Online school – how to set it up – Part 5

Positioning your online school in the market is a key factor to consider before you start. Not spending enough time on the preparation phase can cost you a lot. This part continues with more options for positioning your online school within the market. It expands on taking the middle ground, becoming an enabler, and offering quality service with a suitable online training platform.

More on positioning yourself within the market

In my last article “Setting up an online school – Part 4“, I explored various options such as going for the top or bottom of the market and commitment to quality. I mentioned a definition of quality which I will use from now on throughout this series – Giving customers a bit more for a similar price to the competition – and will use that as a benchmark for future discussions on quality. If people are buying a VW Golf, they will not compare it to a Rolls Royce, but similar priced offerings from Ford or Toyota or the other manufacturers. Whichever one they feel they are getting the best value from is the one they will buy.

Of course, people’s definition of value, what they prize in a service or product, can be vastly different. But if the price is similar, and what they prize is better, then they will buy. Companies spend fortunes trying to find out what their customers value in what they offer. Don’t neglect this aspect, as soon as you start business, try to find out what your students and teachers like about what you are doing and what they don’t like. It will enable you to give them quality and value.

Taking the middle ground

This time I want to look at taking the middle ground, which, let’s face it, is where most businesses operate. Setting up an English language school, which is how I am mostly presenting this series, has many facets. To give just a short list as maybe the list might never end.

You can teach:

  • from beginner to proficient (A1 to C2);
  • the popular exams (IELTS, SAT, Cambridge exams, etc.);
  • all ages;
  • business English (but then there are so many variants from Marketing and Sales, Finance, Legal English down to more obscure ones such as Engineering or Logistics);
  • conversational English;
  • teach more obscure exams as, for instance, many countries have specific English exams for many purposes. I once taught students for an exam in Turkey

Or you can focus on grammar teaching, on writing, on teaching through videos and listenings. In short, your imagination is your only limit. You could easily come up with a new approach to language learning, take that online and have no competition, at least until others notice your success and copy your ideas.

So, you can distinguish yourself by what you offer and not how you price. Going for the middle ground is easier than trying to be the best and the most successful companies are normally those that appeal to a mass audience. What you then are aiming for is to give good service at a price that is average for the industry. That little bit better than the opposition to give yourself a competitive advantage. Here I must give a mention for the Vedamo system. It will give you a competitive advantage no matter where you position yourself or what you offer in an online school. It has all the features to enable you to offer quality whether top, middle or bottom.

Being an enabler

I touched on being an enabler in my last article “Setting up an online school – Part 4“, and now I will expand on it. Here you set up to link teachers and students. There are various possibilities. You can get teachers to sign up with a teaching profile and what they wish to charge and take a percentage. Also, you can create a fixed price and insist all teachers take what you offer. You will find examples of all types online. The onus will be on you to provide the students through extensive marketing. The teachers will just want to have responsibility for their own teaching and nothing else so you will have to do your homework in your business plan to make sure that you have enough left to pay them and make a profit that will sustain you in the future.

The advantage of such an approach is that you don’t have to create a school per se, you will not have to create your own materials, or market yourself against all the big names. By definition, almost, here you are going towards the bottom end of the market. You will need high volume to make money and deal with mostly the logistics of making sure the classes happen, students keep coming and teachers get paid. You will have a lot of administration and a heavy concentration on marketing to make it work. If you make it work smoothly, though, the business can multiply rapidly as you can keep adding teachers as more students come onboard. You will not have to worry about quality so much as students will quickly sort out which teachers they like and the good ones will get plenty of work and the bad ones won’t.

Check the competition

You will need to take a good look at what other enablers are doing and see if this is the way you want to go. If you can spot a way to differentiate yourself or offer better quality, then it could be the way to go. And, as always, just using Vedamo will give you better quality. Most, if not all enablers are using pre-existing IM services and they are very limited for teaching. Vedamo also offer an extensive Learning Management System (LMS) which will help you enormously with your logistics. The sheer fact that you have your own teaching system because Vedamo allow you to brand the teaching platform and LMS with your own, gives potential customers that warm glow that here is a brand that is serious, that cares about giving quality, that will stick around and will look after them for years to come.

Finally

As I have stressed already, the decisions you make at the start can define your position in the market. It can be hard to reposition, and it means wasting the money you have spent on your first position. Please do not decide to do everything on the fly, making it up as you go. The time and effort deciding what you want to offer, are you capable of offering it, and where you position yourself, will pay big dividends in terms of loss of time and money. Starting again from scratch because you haven’t put the energy in at the beginning is an expensive lesson.

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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