Vietnam startup eJOY hopes to bring “learn-to-earn” model to English education

The eJOY app

The eJOY app

What would you do when encountering a new phrase while watching your favourite English movie or web series on Netflix or Youtube? Skip it and continue watching? Or will you pause the video and open the dictionary in a new tab or window to find its meaning?

Either choice will affect your recreational experience of enjoying the content. And for a non-native English speaker, it seems to be the order of the day.

“While there are many English learning apps such as Elsa (for pronunciation), Memrise (for vocabulary), Duolingo (for games), and Cambly (for native English speaking tutors), none of these allows you to learn actively while enjoying the content. This is why I started eJOY. From the very beginning, I set a strong vision that an English-training platform needs to get people immersed in an authentic English environment wherein people can learn while watching everything on the go,” founder and CEO Diep Bui told e27.

Also read: Edutech is surging, but here are the 3 issues it is facing

Universal problems for English learners

Lack of vocabulary is often the most common challenge facing English learners worldwide. To leverage the lexical resource, most people rely on a list of new words and memorise them without the actual context. However, they still get stuck in real-life conversations because those learned words would never cross their minds when speaking or writing.

Meanwhile, context is an essential reference point for word meaning and could help lock it in people’s long-term memory. Studies in neurolinguistics reveal that setting a proper context can effectively stimulate brain areas that relate to learners’ experience in relevant areas. Therefore, it is more likely to be remembered when the target language is taken in a context.

eJoy is capitalising on these insights. A web browser extension, eJoy pops up a translation box when you click on a word or phrase in the video subtitles or a passage. You can also add your own definitions, save them to your workbooks with only several clicks away right on your current webpage.

Interestingly, the saved words will be automatically explained with an original context in which you found them. You can also use the Word Hunt feature to look for daily conversations containing the phrase in video format.

“To grasp a new word, it requires learners to remember the context that the word can apply in a daily conversation,” shared Bui. “A well-designed course — although works for a beginner who needs detailed explanations — is often plagued with complicated grammar and not be able to deliver the diversity and nuances of meanings.”

This approach also transforms the way teachers deliver the lessons to students.

Cuong Nguyen, an English training programme manager at a local high school, used the eJoy solution for over a year to redesign his teaching materials for 1,600 students in grades 6 to 11.

“The idea is for students to relax and learn the language with new methods, especially during lockdowns,” Nguyen said. “I source for videos with related phrases on eJOY, include them in our teaching videos, and then assign students to watch every Saturday without much pressure on grades or rankings.”

Also read: How edutech is solving the global teacher’s crisis

Nguyen is willing to pay more if eJOY develops a package for B2B clients, such as schools or language training centres. “But it is important to link the video with the education curriculum designed by the state,” he said.

Those different groups of early adopters have sparked passion at eJOY founder. She began thinking of ways to scale up her business.

From validation to growth

Four years after setting its foothold into the edutech market, eJOY only recently raised its seed funding round from investors like ThinkZone Ventures. eJOY, however, has been profitable since 2019 and employs only ten people across the product, design, marketing, customer support and operational divisions.

To date, eJOY serves one million users while spending very little on paid promotion activities, Bui claimed. Thirty per cent of its users are out of Vietnam. “We have customers from Korea, China, Spain, Turkey, Germany, and so on. All these users found eJOY organically through Google search as they are often fueled with self-learning mindset.”

The firm targets intermediate English learners through content production and freemium features to trigger word-of-mouth. “eJOY is one of the few startups that has thought about the global market since day one,” said Thao Nguyen of ThinkZone Ventures.

Bui is now setting a roadmap to improve her product to serve more users, especially beginner-level groups. A portion of the funds will be used to test the same learning method with other languages and develop user experience in the mobile app version.

ThinkZone describes this as a process to switch from the validation stage to the growth stage, which requires founders to adapt quickly and grow along with the company.

“English education is a big market with different segmentations from kids, students, to adult learners, along with diverse wants and needs,” added Nguyen from ThinkZone. “The focus shifts. It’s a completely new set of challenges for the founders.”

Background

In 2008, Bui left her job at a German bank in Ho Chi Minh city and joined different positions, such as HR and product owner in tech companies. She then set up her first medtech startup that connected doctors with patients. This business failed due to the lack of technological knowledge and an immature local market. “I then realised the need to find a CTO and build up my skills to startup again.”

