Online Education in China: Learning something new everywhere and at any time


Last month, a German music shop started to promote a special offer: A 6-month online piano lesson package for just 1 Euro. This offer should encourage people to stay at home during the Corona crisis and learn something new. As an end-consumer from China, I am always happy to see this kind of special deals, because it gives me a chance to try something new without investing too much in advance. Furthermore, especially in these times, I don`t have to leave my apartment.

To my surprise, there were many negative comments regarding the promotion from the German music shop, mostly from music teachers. The main argument of their criticism was that the promotion was “stealing their jobs”. Especially in this special period. Some of them also affirmed that they are going to tell their students never to purchase anything from this music house anymore.

Personally, I do not fully understand the criticism of the music teachers, but I will take this case as an opportunity to review the online education industry in China and to share several insights:

There are plenty of online courses in China, including different majors – more precisely: you can find online courses for almost everything. Different platforms are gathering teachers for different majors. Each platform has its own focus like music, painting art, foreign languages, after-school tutorials, etc. So online courses are a real business in China.

Free or cheap trial lessons:

In China, it is very common that teachers offer several short online courses for free or just a small amount of money. This is the best way for them to win new students. If a student wants to continue the course after the trial lesson, he has to switch to the online platform where the teacher purchases the complete course.

The benefit of online education:

For students:

  1. Finding a good teachers is not always easy and they are usually based in big cities. Online education offers the convenience that you don`t have to take a long ride into the city in order to take the class.
  2. All online course platforms offer video recording so that students can review the content if they did not keep up with the teaching speed or they are not available when the online lesson is being streamed.
  3. The teacher or assistant teacher offers chat service during office hours so that students can always address them with their questions when needed.

For teachers:

  1. Teachers have the opportunity to give lessons to as many students as they want, as long as he can handle it.
  2. Teachers have students from 4 years old to 80 years old.
  3. Price: An online painting course, for example, normally involves 70 to 150 students at the same time/semester, one semester normally has 10 sessions (about 2.5 months). The average price for this kind of course is about 300 Euros for one semester per person. An after-school tutorial English course for 7 days (12 hours in total) charges 100 Euro, the teacher usually takes 30 to 50 students at one time. So online courses are very profitable for teachers in China.

As a Chinese living in Germany, I am taking two online painting courses from China in a group setting and one online personal music instrument training with a teacher in China. I am not restricted by the location, nor by the different time zone. I also know a lot of people living in China who are taking online courses, too. They watch the course via App when they are on the way and they communicate with the teacher anytime they want. Teachers are also not restricted by the classroom anymore. All they need is a phone, a notebook or tablet and an internet connection, so they can share their knowledge with everyone. 

Was does this mean for our business?

  1. Education, whether in terms of school or hobbies, is still one of the most important fix investment for the Chinese.
  2. Chinese consumers are getting used to getting almost everything online.
  3. Chinese consumers do not want to get restricted by their location anymore, they want to have access to good resources no matter where they are. 
  4. Before students purchase, several free trials are taken for granted.
  5. If the trials are good enough, they are willing to pay a high price.


It will be interesting to see how the offer of online courses in Germany will develop and what requirements and wishes German consumers will have in the future.



Author: Yue Liu, Spiegel Institut Mannheim

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