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13 Nov The Growing Online Student Market

In a recent attach on the UK educational system, Lord Puttnam, Chancellor of the Open University and film producer-turned politician, raised his concerns about the ever growing digital divide and creativity of deliverance. His concerns were summed up by the 12 year old son of a friend who commented “at school, you do all this boring stuff, really basic stuff such as PowerPoint and spreadsheets and things. It only gets interesting when you come home and really use your computer. You’re free and you’re in control.”

With exactly this focus in mind, SmartDames, a company based in Dubai’s Media City, created a website to make the language learning experience more pleasurable, to educate and amuse at the same time. “E-learning is an extremely competitive global market these days” according to Penny Archer, a Director of SmartDames and a former Business teacher “there are a number of sites offering this service but so few target students by actually making it a fun and enjoyable experience. Students demand the ‘funk factor'”.

Their new global website, 1StopESL (ESL means English as a Second Language) is aimed at students between the ages of 14 – 35 who need help studying for their English exams. Based mainly on the Cambridge exams of KET, PET and IELTS, but soon to include the TOEFL and TOEIC exams, the site is full of both interactive and paper based exercises plus quizzes, games, a huge global Directory of Education and links to helpful study sites. It also includes an extensive photo library for teachers based around the themes of the exams mentioned above.

“Utilizing the unique benefits of the internet we were able to test and tweak for the several months prior to the August launch in order to gain maximum knowledge of what worked and what didn’t. There were days when we seemed to take five steps backwards, there were days when we even doubted our ability to perform and then there were weeks when we flew so fast our feet didn’t touch the ground”.

“The 3 month test period was crucial to its success” according to Archer “as it showed the areas that needed further refining and tweaking. Now, without any major promotional campaign, we are reaching 84 countries, our Users represent 35 languages and spend on average 10 minutes on the site! A very high 20% of these Users are coming from the Middle East reflecting the active education market there and 10% from the growing market of India.”

To a brand marketer, this global student market is huge and marketing to the youth segment can build a strong long term relationship – one that can turn into the ultimate achievement of brand loyalty in later years. The Middle East region’s youth segment alone has an average annual purchasing power of $2.5 billion (Source: Aujun Industries). With more than 30 major universities in the GCC with a student base of approximately 600,000 (according to research from FMCG; Aujan Industries) this growing market offers many opportunities to marketers not easily achieved in other areas.

And it doesn’t end there; when it comes to creativity in the delivery of education, the sky is the limit. If savvy business entrepreneurs are listening to the market and providing a service which satisfies their needs, surely educational institutions should take note and respond accordingly too.



Penny Archer

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