Why language schools should offer flexible online schedules

“Not everyone has a rigid nine-to-five schedule anymore”

Language schools around the world, normally heavily or even fully reliant on inbound students from all four corners of the globe, have had their income cut at the source, writes  Max Hobbs, LTL Mandarin School’s marketing director. Last year proved to be a sink or swim moment for those institutes.

Whilst many schools have sadly had to shut up shop, there have been a few success stories.

We aren’t talking about the ones who were already teaching online pre-2020, we are talking about the ones who have had to completely re-invent themselves like never before.

One example is LTL Mandarin School. A school based on the ethos of immersion, being in the country and Living The Language (hence LTL). A school so heavily strung on these methods therefore had a sizable challenge on their hands upon discovering this change in living wasn’t a short term thing.

Flights to China have been banned since the end of March 2020, with only a small handful of foreigners allowed back in since, mainly those with work permits. It’s proved a devastating blow to language schools in China.

Something has had to change to keep them alive, and it’s been down to these very schools to find a way.

Fast forward a year down the line and here at LTL we’ve have created our very own subscription based software that allows students from all four corners of the planet to study whatever they want, whenever they want.

The system allows students to pick their own teacher, their own topics and their own study time. The name of the system, Flexi Classes, therefore seems rather apt.

Our ability at LTL to completely re-invent the business has allowed us to discover a new stream of revenue that could well set us in better stead five years down the line, than perhaps with no pandemic at all.

Students can enter the Flexi Class system on any time zone, and book classes as far in advance as they wish, select their teacher and their favoured course (whether it be focusing on tones, numbers or even slang).

Of course to do this the LTL team needed to hire teachers to cover all time zones, another challenge in itself, but one that was ultimately fulfilled.

This begs the questions, why “Flexi Classes“ when you can just select a fixed weekly schedule as usual?

Simply put, not everyone has a rigid nine-to-five schedule anymore. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, even more so after the events of 2020. Everyone has gone online. It allows someone in LA to be chatting to someone in Lima, London or Lesotho in seconds.

A working professional might have a hatful of hours free in the first week of the month but be snowed under for the next two. In this case, a fixed group class would not work.

The Flexi system however does, thus solving the problem of the person whose schedule is ever changing. That’s not just working professionals either. Think of a university student. Busy during the Semester, but bags of free time during the holidays.

Students can also cancel classes within a couple of clicks, getting a full refund of their credits (if done 72 hours in advance) to book on other classes.

So far, it seems like LTL’s creation has been very well received. To make this possible though, the entire team have had to re-invent themselves as well as the product. Sales assistants becoming marketers and immersion specialists becoming bloggers.

The whole team have had the challenge of trying to become something new, to save their company, and to save their jobs.

With the pandemic showing no immediate signs of slowing up, and a clear long term effect on how we travel set to become accepted worldwide, language schools are fully understanding that these adaptations could shape their success, or failure in the long run.

Due to this, we won’t be sitting on our laurels in 2021. Quite the opposite in fact, with plans for mass expansion in the coming months.

This year has therefore become one full of excitement and potential, rather than one to be fearful of.

About the author: Max Hobbs is LTL Mandarin School’s marketing director and has been leading the marketing charge at LTL alongside studying Mandarin and Italian for the vast portion of 2020.