June 14, 2021

How language schools can catch up to a tech-focused future

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Hybrid classes and blended learning environments are here to stay. Here’s how can you learn the early-adopter mindset and future proof your language school.

We all have that friend. You know the one - they’re first in line to buy the latest air-cushioned sneakers. They had an iPhone before Steve Jobs had even finished his speech. And they always seem to be talking about the latest gadget or trend. 

Early adopters lead the way when it comes to fashion and tech. And while it might sometimes seem frivolous, in business, trailblazers can have a distinct advantage.

Cutting-edge technology enables early adopters to position themselves as innovators: They stand out in a market place that’s behind the times. What’s more, their technology can become a key selling point or offer a major improvement to customer experience.

While innovation management is often not first in the list of priorities of a busy English language center owner, we’d argue that – off the back of 2020 – it probably should be. 

After all, we don’t need to gaze into a crystal ball to see there’s a clear shift to digital learning. Hybrid classes, fully online courses and blended learning environments are here to stay.

So how can you learn the early-adopter mindset and future proof your language school? 

How to become a leading ELT Innovation center

As any manager will tell you, whenever we introduce something new, we are asking our teachers, staff and students to change their habits. You’ll need to help them understand (and believe!) that the friction and difficulties are going to be worth it. 

If you want to get people on board with change, they have to see your vision. This quote from John Graham sums up the challenge:

“To create a vision that’s exciting and compelling, you’ve got to give yourself the freedom to dream—to use your imagination to see and feel what does not yet exist.”

Straightforward? Maybe not.

But the good news is, we are all suddenly and keenly aware of the need to adopt new technology. Since the pandemic surfaced, purchasing, installing and integrating EdTech has been a huge, but necessary challenge - for administration, educators and students alike. 

However, shoehorning conferencing technology and clunky old tech into the ELT classroom is a band aid solution. Soon enough, schools everywhere will need more permanent tech solutions in order to remain competitive - pandemic or no pandemic. 

The academies that become innovation centers and find the technology that offers the best learning experiences possible will be the ones that thrive in the long term. 

Here’s how you can become a successful early adopter of ELT EdTech?:

1. Identify your business objectives and value proposition

Being an early adopter of an EdTech innovation only makes sense if it furthers your overarching business aims and improves your value proposition. 

Your objectives have likely changed in the last year or so. It’s time to re-evaluate what you need to achieve, ensure your objectives are realistic, and clarify your value proposition. 

Ask yourself and your team:

  • How will you communicate your vision for innovation to your team?
  • What can you offer English language students now that will help them achieve their future goals? 
  • How will you ensure that they have a delightful learning experience at the same time?

With a clearer understanding of your goals and what you can offer, you can better determine your strategy, reduce your risks, and seek out the tools and technologies to get you where you need to be.

2. Talk to your team and identify inefficiencies

As we’ve discussed, business innovation has to be based on a clear objective. The next part of innovation management is to find out what your team needs in order to do their jobs and be more effective and efficient.

Staff feedback can be eye-opening. You might find there are quick fixes that solve long-standing problems. On the contrary, you might also discover deep-rooted issues that require more thorough investigation. 

3. Understand the customer experience

Innovation can also be customer facing. Customer experience in a service-based industry like ELT is make or break for most academies. Things have changed - and your students might not be as happy as they once were, especially with the move to online learning or the launch of hybrid classes.

While most people are willing to be patient in challenging times, regular feedback surveys can uncover more serious discontent.

With your feedback results, you’ll know whether or not you need to rethink your learner experience design and look for new edtech solutions to class delivery.

4. Find the best solutions

Once you’ve got your objectives, staff and customer feedback aligned, it will be much easier to look for solutions. Then, when you have some contenders, evaluate new technology using a matrix - it will help you identify and compare the best solutions for you. 

For example:

  • In the table below the business objectives come first. In this case there are two, student retention and student advocacy.
  • Next we have the internal issues or challenges that might stop the company from achieving these objectives.
  • Then there’s customer experience and how it might impact on these objectives.
  • Below, the EdTech solutions are described, listing how they will solve the challenges you have identified. 
  • Finally, in the right hand column you can rank the solutions in order of importance. 

*shameless plug. 

This is a simple way to compare solutions and can be adapted to suit your institutional needs.

5. Share your vision 

You’ve found the innovative EdTech you were looking for. It’s now time to convince your team it will help them to do their jobs better. 

Start with your vision. Share how the new tech will make the school better. Explain how it will improve your value proposition. Then remind them of the status quo and walk them through the steps it will take to make your vision a reality. 

Get a buy in. Ask them what they need to be successful - then, and only then will you be ready to take on the challenge of being an early adopter.

6. Support the team

Once the technology is implemented, your job as an innovation leader is not over. You need to support your team and get continual feedback from students and educators. 

The cycle of innovation never stops!

Do you have any questions or doubts about introducing new technology in your academy?

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with the Immerse team.

Christian Rowe
Christian Rowe is the Chief Revenue Officer at Immerse. He loves unearthing new ways to help people grow, educating markets about new possibilities, and leveraging cutting-edge technology to help make human transformation possible.

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