Her husband, who served as a game developer at Vietnam’s first unicorn VNG, joined her to develop eJOY in 2017. The initial purpose was to satisfy the personal need of the duo but then developed into a real business where Bui found her passion for following for the long term.

After enjoying a head start in the market via a web plug-in version and a decent user base, Bui hops on different networking programmes in the education sector and takes more time to research education philosophies and scientific studies.

“Scaling up and making a real impact to the community is not all about technology or R&D. It’s about the way you apply education methods into product development that is truly meaningful to more people,” she added.

For eJOY, the next step is choosing which feature to scale and prioritise with validated education methods, be it authentic learning, spaced repetition, play-based learning, microlearning, and active learning.

“Learn-to-earn” model for impact

eJOY faces no direct competition in the market for now. Still, other English training apps with different approaches to language education, or even traditional English centres, can be notable barriers.

However, Bui is not afraid of rivals from the outside world entering the market. “Many people can change their lives through education; therefore, if other our rivals — big players or new startups — can do better than us, it would benefit humankind,” she said.

This explains why she is turning her focus to the “play-to-earn” model, a buzzword in the crypto industry. Bui is finding her way into a product concept that could encourage users to learn diligently on the app in exchange for digital money or coins that can be used to buy subscriptions. This is specially catered to learners in rural areas, where quality teacher supply is inefficient and purchasing an online language course might be too expensive.

From the current user insights, Bui understood that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to every people when it comes to learning a new language. Some may prefer games, some love watching videos, some only need several features in reading or speaking.

Therefore, the startup has plans to strengthen its technological capabilities in Machine learning, Natural Language Processing, and Big Data. These will improve eJOY’s personalised recommendations and build an effective learner progress assessment function in the forms of input (reading and listening) and output (writing and speaking).

“Education is falling into line with personalisation euphoria in every sector. We will keep innovating our product to improve this learning experience as an exploring journey instead of a stress-loaded process,” said Bui.

“This will allow more ‘learning’ within the community, and we are willing to pay back for them to ‘earn’ more.”

Ready to meet new startups to invest in? We have more than hundreds of startups ready to connect with potential investors on our platform. Create or claim your Investor profile today and turn on e27 Connect to receive requests and fundraising information from them.

Image Credit: eJOY

The post Vietnam startup eJOY hopes to bring “learn-to-earn” model to English education appeared first on e27.

,

The eJOY app

The eJOY app

What would you do when encountering a new phrase while watching your favourite English movie or web series on Netflix or Youtube? Skip it and continue watching? Or will you pause the video and open the dictionary in a new tab or window to find its meaning?

Either choice will affect your recreational experience of enjoying the content. And for a non-native English speaker, it seems to be the order of the day.

“While there are many English learning apps such as Elsa (for pronunciation), Memrise (for vocabulary), Duolingo (for games), and Cambly (for native English speaking tutors), none of these allows you to learn actively while enjoying the content. This is why I started eJOY. From the very beginning, I set a strong vision that an English-training platform needs to get people immersed in an authentic English environment wherein people can learn while watching everything on the go,” founder and CEO Diep Bui told e27.

Also read: Edutech is surging, but here are the 3 issues it is facing

Universal problems for English learners

Lack of vocabulary is often the most common challenge facing English learners worldwide. To leverage the lexical resource, most people rely on a list of new words and memorise them without the actual context. However, they still get stuck in real-life conversations because those learned words would never cross their minds when speaking or writing.

Meanwhile, context is an essential reference point for word meaning and could help lock it in people’s long-term memory. Studies in neurolinguistics reveal that setting a proper context can effectively stimulate brain areas that relate to learners’ experience in relevant areas. Therefore, it is more likely to be remembered when the target language is taken in a context.

eJoy is capitalising on these insights. A web browser extension, eJoy pops up a translation box when you click on a word or phrase in the video subtitles or a passage. You can also add your own definitions, save them to your workbooks with only several clicks away right on your current webpage.

Interestingly, the saved words will be automatically explained with an original context in which you found them. You can also use the Word Hunt feature to look for daily conversations containing the phrase in video format.

“To grasp a new word, it requires learners to remember the context that the word can apply in a daily conversation,” shared Bui. “A well-designed course — although works for a beginner who needs detailed explanations — is often plagued with complicated grammar and not be able to deliver the diversity and nuances of meanings.”

This approach also transforms the way teachers deliver the lessons to students.

Cuong Nguyen, an English training programme manager at a local high school, used the eJoy solution for over a year to redesign his teaching materials for 1,600 students in grades 6 to 11.

