The events of 2020 motivated many businesses to move online with digital education offerings to continue providing online learning while face-to-face teaching remains difficult. Over the last two years, we have also seen a dramatic acceleration in the digital transformation of many aspects of our lives, including how we socialise and how we work, as well as how we teach and learn. The impact of these changes is complex and far-reaching. Companies that were already in the online education sector prior to 2020 have also felt the effects.
Below, The TEFL Academy’s CEO Tom Gibbons discusses the motivations and processes behind their organisation’s digital transformation and how TEFL is keen to update the learning experience they are offering.
Watch the full interview or dive into the video transcript!
Natalia: So, tell us a little bit about the situation in 2021. How did The TEFL Academy find its position after the events of 2020? And what steps did you need to take?
Tom: So early 2021, our team at The TEFL Academy really started doing an audit for our business and we had a couple of big goals, with the website, our admin system but also in our learning offerings. We had identified because of the pandemic, the actual quality for our other industries in elearning had exploded. We found courses were way more engaging, there were way more tools you could use when it comes to assignments, things like even just storage space and rendering of assets had improved massively. We kind of realized almost overnight, that our course wasn’t engaging enough in the wider market. Within TEFL, we were still the leading course provider, but we really wanted to bridge that market gap and impress people when they took a TEFL with us, and we really wanted them to retain the best kind of knowledge for their careers moving forward.
Natalia: Wonderful, and on realising that you have lots of opportunities to improve your courses, how did you actually approach your digital transformation? Because I imagine if you don’t have skill sets within the business, that may be a difficult undertaking.
Tom: Well, that’s exactly it. I think, any kind of small to medium business, you’re always spinning several plates, across different departments, and you’re always trying to be a specialist in every area. So, my advice to any kind of small to medium business; sometimes you can’t do it all. So the very first thing we did is just heavily started researching the elearning industry, really trying to look for experts, or external advisors, who could help us transform our course as well and that’s the first time we came across Oppida.
Natalia: Excellent. What challenges have you experienced to date with the change management process? Because obviously, as you’re going through digital transformation, there’s a huge change management piece that happens within the business. So, tell us a little bit about that experience and how you’ve tackled it today.
Tom: So with the change of management for the business, we found communication was key from the off, you know, we’ve worked hard with Oppida in just trying to be as transparent and try and provide our team and yours with as much knowledge as we had within our different departments. We’ve worked hard on trying to identify skill sets: we have on our books 120 TEFL tutors around the world. So, there was always going to be an opportunity that some of those tutors can become subject matter experts and develop our courses. So, applying Oppida skills, course creation, and really doing the market research on identifying what our target audience is, which has changed throughout the last couple of years and putting it all together, so we have no challenges anymore, we now have a full ‘inhouse’ team supported by Oppida.
Natalia: Yeah. So, Oppida ultimately becomes an extension of a business where we obviously go through the discovery process and gain as much insight about the business as possible so that we can become that extension, and ultimately play that critical part in that transformation. So in terms of the learning experience at TEFL, what steps are you guys taking to improve your courses and to create the best learning experience?
Tom: So again, we started with the research side of things, and as I kind of mentioned previously we discovered that our target audience had kind of developed and matured over the last couple of years. So, first of all, with Oppida, we identified who our actual core audience is and started developing a course to help their skill sets. So, with Oppida’s help, we’re starting to develop courses that are way more accessible, whether it’s multiple devices, way more engaging. The course content itself now has many more rich media sources and assets like videos, animations, gamification, more reward systems, and our secret is we just want to kind of make the course as individualistic as possible. That’s our real trick here.
If you have certain strengths, when you’re going through our course, we don’t want to focus necessarily on your strengths, we want to improve your overall outcome with a course. So, everyone doesn’t have the same 168 hours, for our level five; we want you to have the 168 hours that really strengthens and improves you as a teacher as you might be really strong in some areas, but weaker in others. So, we want to develop courses that focus on your weaknesses so when you’re leaving the course, you have a much more rounded teaching experience.
Natalia: Absolutely. So, it’s really providing a unique learning experience for every single learner that you have and obviously, with the two different courses you have (the upcoming Level 3 and current Level 5 course offering), you guys have completely different target audiences and therefore, there needs to be a different design approach. What would be one of the biggest pieces of advice that you’ll give to businesses that are considering digital transformation or just about to begin?
Tom: With businesses of our size, first of all, you need to know your own resources and what you’re capable of. So, research first. Research is key to try and identify thought leaders in the space. Which Oppida definitely is one of the best companies we came across in our research for e-learning and trusting them, really trying to integrate them into your businesses, as much as possible. When you’ve found the right partner to support you then allow them to advise you in certain areas, provide equipment that they need, the tools they need to be successful, and you’ll reap the benefits down the line.
Natalia: Wonderful, thank you so much for your time Tom, and for sharing your story of digital transformation and we are very pleased to continue to help you transform your courses and create the best experience for your learners.
Tom: Thank you so much for having me, Natalia.
To find out further information about The TEFL Academy then visit their website here.