Back-office system for online language school | 2022

We built a robust back-office system for ‘Let’s Learn a Language’, integrating Symfony and Vue.js. This led to a significant reduction in admin workload and contributed to the school’s most successful quarter in 2022.

  • The Challenge

    The client Let’s Learn a Language had previously approached us in 2021 to build them a Wordle-clone for their Croatian language website. Based on the success of that project, in 2022 they reached out to us to discuss a much larger potential project.

    Having grown from a single language school (teaching in person), to a series of schools (teaching solely online), the idea of a robust and scalable platform to manage internal data and processes – including everything from planning lessons, to re-engaging with past students – had quickly gone from nice-to-have to absolute necessity.

    A new system was required to replace the existing mix of spreadsheets and improvised tools. In terms of data, the solution should keep track of everything relevant to the running of the business: leads, students, teachers, classes, lessons, booking payments – as well as keeping track of student feedback and satisfaction. 

    We were tasked with planning and building this system during the first half of 2022.

    About the client

    Let’s Learn a Language runs several language schools which teach live lessons online. The company has been operating since 2008, during which time they’ve taught over 10,000 students. The company has a team of 20 and currently teaches 4 different languages. 

    The Solution

    We worked closely with two members of the client team throughout this project, their overall manager and their main team administrator. The first project phase was focussed solely on planning:  defining the scope of the system, which data and processes would be involved, and how the system would fit into the daily operations of LLaL.

    We also defined the primary users of the the system:

    • Learning coordinators: use the system to interact with leads, assign these later to learning groups and create bookings and trigger the payment process.
    • Teachers: record lessons that take place, keep note of the materials taught, keep track of student attendance.
    • Students: provide feedback about classes and teachers

    In terms of software and technology:

    • We chose Symfony + Vue.js as the main platform for the project.
    • In the interest of simplicity and security we used Google Forms for the student feedback processes, which then fed data into the central database.
    • Using Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) we created several dashboards drawing on the central database to monitor business processes.

    Once the system was ready to go operational we worked together with the client to prepare existing data to be migrated into the new system, which was a surprisingly quick and easy process. 

    As the final step in the project we spent an afternoon training the client team. We also remained on call for several weeks of operations to answer questions and deal with issues and bugs that arose.

    Lessons learned

    Although the projected/actual budget remained well-aligned, we significantly underestimated the time it would take to complete the project – almost by half.

    This was mainly down to the time it took within the client team for decision-making: the planning and implementation of the project triggered the discussion (and definition) of a great deal of processes which until then had been handled on a case-by-case basis.

    There were no great consequences of this miscalculation, however through this project we acquired a better sense of the sorts of change that the introduction of a new system can trigger – in this case the need to document and define core business processes.

    Notable features

    Automatic payment requests and processing

    Payment requests are generated and sent to students automatically. When payment is completed the system receives confirmation and automatically validates the student booking.

    UX which reflects processes exactly

    As a result of the effort invested by both teams in understanding the client’s business processes we were able to build UX elements to reflect these processes, and forms which preselect data where possible to save time.

    Dashboards for better resource planning

    Our co-owner Michi is a self-confessed data obsessive, and he took advantage of the central database which forms the heart of the new system to build a dashboard which provides the client with valuable insights on things like teacher capacity and lifetime student value.

    Measuring project success

    At the start of 2023 we received an update from the client which confirmed that this project had met – and exceeded – all expectations. Through the streamlining and automation of processes the owner of LLaL estimated a reduction in admin workload of about 1 FTE. In addition, the last quarter of 2022 was the best in the history of their company, primarily as a result of this project – and the change elsewhere in their company which it brought about.