreans are already doing it, then Japan must be really, really far behind.)
- One of the biggest online schools, had 6,000 registered students at the beginning of September, which increased to 17,000 as of November.
- They started in 2007 with just 10 Filippino instructors and now boast 800 instructors.
- All of the instructors are either university students or graduates. This allows students to choose an instructor that meets their needs. For example, if a student wants to learn conversation in a medical setting, he can be paired with an instructor who has a medical background.
- Charges 130 yen for a 25 minute lesson, a veritable steal compared to online Caucasian instructors who charge at least 1,000 yen per hour. (Oh brother!)
Ripple Kids Park
- Started in November and is geared toward teaching children from the ages of 1 to 15.
- Instructors are also Filippino. RKP employs instructors with experience in internationals schools or working for American companies. (This makes them good?).
- RKP lessons cost 4,980 yen for one 25 minute lesson a week for a month. This works out to 1,300 yen per lesson. It sounds expensive but is still cheaper than actually going to a real school since more than one person can sit in front of the computer and attend the lesson at the same time.
- RKP says that price wars have already started but claims that other "schools" do business by preying on students unfamiliar with the eikaiwa
racket business. For RKP, it's nothing but the best: professional, career-oriented instructors (Cough, cough, cough! Where have I heard that bullshit line before?), and RKP's goal is to carve out a niche in the "high end" online eikaiwa business.
I suppose it was only a matter of time before online eikaiwa took off. The technology is there for the taking. Even if the lessons were awful, people probably wouldn't feel too bad about losing a few hundred yen. How can you beat that price? Well, it's easy. You do it with quality. (Note to Gungun, its "copyright," not "Copy Right.")
Update 12/8: The Yomiuri has a nearly identical story. Is it Let's Feature Online Eikaiwa Schools Week in the newsrooms?
Rare Job, another online service with Filipino instructors, has attracted 17,000 registered users since launching two years ago.
The service offers four pricing plans, ranging from 3,000 yen to 8,000 yen. Lessons are available 9 p.m.-1 a.m. on weekdays, and 9 a.m.-noon on weekends. Each lesson lasts 25 minutes. They can be booked up to five minutes before a session is scheduled to begin.
Rare Job has about 8,000 instructors, who, it says, have been chosen from among students and alumni of the University of the Philippines, one of the country's most prestigious institutions.
Eigo de Syaberitai Club is yet another example. It features instructors who are currently teaching English to nonnative speakers at eight language schools in the Philippines.
To take these lessons, users pay their tuition via credit card or bank transfer, but they are not charged registration fees.
For students, affordability seems to be one of the most attractive features of these online lessons. They work out to a mere few hundred yen per hour, much cheaper than the few thousand yen per hour they could expect to pay for instructors from Britain or the United States.
But before you commit, you should always first take advantage of a trial lesson.