A Wyoming-based company that provides English instruction in several Asian countries plans to hire about 100 teachers to work in its new Casper teaching center.
Eleutian Technology began in Ten Sleep and grew into the Big Horn Basin. The company plans to open a teaching center in Casper in April, the next stop in an expansion along the Interstate 25 corridor to Cheyenne and Laramie and west to Rock Springs.
Eleutian employs more than 300 teachers who teach English to public school students and private businesses using a computer, video camera and Skype, a free Internet teleconferencing service. A new contract with the Korean Ministry of Education adds about 100 schools in one of Korea’s 16 school districts. The company needs to hire 170 more teachers in the next two months.
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About 85 percent of Eleutian jobs are part time, Holiday said. The contract with the Korean school district requires certified teachers. Most of the teaching will take place between 5 and 11 p.m. Teachers will spend about 30 hours training — learning about Korean, Japanese and Chinese cultures, receiving one-on-one lessons from another Eleutian teacher in Wyoming and practicing the technology with Korean students.
A 2008 article says Eleutian pays $15 per hour, and that teachers must be state-certified. That's considerably less than the going rate for native speaker English teachers in Korea, even when they do distance teaching. The email I got in July 2009 said Jeollanam-do was paying its NSETs 60,000 won for 60-minute lessons taught via computer and camera to elementary school students in remote areas in the province.
The Eleutian Technology website has reprinted tons of articles from Korea's English-language papers. Articles from 2009, like this one, provide some information about the partnership between Eleutian and schools in Incheon.
On February 4th, the Incheon Office of Education revealed that approximately 190 first and second year students of Duk Shin High School were going to have video conference English classes with teachers in Wyoming and Utah twice a week starting this March.
In these classes, American teachers teach from English textbooks and converse with the students both questioning and answering in real-time, while a Korean teacher is there to facilitate conversation and moderate the class. The communication is made over the internet using equipment the school already has setup, such as web camera, high-performance microphone and headphones that are a part of the existing computer room.
The office secured the group of qualified teachers in America through ‘Eleutian Korea’ which is a local venture of ‘Eleutian Technology’, an e-learning company that employs American teachers.
Six high schools in Gangwha Island including Gangwha Girls’ High School, Kyo Dong High School, Yeon Pyeong High School, Baek Ryong High School, Dae Chung High School, Deok Jeok High School are going to have ‘one American teacher per class’ video English classes also beginning in March.
Since last November, 27 schools on this island including 19 elementary schools, 7 middle schools and Incheon International High School have taken these ‘1:1’ video classes. This is being increased with additional Elementary school students in 5th to 6th grade and high school students in their 1st and 2nd year.
I won't link to all the articles on Korea there, you can dig through them yourself. I first posted about this in November 2008, bringing up an article that showed the program doesn't only benefit Koreans in out-of-the-way places, but Americans in similar predicaments as well, giving employment opportunities to rural areas while meeting the need for English lessons. Another article from 2008 talks a little more about that:
[Eleutian founder Kent Holiday's] original strategy was to locate near a college campus in Utah, but Holiday said his wife returned from Korea to visit her parents in Ten Sleep, where she saw workers from TCT West installing fiber optic lines.
"The reason we finally decided to start here was because of TCT and the network they had. We couldn't do it without that," Holiday said.
Fiber optic connections are ubiquitous in South Korea, which is one of the most wired countries in the world. But Holiday said towns such as Ten Sleep, where fiber is available to every home, are almost unheard of in the United States.
Chris Davidson, general manager for TCTWest, said the company had worked closely with Eleutian to ensure that the technical aspects of the venture would work.
With the Big Horn Basin lacking many large telecommunications customers, Davidson said TCTWest works hard to help local companies grow into large clients.
With many communities in the region served by a fiber optic line, Davidson said it was possible for other similar ventures to locate here.
Holiday said teachers in Ten Sleep will eventually be able to work from their homes.
"That would be fine with me," said Sarah Anderson, an elementary school teacher in Ten Sleep who has been working from a call center there.
Anderson said she likes the flexible hours, with teachers able to sign up for as many lessons as their schedules allow.
Eleutian and Wyoming intersect with a post I did on March 8 about Korean English teachers going to the US as part of their training. That post led off with a March 4 article from the Billings Gazette:
A seven-week practicum for 40 Korean teachers provided learning opportunities for them, and for teachers and students in Big Horn Basin schools.
The practicum is the culminating experience for the teachers from Incheon, South Korea, who began studying English and American education in March 2009 through an agreement between the city of Incheon, Eleutian Technologies Inc. and Northwest College. The practicum began Jan. 4 and continued through last month, with teachers working with mentor teachers in classrooms throughout the Basin.
I didn't take part in Jeollanam-do's distance teaching program, and of course haven't worked for Eleutian, so I can't speak too much on how effective this would be. It would be instructional to see how the Korean class behaves over the entire session. We would certainly expect chaos if this were tried in a typical Korean public school, but keep in mind classes in rural island schools can be quite small. Remember a combined middle and high school in Shinan county's Haui-do had 36 total students, and the county's 14 middle schools only had 831 students. The Incheon schools mentioned in the 2008 article, though, look all over the place. Ganghwa Girls' High School (강화여자고등학교), for example, has 606 students divided among 18 classes, for a potentially-unruly average of 33.67. Yeonpyeong (연평초중고등학교) is a combined pre-, elementary, middle, and high school, and has 121 students across four levels. The three high school classes have four, five, and seven students each. Deokjeok (덕적초중고등학교), a school with four levels on Deokjeok-do, has three high school classes: six, six, and eight. The school (백령중학교, 백령종합고등학교) on Baekryeong Island, some four hours from the mainland by boat, has 100 high school students among its three classes, but 36 are listed as 인터넷미디어과, making me wonder if they don't take classes remotely.
Anyway, you run the risk of having classes that don't pay attention, classes where they shout "I love you" and other random phrases, and classes where the appearance of a native English speaker is nothing more than a novelty. *cough* Since I have to spell everything out for some people, that's exactly what happens a lot of the time when native speaker English teachers actually are present in the schools and are costing districts thousands of dollars a month. Where it's still feasible and practical I think it would be rewarding to have native English speakers visit in person, as some are doing already. But in other cases, I think distance teaching, as well as English Villages, present a smart and cheap alternative, not simply for students in rural areas but perhaps in public schools as a whole, considering the NSET experiment has been horribly bungled by politicians, administrators, and schools.