China's online education industry has entered a new round of competition, as innovation-minded companies have gained new momentum in sectors such as skills-improvement, logical thinking, piano and painting.
Industry insiders said that such efforts are adding fresh growth engines to the industry where online education is no longer limited to basic subjects like math and English, which have traditionally centered around improving grades.
"The main goal is to leverage technology to make online learning, especially mathematics, more enjoyable and value-added," said Yu Dachuan, founder and CEO of VIPThink, which mainly helps nurture children's logical thinking skills.
Yu told China Daily that the company's average monthly revenue is around 220 million yuan ($33.6 million) and it has been profitable.
According to Yu Minhong, chairman of New Oriental Education and Technology, all online education companies are currently facing two challenges－controlling new student acquisition costs and maximizing renewal rates.
VIPThink's renewal rate stands at around 85 percent－a level industry insiders believe proves an educational company's viability－and Yu Dachuan attributed this success to back-end support.
"Back-end support refers to research and development, operations, referrals and all other things that can have positive effects," he said.
According to consultancy iiMedia Research, total sales revenue of China's online education sector is expected to hit 485.8 billion yuan this year, a sharp increase from the 387 billion yuan recorded last year.
Though the pandemic has affected many industries, surging demand for online study from hundreds of millions of students has boosted online education to new highs, thereby opening new vistas for more business opportunities.
The One Music Group, an online tutoring company, has developed an app-based online platform for piano lessons, where the app can accurately guide students in their ivory-tickling activities.
"The market potential is big as many parents are not professionals who can instruct their children and have no idea whether their children are doing things the right way or not," said Ye Bin, founder and chief executive of The One Music Group.
"After we developed an AI-enabled online piano tutoring app, we hope that it can enable more users to have an enjoyable experience with the help of technology.
"One of the functions available is that once users complete a practice session, they can receive bonus stars that can be exchanged later for gifts," he said.
He added that the app comes with a smart function wherein the scoring is stopped when a person makes a mistake.
The software will remind the user of the wrong sound and indicate the correct note on the screen after five seconds.
"What made this possible is our self-developed piano tone recognition technology, which is also our core competitiveness," he said, adding that the advanced technology will automatically adjust to match different pitches of various family pianos and decrease background noise to a minimum.