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Mark and Jill discuss the latest changes to the LingQ system including the launch of the payment system and the introduction of Assignments for each Item selected from the Store.
Mark: Hello everyone.
Welcome to the EnglishLingQ podcast.
Mark Kaufmann here and, as usual, I’m joined by Jill Soles.
Mark: How’s it going today Jill?
Jill: Good, how are you?
Mark: I’m good. Today, we thought we would talk about LingQ and for those of you who don’t know, we both work for LingQ.
That’s why we do this podcast.
If you listen to other podcasts you’ll hear us talk about LingQ and that’s our Website at LingQ.com.
It is an online language learning system.
All of our podcasts are available on our system with transcript so that you can read the text of what we’re saying here and use our learning tools to learn from it so, definitely, if you’re not already a LingQ member, go to our site at LingQ.com and check it out.
You can also speak to our tutors like Jill, sometimes myself, have your writing corrected and interact on our community so, definitely, please come and check us out.
Jill: And it’s free.
Mark: And it’s free.
Sign up for a free membership and, actually, that’s one of the things we want to talk about today.
Those of you who are members of LingQ already have been hearing us talk about it for quite a while now and so we are finally able to announce that our payment system will be up and running today.
We thought that what we would do today is take some time to talk about the change.
I know, Jill, you’ve had a lot of members emailing you and asking you when it’s going to be up; what are the conditions going to be.
We did send out an email a month ago now with some details.
Things have changed slightly again, so maybe Jill you can start by explaining the different membership levels that we’re going to have.
So, there is still going to be a free level so you can come on and read our content, listen to the audio files, link words and phrases, which means saving the ones that you don’t understand so that you can review them later, get dictionary examples of them and just, you know, there are many things you can do as a free member, but you have a limited amount of storage space.
You can only have five active assignments at a time and we’ll get to that later what an active assignment is or I guess I could mention it now.
Mark: Yeah, we can mention it now.
Another new update to the system is the addition of assignments.
It’s something we did have in our old system at The Linguist.
With every item that you take from the store you will have an assignment that’s attached to that item, which will identify the tasks that we recommend you perform on that item.
It’s essentially there to help new members get started because very often we get a lot of questions from new people.
“Oh, how do I start?
What should I do?” Because it is a self-directed program or system, you know, and definitely we understand that a lot of people are used to going to school and being told, you know, do this first and then do this and then do that.
What we’ve done is we’ve created assignments similar to the old task list, for those of you who were members on The Linguist, that list the tasks to try and perform for each item.
It’s just a guideline.
You don’t have to do what we recommend you do.
It’s up to you.
You do what works best for you, but it’s a good place to start, especially for new members.
So, basically, when we say you’re allowed as a free member five active assignments it means that you can have five items from our library that you are studying at one time.
If you want to study different ones more you can either upgrade to one of our paying levels or you can archive your assignments or delete them so that you create space.
Mark: That’s right.
We have had the ability up to now to remove or delete items from your account.
Obviously, if you delete or remove an item from your account it’s gone.
If you have a five active assignment limit and you are at five items and you delete one then you’re at four items; you can now go get another one.
If you feel that you’re finished with one of your active assignments but you’d still like to keep it and refer to it later, now we’ve added the ability to archive that assignment.
In our initial message about our membership levels we did say that items above your quota would have to be deleted, but that’s no longer the case.
Now you will be able to archive them.
That means you won’t be able to study them.
They’ll be archived though in the state in which you leave them when you archive them and at any time if you want to reactive an assignment you are able to do so as long as you have room to add them either by removing other items, or
Jill: …archiving other items or upgrading your membership level.
Mark: That’s right. With every jump in membership level your active assignment limit increases.
Yeah, so for free you have a limit of five, Basic 25, Plus 150 and Premium 500.
Then, of course, there are other differences.
A Basic membership is $10.00 a month and you are not given any tutoring with that.
You’re not given a personal tutor.
You are not going to receive a report from that personal tutor or you will not receive points to put towards speaking or writing, but you can buy points at 50 percent off.
Mark: That’s right and that’s maybe an important point for a lot of you members to understand now.
Once we implement the new payment system today, the price for points for free members is going to double, so 1,000 points will now cost a free member $20.00.
However, all the paid membership levels and there are three of them, Basic, Plus and Premium, all members of those levels get a 50 percent discount on points, which means you’ll be paying $10.00 per 1,000 points.
Mark: You can buy points in multiples of 1,000.
Jill: Right. As I just said, Basic membership is $10.00 a month, Plus is $39.00 a month and Premium is $79.00 a month.
Now with Plus and Premium you also get a tutor.
A tutor is assigned to you and they will answer questions that you have about English.
Mark: Yeah, that’s exactly right.
