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RIA & Ajax: Article

New Web 2.0 Distance Learning Site Launched; AJAX Meets Online Education

Site Uses a Desktop Metaphor to Give Users a Personalized Space to Study, Communicate

Onsales Global Services Inc. launched, an e-learning or distance learning website that is based on emerging Web 2 technologies. The site uses Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX) to deliver a new way for students of Chinese and China enthusiasts visiting China for travel or business to study Chinese, communicate, and share their knowledge of Mandarin and of China. uses a desktop metaphor to give users a personalized space where they can learn Chinese, put what they have learnt to use using the communication tools, and share their knowledge and experiences of China by uploading photos and videos.

Current widgets include multimedia lessons with videos, dialogs, grammar, and interactive exercises; a 3-way multimedia dictionary extensible with user-generated content; smart flashcards with Chinese pinyin and character test modes; a user-generated China wiki; and instant messaging and chat with audio and video conferencing.

"We looked at distance learning and online education sites currently available on the Web for students of Chinese and China enthusiasts and were generally disappointed by what was out there. There was an obvious opportunity to use some of the emerging Web 2.0 technologies to disrupt the way online education, especially of Chinese, is conducted today," said Sahr Johnny, founder and CEO of Onsales Global Services Inc. aims to cater to the Chinese learning and community needs of the estimated 30 million people currently studying Chinese around the world with tools that encourage the learning process not hinder it.

"We want to dispel the myth that Chinese is hard. It isn’t. It just has an unusually steep learning curve for beginners, which gives rise to the notion that it is a difficult language to study. We believe that by making Chinese fun to learn and by allowing our users to put what they have learnt to immediate use with chat and messaging communications tools and by sharing their knowledge, we’ll see many more people acquiring a good level of proficiency in the language," Johnny added.’s lessons are based on the Hanyu Shuiping Koushi (HSK) curriculum – China’s international Chinese proficiency test currently being promoted by Confucius Institutes around the world, but with a difference. The online course has been developed specifically with foreigners in mind, with less emphasis placed on rigorous study and more on making the language fun and contemporary.

" literally throws the textbook approach out of the window. We don’t want our students to feel that they are in a classroom. We want them to feel that they are having fun while acquiring knowledge and sharing it with a community of like-minded users. I think this is where many of the sites out there get it wrong. You’ll also find our course material extremely practical with lessons that cover everyday scenarios that visitors to China find themselves in, such as booking a hotel room or going to the bank to exchange money," said Johnny.

Users can personalize the study space with their own wallpapers or photos, upload MP3s to listen to while they study, and use the IM tools to chat with other students, and perhaps more importantly communicate with native Chinese speakers who will access the site through a Chinese version. In addition, tracks students’ progress, giving them a snapshot of how they are progressing with the language.

By using widgets and a desktop metaphor, the learning environment becomes fun and customizable. Users can go through the lessons, watch the videos, browse the wiki or chat with friends. The company plans to add more widgets that allow users to delve even deeper into China’s 5000-year history. In the works is an interactive map of China that allows students to deepen their knowledge of the country’s geography while accessing information relevant to their travels or business trips to China.

"China is a country that has so much to offer the world in terms of language, culture, history, and a very exciting and unique spin on modernity. Today’s beta launch of is just the beginning, as we embark on an exhilarating journey of using cutting-edge Web technologies to make the country more accessible to foreigners," Johnny said.

More Stories By RIA News Desk

Ever since Google popularized a smarter, more responsive and interactive Web experience by using AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript + XML) for its Google Maps & Gmail applications, SYS-CON's RIA News Desk has been covering every aspect of Rich Internet Applications and those creating and deploying them. If you have breaking RIA news, please send it to [email protected] to share your product and company news coverage with AJAXWorld readers.

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