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Monday, November 24, 2008

Interview with Marina Tognetti, Myngle: Innovators in E-Learning Series

Welcome to an interview with Marina Tognetti, founder of Myngle, an innovative approach to web-based language learning. It incorporates real-tie lessons with native speakers using technologies that are effective and easy to use. Myngle also focuses on culture and the human side of language acquisition. Myngle currently has more than 25,000 registered users from 150 countries, learning nearly 50 different languages.

What is your name and your relation to Myngle?
Marina Tognetti, founder of Myngle.

What is Myngle? What does it do? How does it work? Why do you believe in it?
Myngle is an online global language marketplace that aims to transform language education from traditional offline teaching to an interactive, creative and efficient online process. Moving language education online gives the masses access to real-time lessons with native speakers.

Myngle was born from my own personal need, and I was, in fact, its first customer.
A couple of years ago, I started studying Mandarin, but could not find the right solution. I tried an overly-crowded school, private tuition and CDs, but there was always something missing. I was frustrated that there were thousands of good teachers in China, yet I couldn’t learn Mandarin here in Holland.

Before Myngle, taking in-person lessons meant leaving the comfort of your home, inflexible schedules, crowded group classes or expensive private lessons. Myngle breaks down geographic limitations and allows students to learn any language, anywhere, at anytime, from teachers located in all parts of the world.

Taking live lessons on Myngle is simple:
A student chooses the course and teacher for their needs using Myngle's extensive search algorithm. Once the right course and teacher are found, the student can book a trial first lesson.

Most teachers offer an initial free consultation to assess the level and needs of the student.
The lesson is given through Myngle's virtual classroom, which has all the features needed to give and receive a lesson: whiteboard, file sharing, chat, drawing, writing and VoIP (Skype).

The booking is fully integrated and payment system uses PayPal’s service and is hassle-free.
The student can book lessons one at a time, as package or in subscription form.

Myngle currently has more than 25,000 registered users from 150 countries, learning nearly 50 different languages.

What is the philosophy of Myngle?
First and most important, is our control of the quality of our teachers and of the content our students are taught.

The quality of teachers is controlled at different levels:

Selecting & training teachers: In order for a teacher to be available to students, they must meet minimum criteria and have consulted with one of our senior teachers. We currently have about 2000 teachers who are registered, but only 520 are available for sessions at this time.
Feedback by students: An integrated feedback system features comments and ratings from students. Students assign one to five stars, both for the lesson (content) and teacher (teaching capability).

Certified teachers: The best teachers can become certified, which is noted with a Myngle certification mark. These are teachers who have taught a minimum number of lessons on Myngle, received a minimum four stars out of five, have created their own program and passed a small exam with a Myngle trainer.

Tracking professional behavior: Myngle penalizes users for late cancellations or no-shows in order to foster a respectful and professional environment.

Myngle recognizes the importance of providing our students with good content. We are continuously encouraging teachers to develop and share their content with one another, as well as developing our own content to offer to teachers and partnering with some content providers.

We believe language education should be a demand oriented service where the student is central. If we look at the student this way, we can easily discover new, unsatisfied needs where the online medium can provide a good solution.

We need to be flexible in order to continuously learn and improve. Recent introductions include:

Advanced search/MyngleAdvisor: Allows the student to sort through the long list of offerings and find the right course for their needs

30 min lessons for busy professionals: Makes it easy to fit in a lesson during any break during the day

Subscriptions for full immersion (daily lessons): Delivers maximum results in a short time frame

Resources for students to support learning in the areas of speaking and listening; reading and writing; and vocabulary

At Myngle we understand the importance of both leveraging the internet as well as quality of the education provided, as myself and one of my business partners were previously employed by eBay and two other partners from Berlitz.

Who benefits from Myngle?
Both students and teachers benefit from Myngle.
Students can completely tailor their experience by selecting the teacher and course that best fit their needs; then take lessons from the comfort of their home or office at the time most convenient for them. One of our students, a busy professional, is taking lessons on Myngle while he travels across three continents: Singapore, Portugal and the US.

Teachers can complement their income by doing something as simple as teaching their native language; which is especially timely given the current economic slowdown. A teacher from the Ukraine has given more than 500 lessons. She is now earning 3 times her normal salary on Myngle.

What differentiates Myngle's products from free language lessons available through YouTube or Google video?
We believe that to really learn a foreign language, a student needs the support of a teacher, especially during the beginner and intermediate stages. Having a teacher allows the student to practice, learn from mistakes and receive structured, personalized lessons in the most effective way for their learning style.

How does it differ from language "meet and greet" islands in virtual worlds such as Second Life?
These are excellent opportunities to practice, but we feel that Myngle gives the student the consistency, structure and guidance needed to truly learn a language.

How does Myngle encourage students and instructors to interact? Does Myngle involve virtual worlds?
No, but I should also say ‘not yet’. We do not exclude the step into the virtual world, but we’re currently focusing on getting the base offering right. Our initial emphasis is on the quality of the learning experience and bringing language education to the mass market.

Where and how does your vision encourage creativity, innovation, and leadership? How can Myngle help rebuild our world economies and communities?
Myngle is the next step in e-commerce and gives language education to the world. Also, Myngle is changing the rules of the game, by empowering students and teachers to shape the future of language education.

In regards to the world economies, Myngle can help here in many ways, both on the supply side (teachers) and the demand side (students).

Myngle is creating new jobs around the world, including countries where jobs are scarce.
Myngle allows teachers to become ‘entrepreneurs’, therefore less dependent on the wages standard for their geographical location.

Myngle allows everyday people to supplement their income by teaching their native language. For example, university students could support their student budget by offering conversational classes.

Students benefit by being able to work with teachers to determine price. Myngle does not have costly infrastructures or overheads that students must contribute to.

Some people are discovering that they can be a teacher and student at the same time – they can earn money while giving lessons in one language, then use the money to learn a new language!
We hope that Myngle will contribute to language education in developing nations

In conclusion, we strive to help people from different cultures communicate, and in turn, better understand each other.

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