In Part 4 of AsianTalks’ interview with Ross Cranwell, co-founder of LingoBite.com, we talk about the pros and cons of e-learning, advice on how to get along with Chinese co-workers, and countries that matter most from a Shanghai business standpoint.
AsianTalks: What are the limitations of e-learning?
Ross: There’s tons of pros and cons of e-learning, but one of the major drawbacks can be explained this way. When you go to class, you have the pressure of attending the class and a teacher, students, to actually keep you motivated. It’s like having a personal trainer at a gym. You’ve paid for it, and you actually have that peer pressure to go, and so a lot of people choose that additional method.
Online, or on mobile, e-learning has a lot more flexibility. The problem is, you have a lot more flexibility. So you pretty much don’t have the pressure to come back and to learn. You don’t have a routine set in, but you will at a school. So if you sign up for a Mandarin course for three months, you go every Tuesday and Thursday, until you’re done. It’s like a very structured plan. But if you go online, you can go to any of these fantastic learning sites. And there’s a complete mess of content, though you might try for an hour only to give up because you’ll forget about it, or life gets in the way.
And with my company, what I’m trying to do is organize it, so people don’t have to mess around and go through all the tons of content. They just sign up, and all the content gets delivered to them, because most people have trouble finding exactly what they want. And people need structure when they’re learning. That’s why we have school and universities. But specific types of online learning can be too open. They do need structure to achieve a certain goal.
AsianTalks: And what is your company doing to address the challenge of structure, the need for structure in a learning environment?
Ross: Basically there’s a routine learning format, so that everyday they have to complete a certain lesson. And everyday may seem to be quite a lot, but actually we allow a maximum of five minutes to complete a lesson. So they get the routine learning, at the end of the week they know they have completed a specific type of topic, and they won’t have to spend that much time, which they would if they need to go to an actual, physical class. For our learners, it’s just more handy, more reasonable.
AsianTalks:From a Shanghai point of view, which countries in Asia feel most nearby, or accessible?
Ross: The countries I think of when I think of China are Hong Kong and Singapore, but the other countries like in Southeast Asia, Japan, and Korea — being China-based I don’t have that constant interaction.
But when I’m in Ireland there’s constant interaction between Ireland and England, but with the rest of Europe there’s less contact. In China we have a lot of contact with Hong Kong, Singapore. Everyone is either working between those places, and then Korea and Taiwan would be the next level down.
AsianTalks: Do you have any advice for getting along with your Chinese counterparts at work or other aspects of life?
Ross: I tend to get along quite well with the local Chinese. They’re very friendly and interested in communicating with foreigners, and especially if you speak Chinese, because you can then communicate properly. So I’ve had very good experiences, because on the first level I speak Chinese, and to the Chinese that shows you’re investing in the culture here. Also if you talk about topics that they’re interested in, because a lot of the pop culture is different here — there’ s Weibo, all the different TV stars, things like that. So if you integrate and get into their pop culture a bit then it makes it a bit easier to get on well with them.