The Forum, which we probably will not launch at the same time as we launch our payment system, but will be launching shortly, very shortly, so if our payment system goes up today probably within the next week the Forum will be there as well, which means those of you who upgrade to Plus or Premium will be able to ask questions to your tutor from the LingQ Widget about any term that you’re having trouble understanding or really about any language-related issue.
Any language-related questions you will ask on the Forum and your tutor will be alerted when you ask a question and will answer the question for you.
We should probably mention that those of you who are not Plus or Premium members who do want to ask questions on the Forum, you can ask questions on the Forum directly by going to the Forum when it is up on the site, but your questions will not be answered by our tutors.
Other members can answer your questions and we’ll answer your questions, hopefully, but
Jill: …you’re not paying for that service.
Mark: That’s right.
Only those of you who do pay for Plus or Premium will get your questions, in fact, answered by our tutors.
Jill: Right and also Plus and Premium members are given a points allowance every month.
Plus members are given 3,000 points and Premium members are given 7,500 points, which you can use towards writing and speaking.
Mark: That’s right.
I guess we should mention, and we do get these kinds of questions, you do get questions about how much speaking events cost and how much writing costs, so maybe it’s worth explaining those costs exactly.
Any speaking event costs 500 points for all members.
A speaking event can be a one-on-one conversation with just you and a tutor and it’s 15 minutes.
Each 15-minute segment is considered an event, which is 500 points.
You can schedule a one-on-one for 15 minutes; that will be 500 points.
So, you can schedule a one-on-one for 30 minutes, but that will be 1,000 points.
If you sign up for a group discussion, which is a maximum of four people, but not always, it depends how many people sign up, if there are four people signed up it will be one hour long and will be 500 points.
Basically, each person is given what is equivalent to 15 minutes.
Mark: Right and so each person, if there are four participants, each participant pays 500 points and, therefore, the event is an hour long because four people have paid
Jill: …for 15 minutes each.
Mark: However, they are taking it jointly with a tutor so, therefore, it’s an hour long group discussion.
Now, in the situation where only three people sign up for an event and the fourth spot is open that event will end up only being 45 minutes.
Mark: That causes a bit of confusion with our members.
I know you hear that some of them are saying “Oh, I’m not sure if I want to sign up because I want to speak for an hour and it’s not guaranteed and if there’s only one other person there then it’s only going to be half an hour.” But, really, short of us either charging more for discussions, this is the only way we can do it because if we have two people show up for an hour long discussion we pay the tutor for an hour.
Unless those two participants want to be charged double there’s no fair way of doing it.
On The Linguist we had the situation where, in effect, those people who didn’t speak as much as they were allowed were subsidizing those people who used up all their discussions and maybe had discussion where there weren’t four people.
This is a more fair way and, you know, it will work very well as long as people sign up for events.
We have noticed and our members have been telling us and Jill I know you’ve been getting lots of emails about it, again, discussions or events are not as full as they were on The Linguist.
Mark: I think there are a number of reasons for this, but, you know, maybe you can relay…you got an email from I can’t remember who now.
Jill: I was speaking with Margarette, a learner who was also a member on The Linguist, and she said that for her there’s not as much pressure, not as much motivation because her points don’t run out.
On The Linguist she had a certain amount of speaking events and words of writing that she had to use every month and if she didn’t use them they were lost, they were gone, so she said she always made sure she used them; whereas now, she doesn’t feel that pressure because she doesn’t lose her points if she doesn’t use them.
She said now she finds that she does write less and does speak less because there just isn’t that pressure anymore to use them or lose them.
I think that’s partly why some people don’t sign up anymore for as many discussions as they used to.
I think another part of it is that people are still maybe a little bit confused with the new system.
Since we haven’t had the payment system and the membership levels yet, I think some people haven’t used any of their points.
They don’t really even understand how to use their points I think is a bit of a problem too.
Mark: I think so.
I think there’s a little bit of uncertainty because we’ve been talking about our payment system and people are kind of waiting for it and it hasn’t come.
It’s not entirely obvious how to go about, I guess, buying points now and spending them.
With anything new before you try it once or twice you’re always a little nervous, I guess.
Jill: We have many people who buy points all the time and sign up for discussions and come and talk to me a lot and it’s the same people over and over.
Mark: I would say that more and more people are buying points and figuring it out.
With any new service, you know, it takes time to buildup that momentum.
I definitely think that when we implement our payment system and people realize that okay, now I’m getting charged; now I’m getting points every month; now I understand how it works.
As you say, on the old system people had to use up their events and their writing otherwise they would lose them.
Unfortunately, we have nothing quite so motivating in our new system
Jill: …because we were trying to make it more fair.
