This interview is part of our new Blockchain In Education series, where we interview the world's leading thought leaders on the front lines of the intersections between blockchain and education.
In this interview we speak with Mitch Rankin, CEO and Co-Founder of English Forward, to understand how his company is using blockchain to transform the education business, and what the future of the industry holds.
1. What’s the story behind English Forward? Why and how did you begin?
MR: English Forward, formerly “English Forums” was built by Francis West 17 years ago for his parents who operated a successful language school in Malta. It was built as a “utility” for English learners and English language industry professionals and focused on a single principal: value to the user.
This community discussion forum provided a way for students to interact while in class and out of class.
I bought the website from Francis in February 2018, and began working on turning the former English Forums community and “utility” site into the new “English Forward” education technology company, with a focus on expanding the Q&A and discussion community into a new, all-round, English language portal with a peer-to-peer marketplace, powered by Blockchain and shifting everything to a mobile-first model.
2. Please describe your use case and how English Forward will use blockchain:
MR: English Forward will use blockchain to tokenize the learning and teaching of English. Here is an example of how the system will function:
- A student posts a question and that question gains a view count (similar to Quora). After X views, the system rewards Y tokens for contribution/participation. This will be based on a fractional revenue sharing model (think of Spotify, based on the number of song listens, they determine how they pay record labels for that content). Payments occur in crypto.
- A teacher posts an answer to a student's question. A similar contribution/participation calculation occurs but at a higher rate. Valuable and detailed, correct answers are more valuable than questions.
The student then logs into the English Forward online tutoring portal where they have gone through the following process prior to choosing the ideal English tutor:
- The student explores members tagged as English Forward Professionals under sub-category tags such as translation, interpretation, native English, tutor or academic professor etc. They had a look through their profiles (a comprehensive, modern developed profile page). After a long deliberation they decide to hire a tutor (similar to Upwork or Clarity.fm or LiveCoach etc). The transaction can occur based on fiat or crypto.
- The student pays in FIAT or in the tokens they have earned in the app.
3. Could you share a specific customer/user that benefits from what you offer? What has your service done for them?
MR: There are so many. Every month millions of students benefit from questions being answered by highly qualified, English professionals with a genuine interest in helping people learn English. For Free.
Here is a story from Tom, in his own words…
“My association with the English Forums goes a long way. I joined in 2007. I was a young teacher of English in a private school and wanted to learn many things in English that the books did not explain.
Register was one of them. I was aware that learning about register without being totally immersed in an English culture was impossible. There were no guidelines.
Yet English Forums compensated for that greatly.
I did find culture here, culture of trained and experienced teachers who were willing to go the extra mile to help learners of English grammar and literature. The forums turned out to be a small community. Unlike many other forums that I knew about, the environment at EnglishForums.com was superb. There was almost zero tolerance to nonsense.
The forum was run by level headed people – unbiased, impartial and open to suggestions.
It's been thirteen years since I joined this wonderful forum. It’s won me many friends and helped me develop my abilities as a professional. I have immense regard for this forum.
4. What other blockchain education use cases are you excited about?
Academic Record Keeping and Credentialing for students:
- Student Competency
- Degrees and diplomas completed
- Credits for courses completed
- Micro-certificates for course progress, including attendance records
- Test scores and paperwork
Blockchain certification is crucial to combat fraud, displacement and loss of academic records. Blockchain ledgers represent an immutable record (once something is created, it cannot be edited or deleted), which will create a tamper proof system.
Enabling a system that can accept micropayments or tokens will open up education to a large percentage of the unbanked world, levelling the education opportunity playing field and giving students in disadvantaged communities and third world countries a chance to complete equally on an international stage.
5. Where will English Forward be in 5 years?
MR: Converting English Forward into a fully operational and scalable blockchain company will setup the next 5 year, and position the company to impact 1 Billion users.
This includes: SEO related rebrand, new site build, mobile app development, UX and user registration flow improvement, partnerships with educators and industry professionals, activating the company’s first-ever advertising, growth and marketing initiatives.
We will be building a peer to peer marketplace, jobs board, language school leads service etc. A fully functioning English platform with the student and teacher in mind.
Easy to use, simple, intuitive. With one goal. Helping people to learn and improve their English language skills.