FreeEnglish Software Targets Foreign StudentsEducation software maker Eduverse Accelerated Learning Systems Inc. is gearing up plans to promote free English instruction software that the Reno, NV, firm will embed with demographically targeted advertisements.
Though the software could draw the ire of some educators, Eduverse is offering visitors to its www.freeEnglish.net site downloadable software that holds enough language lessons to last about five hours. A registration process records the age, gender, city, state, country and e-mail addresses of users, with the promise that the company will not divulge any of the information or sell e-mail addresses.
FreeEnglish then tracks students' key strokes, measuring how often and at what times students view banner ads. When students return to the site for further lessons, the company gives them more targeted ads and more study material.
"It will allow us to segment our advertising specifically so that an advertiser can target, for example, an 18- to 22-year-old male crowd in Tokyo," said Eduverse president/ CEO Mark Bruk. The company plans an e-mail campaign this month to promote the software.
Eduverse said its banners are more effective than regular banners because students do not have to scroll down while they use the video game-like software, therefore assuring that the ads are always visible. Banners for up to 20 advertisers rotate every 15 seconds and automatically freeze their rotation if the student switches to another application. Eduverse plans to charge advertisers 1 cent per impression.
FreeEnglish also uses a picture dictionary, and Eduverse plans to sell ad space by letting its clients slap their brand names on pictures corresponding to the definition of words like "tea" and other commodities. The company also is looking into branding the course content itself. Students might, for example, learn through a module that will place them in a virtual journey to a particular brand-name restaurant, where they could then order a specific hamburger or a specific soft drink.
"That course content will be developed in conjunction with us and the company sponsoring it," Bruk said.
He acknowledged that such software might draw resistance from the many educators who oppose the growing seepage of advertising into learning curricula. In response, the company sells a $49 ad-free version of the software called English Pro. Bruk added that banner ads will lack animation that might distract students.
The free English software concept is new to Rick Blume, president of Database Management, New York, which specializes in building ethnically targeted customer lists. The expense of formal English courses -- sometimes as much as $2,000 -- might make Eduverse's software especially appealing to many students, he said.
Without advertising the site, Eduverse received 500 registered users the day after a Vancouver, British Columbia TV news broadcast first described the software. Vancouver, with a large Asian population, has roughly 80 foreign language schools. Eduverse also has an office there.
In the first week of January, Eduverse tested e-mail campaigns in France and Taiwan to find out how well the software downloaded and worked for recipients. The company anticipated a response rate of between 0.1 percent and 0.25 percent, but more than 1 percent of the respondents sent feedback to the company, Bruk said.
The company hopes freeEnglish will have 100,000 daily users by the end of the year, and plans to publish versions of the software for speakers of Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Hindi, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.
FreeEnglish banners will advertise only Eduverse itself through the first quarter. Bruk hopes to attract sponsors from the food, beverage, travel and hi-tech sectors when the company begins accepting outside advertising.