Last month, at Tencent Global Digital Ecosystem Summit, Dowson Tong, Tencent Senior Executive Vice President and CSIG (Cloud and Smart Industries Group) President announced that Tencent Education was launched as a new brand, reorganizing more than 20 products previously scattered in six business groups and shaping a new segment with different divisions dedicated to individuals, schools, teachers, and education departments by providing the ability of connection, management, and system. According to Tong, this move means more teamwork among the company’s different divisions when it comes to education business for synergies. Also the internet giant positions itself as a smart assistant for the whole education industry, allowing Tencent to initiate more close collaboration with schools and education enterprises.
As we mentioned in our previous article, Tencent’s latest push in education space indicated its positioning of a “digital assistant” by illustrating the case of the smart bracelet co-developed by Tencent and the affiliated kindergarten of Longhua District Academy of Education Science in Shenzhen. In this piece, we will dig into the new education business blueprint laid out by Tencent.
Building an educational ecosystem through its “digital assistant” function
Tong believes that “digital assistant” is a new positioning of the whole company, aiming at providing tools, making connections, and building the ecosystem. He said that Tencent will provide connectors to enable enterprises to better serve their users, improve the efficiency of supply-demand matching and finally achieve the closed loop of C2B2C. Taking an overview of Tencent’s education business, “infrastructure” may be the most appropriate keyword. Obviously, the launch of Tencent Education is exactly what Tencent is promoting in its layout and the internet giant will implement this model from the following perspectives:
For schools, Tencent Education will provide services in several aspects such as smart campus, data center, open platform and talent training. Tong mentioned that Tencent has been currently collaborating with universities to cultivate engineering professionals.
For education management departments, there are some problems in the previous initiatives of education informatization such as the incompatibility of the vendor systems, hindering the management departments and schools to access related data. Therefore, Tong pointed out Tencent’s attempt to connect all data channels to help students be aware of the challenges and opportunities emerging in the learning process.
And for education institutions, Tencent is committed to overcoming the geographical barriers of education and promoting education equality, meanwhile, serving online educational institutions and establishing a global data channel to enhance students’ learning outcomes by leveraging Tencent Cloud.
Tong also proposed that Tencent will build a technology-based platform through cloud computing, big data, AI and other capabilities to facilitate its intelligent education services. Meanwhile, Tencent released the Intelligent Education Joint Lab (腾讯智能教育联合实验室) plan, and launched the “Intelligent Learning Solution（腾讯智学解决方案）” for online education, which is being adopted and tested by more than ten institutions at the moment. Specifically, the solution is based on the underlying technologies such as intelligent voice, intelligent image, machine learning, natural language processing, audio and video so that online education institutions can quickly achieve AI real-time class supervision and AI course analysis through this PaaS model.
Maintaining the unique “connection” edge or not
Tencent President Liu Chiping pointed out at the summit that Tencent envisions itself as a co-builder of the ecosystem to embrace the Industrial Internet rather than a change-maker to overturn traditional Internet industry. When asking about whether Tencent smart campus business will encounter fierce competition with traditional manufacturers, Wang Tao, Vice President of Tencent Cloud, told JMDedu that Tencent Education is not replacing but working with them to solve problems, and there have already been some successful cases.
We believe that this kind of idea will bring multifaceted impacts. First of all, when launching new educational business, Tencent seems to be somewhat discreet in order not to reveal its ambition, thereby limiting Tencent education business to “connections and tools” and hindering the company to jump out of this framework. On the one hand, Tencent education is difficult to react quickly to new trends in education space. On the other hand, the Shenzhen-based company, which is known for developing product experience, is facing significant challenges to reach the demands of C-end education users.
However, Tencent Education believes that it has explored its own way to cope amid difficult transition, that is, to provide technical solutions and educational tools for the government, education institutions, schools with its technological edge, and finally to reach a mass of consumers who actually use the product. After the first round of Chinese Internet giants’ attempts to expand into education market, the lack of curriculum platform model is fully revealed that education is not simply relying on the huge traffic these giants has access to for monetizing. Users are more inclined to choose the providers with quality course contents. Perhaps Tencent Education can finally achieve its goal through the 2B2C approach.
According to Wang Tao, Tencent’s new product (CODING 扣钉) launched this year targeting at kid coding track is not directly for consumers, but to serve schools for reaching more students. Up to now, Tencent education has already covered over 15,000 schools, 300 provincial and municipal education bureaux, 70,000 education institutions, and 300 million users. In addition, the total number of organizations that Tencent has served through Tencent Cloud Technology has exceeded 18,000.
Based on Industrial Internet to deploy new strategy
Since the company’s major restructure last year, the newly established CSIG (Cloud and Smart Industries Group) has added a new layout namely “Industrial Internet” based upon its original strategy of “connecting everything”.
In the past, Tencent mainly penetrated schools through smart campus products. But obviously, Tencent is now aiming for a wider range of education companies, trying to fulfill its layout and ambitions in the Industrial Internet field through technical services and connecting more education enterprises. The company has to compete with those education technology service providers and education SaaS enterprises in this market.
The technical and data superiority of Tencent and the massive users acquired by its social network WeChat and QQ cannot be ignored: serving online education companies with technical means, bringing them into the Tencent ecosystem with WeChat, QQ and other connectors to form a closed loop where other players will find it hard to plug in. JMDedu has also reported that EEO Education and Tencent Cloud jointly released ClassIn Cloud, providing software development tools namely ClassIn-SDK for teaching service organizations and enterprises. In addition, Tencent Smart Campus has expanded to 76 schools covering 270,000 teachers, students and parents in Longhua District. Moreover, Tencent Smart Campus in the overall K12 market has swept nationwide, reaching 14,000 schools with more than 19 million teachers, students and parents.
According to Dowson Tong, Tencent Education is aiming for a starting point with three keywords: connection, content and commonweal to achieve equal, personalized and intelligent education. Wang Tao also said that Tencent education is not gearing up for commercializing at this stage. So there might be some doubts: will Tencent, which was not eye-catching in the education market during the past years, be able to succeed under its new education brand by knitting together disparate business lines? JMDedu thinks the company’s education may not be smooth sailing and the key is how to connect users of the tool to the product itself.