“The idea is for students to relax and learn the language with new methods, especially during lockdowns,” Nguyen said. “I source for videos with related phrases on eJOY, include them in our teaching videos, and then assign students to watch every Saturday without much pressure on grades or rankings.”

Also read: How edutech is solving the global teacher’s crisis

Nguyen is willing to pay more if eJOY develops a package for B2B clients, such as schools or language training centres. “But it is important to link the video with the education curriculum designed by the state,” he said.

Those different groups of early adopters have sparked passion at eJOY founder. She began thinking of ways to scale up her business.

From validation to growth

Four years after setting its foothold into the edutech market, eJOY only recently raised its seed funding round from investors like ThinkZone Ventures. eJOY, however, has been profitable since 2019 and employs only ten people across the product, design, marketing, customer support and operational divisions.

To date, eJOY serves one million users while spending very little on paid promotion activities, Bui claimed. Thirty per cent of its users are out of Vietnam. “We have customers from Korea, China, Spain, Turkey, Germany, and so on. All these users found eJOY organically through Google search as they are often fueled with self-learning mindset.”

The firm targets intermediate English learners through content production and freemium features to trigger word-of-mouth. “eJOY is one of the few startups that has thought about the global market since day one,” said Thao Nguyen of ThinkZone Ventures.

Bui is now setting a roadmap to improve her product to serve more users, especially beginner-level groups. A portion of the funds will be used to test the same learning method with other languages and develop user experience in the mobile app version.

ThinkZone describes this as a process to switch from the validation stage to the growth stage, which requires founders to adapt quickly and grow along with the company.

“English education is a big market with different segmentations from kids, students, to adult learners, along with diverse wants and needs,” added Nguyen from ThinkZone. “The focus shifts. It’s a completely new set of challenges for the founders.”

Background

In 2008, Bui left her job at a German bank in Ho Chi Minh city and joined different positions, such as HR and product owner in tech companies. She then set up her first medtech startup that connected doctors with patients. This business failed due to the lack of technological knowledge and an immature local market. “I then realised the need to find a CTO and build up my skills to startup again.”

Her husband, who served as a game developer at Vietnam’s first unicorn VNG, joined her to develop eJOY in 2017. The initial purpose was to satisfy the personal need of the duo but then developed into a real business where Bui found her passion for following for the long term.

After enjoying a head start in the market via a web plug-in version and a decent user base, Bui hops on different networking programmes in the education sector and takes more time to research education philosophies and scientific studies.

“Scaling up and making a real impact to the community is not all about technology or R&D. It’s about the way you apply education methods into product development that is truly meaningful to more people,” she added.

For eJOY, the next step is choosing which feature to scale and prioritise with validated education methods, be it authentic learning, spaced repetition, play-based learning, microlearning, and active learning.

“Learn-to-earn” model for impact

eJOY faces no direct competition in the market for now. Still, other English training apps with different approaches to language education, or even traditional English centres, can be notable barriers.

However, Bui is not afraid of rivals from the outside world entering the market. “Many people can change their lives through education; therefore, if other our rivals — big players or new startups — can do better than us, it would benefit humankind,” she said.

This explains why she is turning her focus to the “play-to-earn” model, a buzzword in the crypto industry. Bui is finding her way into a product concept that could encourage users to learn diligently on the app in exchange for digital money or coins that can be used to buy subscriptions. This is specially catered to learners in rural areas, where quality teacher supply is inefficient and purchasing an online language course might be too expensive.

From the current user insights, Bui understood that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to every people when it comes to learning a new language. Some may prefer games, some love watching videos, some only need several features in reading or speaking.

Therefore, the startup has plans to strengthen its technological capabilities in Machine learning, Natural Language Processing, and Big Data. These will improve eJOY’s personalised recommendations and build an effective learner progress assessment function in the forms of input (reading and listening) and output (writing and speaking).

“Education is falling into line with personalisation euphoria in every sector. We will keep innovating our product to improve this learning experience as an exploring journey instead of a stress-loaded process,” said Bui.

“This will allow more ‘learning’ within the community, and we are willing to pay back for them to ‘earn’ more.”

Ready to meet new startups to invest in? We have more than hundreds of startups ready to connect with potential investors on our platform. Create or claim your Investor profile today and turn on e27 Connect to receive requests and fundraising information from them.

Image Credit: eJOY

The post Vietnam startup eJOY hopes to bring “learn-to-earn” model to English education appeared first on e27.

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