Adult language learning provider, Language for Fun has partnered with Keele University and the Staffordshire Business Innovation Centre to launch a new virtual learning environment.
When lockdown first hit in March 2020, Language for Fun was faced with making huge changes to its existing business model. The company, founded by Jessica Bonnard in Newcastle-under-Lyme, has grown to a successful, national business due to its different approach to language learning.
The concept is simple, to create a fun learning environment where like-minded people could meet, socialise, make new friends and learn a new language at the same time. However, the social element of this model was always key, so when the world went online in March, Jessica and her team had to adapt to make sure their learners could still enjoy their language course.
Before Covid-19, its franchisee language teachers, known in the company as licensees, taught over 2000 learners across the country, exclusively in face-to-face settings.
Plans to grow and incorporate e-learning were already in the making with an expected launch of 2023. Jessica completed a Leadership and Innovation Development course with the Mercia Centre for Innovation Leadership at Keele Business School which gave her the confidence to invest in innovating her business. However, Covid-19 catapulted these plans forward. With the help of Keele University and an apprentice Jessica had already recruited to support long-term innovation as well as a grant from the Staffordshire BIC of 37%, she has been able to launch the new product this month.
Jessica said: “In March of last year I was faced with a decision. If I didn’t react and invest in the VLE I would have left my language schools with no way of delivering their product, which would let many people down.
“Just weeks before the Covid-19 crisis hit the UK, I recruited a part-time computer programmer as an apprentice from Keele University under the Santander scheme.
“With his help, to combat the potential issues that the pandemic and lockdown could bring, we set a stretch goal to create an e-learning platform for our teachers. This enabled them to share our teaching documents online in the space of one month.
“This really helped us to navigate spring of last year and minimise impact. We quickly realised we could harness the same technology to bring the development of the VLE forward by two years.”
The VLE has over 1000 online resources which learners can access from anywhere in the world. Teachers can host interactive quizzes, manage their teaching schedules and run online classes in conjunction with their face-to-face classes if they choose.
The virtual learning product is an extension to the existing business model which is simply to make learning a language fun and engaging.
Jessica added: “When we teach languages to children, we don’t expect them to read from a book and just pick it up. We make it fun and memorable and practice it with real life situations. But for some reason, when people become adults, they’re expected to learn differently. In my experience, I learn better when I’m enjoying myself and so I developed Language for Fun. This way of teaching and learning is at the very core of our business and will not change. “The new virtual learning environment will help to take the business to the next level and strengthen our existing offer.”
The VLE has also been integrated with the bespoke business system for managing enquiries, administration, learners and classes developed over a two-year period as a KRISP project in conjunction with Keele University. The two systems operate seamlessly so that entire classes can enrol at the touch of a button.
Language for Fun offers French, Spanish and Italian courses around the UK. To find out more visit: https://languageforfun.org/