The nice folks over at Hanbridge Mandarin reached out to me in order to provide me with a free-trial of their online Skype school. In the following review I will give an honest run-down of my first impressions and my experience.
Hanbridge is a mandarin school based out of Shenzhen, I first learned about them when I was approached by one of their staff through facebook about receiving a free trial lesson in exchange for reviewing their service. Their staff are very prompt and focused and gave me a good overall first impression of their services.
Having previously worked for a Skype teacher portal where I had to handle freelance Skype teachers, my impressions of online Skype schools were that they were a cost offering and that in order to preserve margins, they would skimp on service and customer satisfaction.
This was not the case. Hanbridge staff were very intent on making sure that my experience was a good one and took great care to arrange appropriate material prior to my trial lesson.
So without further adieu, I will dig into the nuts and bolts of Hanbridge and their Mandarin classes.
I will segment this review into three sections –
- Before the lesson
- During the lesson
- After the lesson
Before the Lesson
Before I had my lesson, I took an assessment which helped the teachers assess my levels of Grammar, Vocabulary, and Listening. I was impressed at the depth of technology, as I have seen similar online Skype schools provide online assessment that was not as thorough, and did not include listening. I was able to complete this assessment by using my phone which was great because I was able to do it while sitting on the couch. I was not expecting it to be mobile accessible, that was a nice surprise.
After I finished taking the self-assessment, the course consultant connected with me on Skype to chat briefly in Mandarin and to ask what I would like to cover in my trial lesson. I requested business mandarin as I often speak with Clients in Mandarin and I wanted to learn some more useful phrases for doing business. She arranged my lesson time and provided me with a link to the lesson session via email.
During the Lesson
Hanbridge Mandarin uses a customized version of Cisco Webex. I was highly impressed with the usability of the software as well as the stability of the video and audio connection. As I speak with many clients in China via Skype, I have had almost nothing but connection issues with VOIP. Thankfully, this was not the case.
The lesson software itself is very easy to communicate with. You are connected to your teacher via Video and you can communicate through chat as well as by drawing on the lesson powerpoints. Here is an example of a class session:
The classroom contains a virtual whiteboard and a full set of communication features that make communication between the teacher and the student very easy.
At this point in the review you may be thinking… “the technology seems nice…but what about the teacher”.
Like any school, Hanbridge succeeds on the fact that its teachers are great. The teacher that I had, Xia Xia (Forgive me if I’m forgetting your name!) was very pleasant and friendly, she was fully fluent in English and had a very versatile teaching method.
When I would make a mistake in grammar or pronunciation, she would make sure that she would correct me after I was finished with my sentence. This encouraged me to speak more. She was also very helpful by giving me alternative examples and separate use cases so that I understood how to use the word or phrase that I was learning in many contexts. I was very pleased with her level of proficiency as a teacher and her ability to manage the lesson, switching from friendly communication to instructive.
The course material was well laid out and custom created by the teachers. It was functional and practical and it was not overly produced which I liked.
After the lesson:
After the lesson I was given the option to save all of my lessons notes, video, and presentation, which would be very useful for students who are taking regular lessons. The staff were also careful to follow up with me to make sure that I had a good experience.
All in All, I can highly recommend Hanbridge Mandarin as an online school. The quality of their instruction and their focus on providing a good experience shows through at every step of the process. You can tell that they are serious about expanding their business through a quality offering.
- Very easy to enroll, pay, and schedule lessons through their online system.
- Software is easy to use, stable and helpful.
- Teacher was fantastic.
At $25 per lesson, it can be a bit pricey for the budget conscious language learner. But in light of the quality, this is not unreasonable. The market average is in this range.