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Sep 7, 2008

Firm Strikes Deal to Teach Online English in S. Korea

Eleutian, based out of Ten Sleep, plans major expansion around partnership

By The Associated Press

CHEYENNE - A Wyoming online teaching company has joined with the South Korean city of Incheon to teach public school students English over the Internet.

Eleutian Technologies recently signed an agreement with the Wyoming Business Council and the city of Incheon, on the west coast of South Korea near Seoul, to provide English lessons to Incheon school children using software called SpeakENG and video chat.

Brent Stanger, Eleutian vice president of operations, said Wednesday that the 2-year-old company had started group lessons as a supplement to Incheon International High School's English classes.

The company, which is based in Ten Sleep, has 150 teachers in Wyoming who instruct online English language classes, Stanger said. Ninety-eight percent of Eleutian's teachers have official teaching credentials, he said.

Stanger said the company plans a major expansion with the new Incheon partnership and hopes to have more than 1,000 Wyoming teachers by the end of the year.

Eleutian is also planning to hire native English speakers to hold online conversations with the students for them to practice their English, he said.

Stanger said the Incheon partnership could expand into other international city agreements and help Wyoming develop its reputation internationally.

"It's a natural starting point," he said. "The field is wide open to what it could become now."

Lee Tae-sik, a South Korean ambassador to the United States, pledged to support the partnership when he visited Wyoming on Monday. He said the support of both South Korean and Wyoming governments would help the project become more effective and efficient.

"(Cyber teaching) was a kind of exotic idea in the past, but it can be now done realistically because Internet connection is so well-advanced in Korea," he said.

Stanger estimated that Incheon public schools have about 600,000 students and that his company could provide English language lessons to as many as half of them.

He said learning English is a high priority for Koreans, who spend about $15 billion a year for private English lessons.

Bob Jensen, the chief executive of the Wyoming Business Council, said the English-teaching market in Asia is growing.

He said that by using its Internet technology, Eleutian is diversifying the teaching jobs Wyoming residents can take while also tapping into a major markets such as Asia.

"This is really about the ability to use technology in a nontraditional way for nontraditional jobs," he said. "And this could be contagious."