Texas Firm Gets Exclusive E-Learning Contract

Last entry before Taps
In the Bunker in the Hutong

Texas-based Gatlin Education Services (GES) has apparently been given an exclusive contract to aggregate all major online course providers to supply the Chinese educational system with online learning products starting this summer.

This all sounds really good for GES, and for their sake I hope it’s true. It’s nice to see a company that has really earned its stripes in a business (GES, for those who don’t know, handles online instruction for a large number of major universities and adult education schools in the U.S.), rather than one that has earned its stripes by having some overseas Chinese tap a brother-in-law in some ministry to get his contract.

Some concerns:

1. The word “exclusive”. China is no longer big on exclusives – at least not exclusives that mean much. In the press release, director Lu Moli of CNPIEC seems pretty definitive about China just having one source of online education.

I wonder if anyone asked the Ministry of Education whether GES could have the national exclusive. Given that the MoE isn’t even listed here, one wonders.

2. There is no discussion of what GES is going to do to market these courses and make them affordable to Chinese. If they’re expecting CNPIEC to sell them, they’re in for a surprise. The press release says the importer will “make the courses available.” That don’t mean marketing, fellows, and guess what? Despite what you may have been told, those courses won’t sell themselves.

3. Check out this language:
Due to the Chinese government's stated initiative to becomefluent in English before the 2008 Olympics, courses will be offered in English
and some will be offered in both Chinese and English.

First word of advice to GES – FIRE YOUR PR AGENCY or at least let somebody else do your international assignments. The Chinese Government is NOT planning on becoming fluent in the English language before 2008, and saying they are in your press release makes you look stupid.

Second word of advice: translate the course material. For all of the people learning English around here, you may be shocked to know that many of them (and all of their non-English speaking colleagues) would prefer to take their courses in Chinese.

4. There’s no mention at all of how the students are going to get instructional support. Hmm. Kind of kills the value, eh?

5. No mention of localization. Hello, guys? What good is a Real Estate course designed for the U.S. in a place like China, where you can’t even get a loan for a second-hand house or refinance a mortgage or get “comps” on houses sold in your neighborhood? And I could go on…

Clearly, there could be a lot of information GEC is holding back for fear of competition. I really hope so. It would be sad to see a company that has so much to offer Chinese students crash and burn because it didn’t do its homework.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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