Mark: We wanted to make it fair because we had complaints in the old system that – “Oh, why do I lose my events if I don’t use them?
It’s not fair.” — type of thing and so now we said okay, here are your points.
Use them as you like.
Whether you want to speak or whether you want to write, you don’t lose them.
We think it’s more fair, but, you know, that motivation factor is very important in getting people to join events and do the activities.
Even though they know those activities are going to help their learning they’re still not as motivated, I guess, because it’s a question of they end up saving the points instead of having to use them.
They are not burning a hole in their pocket, so to speak.
Jill: Right and I think too with regard to discussions, it seems to me that a lot of people are afraid to be the first person to sign up.
Now, I mean, we didn’t have this problem in The Linguist because there always has to be one person who signs up first.
It was the same way in The Linguist, but most of our discussions were full all the time.
I think people who sign up for discussions now want a group scenario.
They want to be speaking with other people and I think so many people are worried that if they sign up and nobody else signs up they’re going to have this one-on-one and they want a group discussion.
But, if everybody is worried about being the first person signing up then nobody signs up, so somebody has to sign up.
Mark: No question.
There was an email that came into Customer Service the other day where someone was saying “Oh, I went in and so many of the discussions either had nobody signed up or one person signed up and, you know, I want to speak with four people for an hour.” Well, if you come in and you look around “Oh, there’s not that many people signed up.
I’m not going to sign up.”
Jill: …and everybody does that
Mark: …then we have no people signed up for discussions.
The fact is, you can sign up and then you can cancel and so far better off to come in and say “Okay, that looks like an interesting discussion.
I like that tutor; a good time for me.
There’s nobody signed up right now.
I’m going to sign up.” If everybody does that, pretty soon you’ll start to see the discussions.
There are people out there wanting to talk and we know this because when we finally do talk to them or they write us emails, yeah, there’s the demand there.
For some reason, people seem to be reluctant to sign up and they shouldn’t be.
Jill: Yeah, exactly.
And, yeah, I mean I have full discussions almost every Friday.
Mine are full, so there are discussions that fill up, so people just have to not be afraid to sign up.
Mark: That’s the other thing too to take note of, I guess.
Any discussions that do fill up are no longer displayed in that list.
It doesn’t look like there are any full discussions.
Mark: Well, that’s right.
It’s not that we don’t have any full discussions, but we don’t have as many full discussions as we used to have.
We just want to encourage you all again.
The discussions…you know, it’s essentially the same set up as we had before.
Yes, you do need points to sign up, but many of you have points.
You know, in the top right corner of the site when you’re logged in you can see how many points you have.
It’s only 500 points to join an event.
Whether it’s a one-on-one or a group event it’s 500 points.
Just sign up and join like you always did and you’ll see that
Jill: …it’s not that much different.
Mark: We should also add that for those of you who are not English learners, are learning the other languages, we are adding tutors in the other languages now.
They will be posting discussions for other languages, so be a little bit patient.
We don’t have many tutors, but we’ll be increasing the number of tutors.
We’ll be increasing the times that they make available and, by all means, please also join discussions in other languages as well.
Was there anything else that you could think of Jill while we’re on this subject?
Jill: Well, we mentioned the Forum and we mentioned people signing up for discussions and the basic set up for the payment system and membership levels.
Mark: One thing I did want to say is, you know, we make these changes and we definitely respond to any feedback that we get from our members out there, so please keep the feedback coming.
Let us know how you like the payment system.
You know, if you have suggestions for how we can encourage more participation on the events or how we make the system work more fairly for you.
We’d love to hear from you.
You know, just send an email to Support at LingQ.com; any thoughts that you might have.
Jill: We might not be able to implement them all, but we’re certainly willing to listen.
I mean, most of the changes that we made, a lot of the changes that we made to the system are in response to feedback that we were getting from our members, both at The Linguist and now at LingQ.
We want to do what works best for the majority of our members.
Jill: That’s the other thing too, you know, not to be afraid of sending us an email when you have a question or don’t understand something.
I think there are many, many LingQ members out there right now who have points in their account and aren’t using them at all and maybe don’t even understand how to use them or even know that they have points or, you know, they just don’t really know what’s happening.
You need to contact us.
You need to ask us questions because we can’t help you if you don’t let us know that you’re having problems.
Mark: Absolutely and we’ll talk about many of the issues that you email us.
If you do, we’ll talk about them here on our podcasts.
We’ll have a regular LingQ update once a week and talk about different issues related to LingQ and if there are questions that our members are wanting to know answers to, we’ll definitely be discussing them, so please send any feedback you can.
I think that’s it.
Enjoy the new pricing system and we can’t wait to hear from you.
Jill: Bye, bye.
Mark: Bye, bye.