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TechChat: English Central CEO Talks Tech Solutions for Bilingual Skills

Arlington, Massachusetts-based English Central has taken online chats into the ELL elearning space with their new platform that helps non-native speakers learn English.


English Central offers users a platform to learn, practice, and converse in English via desktop and mobile devices, giving English language learning students access just about anywhere, at any time. 


The tool’s online English conversation platform promises a customizable learning experience that’s both engaging and effective, while still being adaptable to unique course curriculums and offering self-study options for additional practice and homework. 


English Central founder and CEO Alan Schwartz recently spoke with Education World to talk about technological trends in ELL, as well as the company's unique approach to mobile learning. 



How is English Central fostering bilingual abilities in non-native English speaking students at the K-12 level in the United States?   


To put the market in context, there are roughly 1 billion people on the planet studying English as a second language and less than 5 percent of them are in the US. So in that global context, most of our demand is from countries such as China, Japan, Brazil and other overseas markets where learning English is a necessity to advance in the global economy. We do have some very large adoptions here in the U.S. as well, specifically, ELS Educational Services with over 60,000 students and Arizona State University with over 2,000 as two leading examples. Our focus on English conversation is ideal for programs that are looking to improve students’ listening and speaking abilities using authentic content, ranging from basic English (e.g., simple phrases and introductions) to complex lectures (e.g, Ted Talks). With this ability to customize, we also have the ideal solution for K-12 schools, which already have an existing curriculum and want an online and mobile solution that can adapt to that curriculum. Our unique use of interactive video, vocabulary, learning and speech recognition technology - combined with live tutors - enable students generally to advance one full English level (e.g., using the Common European Framework) in 3 months using our platform. 


In what ways is English Central using blended learning solutions to optimize user time within broader curriculums? Please describe specific examples. 


Our platform includes over 10,000 video lessons and course units that can be used as a library to assemble customize courses very quickly. Using this flexible content creation platform, we were able to assemble for ELS Educational Service interactive mobile and web video courses in a matters of weeks.


Discuss some of English Central’s results on an international scale. What makes EC’s solutions superior to other products within the ELL space?   


We have over 2 million learners on the platform worldwide, including over 100,000 paying customers. Our focus to date has been in the university and private language school markets, but we also see increasing traction in the K-12 space platform, including a roll out in Hong Kong using a 12  level curriculum. What’s unique about our platform is our focus on using video as authentic media, meaning we cover actual English that users will be exposed to, whether it be TV commercials, TED talks, or the earnings call of a company. The key to this approach is the highly immersive and engaging experience it creates for learners - we like to call ourselves the “Youtube for language learning.”


We are also technology driven, using a proprietary and patent pending speech recognition system called IntellispeechSM to give our users not only instant feedback on their pronunciation and fluency, but also the ability to systematically listen to their speech over time and point out their weak areas, as well as a pathway to remediate those weaknesses. This feedback, delivered in a game-like UX (user experience), is a key motivator for students. Finally, we have recently gone beyond mere technology and added live human tutors to the platform, which allows a self-study learner to Golive! and have a 1:1 conversation with a tutor about any one of our 10,000 pieces of video based learning content.


Share with our readers some of  the trends you see in mobile learning, specifically in ELL.  


The benefits of mobile learning are incontrovertible. For instance, English Central’s analysis of over 50,000 learners in Japan shows that students make progress two times faster when they are able to practice from their mobile devices. Mobile access gives them the ability to “snack” on English and practice at more times and places during their day. Compared to students who use the web only, the data showed big increases in study completion rates:


    •    Watch (video) completion rate increase: 54.0% ↑

    •    Learn (vocabulary) completion rate increase: 91.5% ↑

    •    Speak (interactive speech feedback) completion rate increase: 185.0%↑

    •    Overall WLS completion rate increase: 178.0% ↑


Smartphones have one other major benefit for an English conversational platform focused on speaking like English Central: this generation of mobile phones have high quality microphones that provide high quality audio for our IntellispeechSM assessment system, allowing us to give much more accurate feedback to learners, and a much improved study experience.


To learn more about English Central, visit here


Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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Copyright © 2015 Education World

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