Education has always been a huge part of people’s lives, from Preschool, K12 Learning, Professional Training to Senior Education. As the digital media kicks in, the division on what education is has been broadened even more. Education is not about accreditation anymore even though degrees still matter.
In my opinion, the overall online education institutions in China can be divided into three different categories, the conservatives, the centrists, and the pioneers.
The conservatives are the earliest ones who broke into the market. They have established campuses since years ago, and they are committed to offline education. They use digital tools only to optimize for the onsite teaching part, because they already had very strong business mode and they were less willingly to change it, until the pandemic broke out. Tradition onsite schools were impacted significantly especially during Feb to April when China was surged with new cases. But for K12 students who have trouble concentrating in front of their computers or phones, the onsite learning part seems necessary and hard to be replaced. Kids need being accompanied more than adults.
The centrists rely more on the online platforms. Students need to enrol in their courses on websites or apps, and the teaching part will take place online. The learning institutions are delocalized and the efficiency to match teachers and students has increased by a large scale. The centrists are the hottest in this niche market, and that is why more online education startups fall into this part.
The pioneers invest on technology more than the other two. They are usually advanced technology early adopters who prefer artificial intelligence and machine learning over human beings. They are trying to make education more accessible by technology, so they would rather spend more on development instead of real teachers. For example, an app called Squirrel AI uses algorithms and AI to assess students.
The conservatives, centrists and pioneers do not exactly stay in their own fields all the time. For instance, the conservatives such as New Oriental Education are moving online as well, and the centrist Yuanfudao also developed their AI education app and gradually got recognized by the public.