The online ESL marketplace is crowded and has low barriers to entry.
Every day it seems that there are more entrants in the busy world of online ESL lessons! Take a look at this list to see the ever-growing pool of companies in the space. Not to mention that there’s little need to be a ‘company’ to enter the market. In fact, any teacher or group of teachers can enter the online ESL marketplace by developing a basic website and selling Skype Lessons.
The benefit of a low barrier industry means that setting up your online school is inexpensive. Likewise, your competitors can easily enter the market too. Thus, it becomes difficult to differentiate your offering. How do you sell your teaching services to a student when there are hundreds of similar offerings to choose from?
We routinely deal with this issue at Off2Class. Teachers who are looking to set up independent online ESL businesses wonder how they will be able to differentiate their offering. We’ve long advocated that teachers entering the online ESL marketplace focus on a niche as a means for differentiation.
Today, we’d like to discuss the need to build student credibility to compete in the online ESL marketplace.
Establishing student credibility in the online ESL marketplace is the key to building your brand
Establishing student credibility is the key to building your brand. Even if you have a handful of students, it’s essential to build a credible relationship with the first students who walk through your virtual door. Why is credibility so important? Because it is the referrals you receive from your initial students that are the key to growing your business.
Think about it this way. Why should a student choose your school over the hundreds of other options? You are more likely to gain new students if these potential students receive a recommendation from a friend or colleague who vouches for your credibility as a teacher or school. Of course, to receive this recommendation you will already have had to build credibility with the student making the referral.
How do we build credibility with our students?
Building credibility with your online ESL students comes down to quality teachers and your learning infrastructure. We’re going to assume you’ve got the first part (quality teachers) covered! By learning infrastructure, we mean the learning tools that a student comes into contact with at your school. The lessons you use to teach in your live virtual lessons. The homework portal you provide between lessons. The placement test you provide new students. The lesson summaries you make available for review after class.
To build credibility with our students, we need to provide the same level of learning infrastructure provided by a bricks-and-mortar language institute.
Take Fluentbe for example. We’ve been working with Fluentbe for almost three years. When we first met them, they were similar to other aspiring solo teachers: a group of energetic entrepreneurs who wanted to make a dent in the online ESL marketplace. How have they grown to become one of the most trusted brands for online ESL lessons in Poland? How has their brand gained recognizable credibility in the online ESL marketplace? Quite simply, by focusing on quality teachers and sound learning infrastructure. Teachers, without a doubt, are critical to keeping students coming back for more lessons. But, the learning infrastructure is also important.
Off2Class provides the following pieces of infrastructure, all available from our browser-based subscription service:
- A fully interactive, two-way ESL classroom (not just the limited practice of screen sharing via Skype!)
- A professional placement test for all new and prospective students
- Homework and lesson summaries to reinforce the live teacher-led lessons
- Games and quizzes to offer variety
But if we use Off2Class, won’t we be diluting our brand and hindering our credibility-building efforts?
It is critical that your credibility-building efforts are associated with your brand. Again, even if you have a handful of students, it is critical they associate the quality learning experiences you are providing with your brand name. In that way, they can easily make referrals to you in the future.
Brand name credibility was one of the reasons that we launched the Off2Class Business Set-Up last year. We wanted to give schools, both large and small, established and ‘just starting out’, the ability to use our learning infrastructure under their own brand names. The Business Set-Up allows teachers and schools to replace the Off2Class branding with their own logo and domain across the entire student-side of our learning infrastructure:
- Use your own web domain (instead of Off2Class.com)
- Place your logo on the web interfaces, homework, placement tests and most importantly, lesson content
- Send email notifications from a generic address (rather than @off2class.com)
The Business Set Up allows small schools and independent teachers to compete for student credibility on an even playing field. By utilizing our learning infrastructure with your brand name, you’ll provide a more credible learning experience than many of the largest schools on this list. This should free up time for your most important task, acquiring students!
Watch this webinar to see what our Business Set-Up looks like:
In addition, we’ve launched a handy demo tool that you can use to visualize your branded platform.
We’re here to answer your questions.
Our Business Set-Up tool provides a sound learning infrastructure for your students. Still, we understand that jumping into the online ESL marketplace can be a daunting undertaking. We’ve advised many teachers (and schools) on how to best approach the online ESL marketplace, and we’d be happy to work with you.