We believe incredible things are possible when education, creative and technical expertise all come together.
From FlashSticks® to FlashAcademy®, what we do has evolved to meet the demands of the diverse classroom, but our team here at Learning Labs have the same mission. To create innovative technology that empowers educators worldwide, helps remove language barriers for students – unlocking their full potential.
Just a few months after their chance encounter, Rich and Veejay found themselves in a boardroom with 3M (the company behind Post-it Notes®). It was at this meeting that FlashSticks (like FlashCards, only sticky!) language Post-it Notes® were born!
From humble beginnings, packing the first packs of FlashSticks® on Richard’s dining room table, next came a small office at the Innovation Birmingham Campus. From there, things soon started to happen, with national stockists starting to place orders for FlashSticks® – including WHSmiths, Amazon, Tesco, Waterstones and more. The team of two grew to a team of five, including Simon – who would be another key leader in the team.
That was the question.
With FlashSticks®, there was an augmented reality app that meant a tutor helped learners with pronunciation they were struggling with. Despite gaining stockists, lots of customers and lots of rave reviews, it was proving difficult to make the desired learner impact without big marketing budgets for promotion.
One group of customers for FlashSticks® was schools, which meant Veejay was spending an increasing amount of time in schools talking to school leaders. A challenge he kept hearing about was the one surrounding EAL (English as an Additional Language) and diverse classrooms with lots of newly arrived pupils.
As the only non-white pupil at his Primary school and with both parents being immigrants into the country, the challenge immediately resonated with him. This was the genesis moment for FlashAcademy® – a move away from the physical to a new digital solution for the EAL challenge.
The team set about building a new type of platform to assist with the EAL challenge – one that could be life-changing for both teachers and students.
Working closely with teachers, FlashAcademy® 1.0 combined EAL lessons, games and a teacher dashboard. The platform could also be used on any device: smartphone, tablet or PC.
FlashAcademy® onboards their first official school! Anderton Park Primary took a risk on a completely new EAL platform that had big ambitions, but was very much in its infancy.
Fortunately, several more ‘early adopter’ schools followed, showing us that FlashAcademy® was very much needed. For those of us in the team that got to experience FlashAcademy® being used in the classroom – there was no more rewarding experience!
Discovery, listening and continually innovating
Veejay took to the roads of the UK, visiting school after school to showcase FlashAcademy®. Strong demand meant this soon became unmanageable and so our sales team started to grow.
The wider education, creative and technical team continued to grow and so did the passion to make an even bigger impact. It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The team faced several obstacles, made its fair share of mistakes, but kept sight of its goal to keep innovating to improve opportunities for learners.
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit to them quickly, and get on with improving your innovations”.
As it did for so many, the pandemic threw the team into unchartered territory. However, it soon became clear that FlashAcademy® was needed more than ever, as a remote learning tool that could genuinely assist EAL learners in such a difficult time. The company also launched the first ever digital EAL proficiency assessment, with a goal of saving millions of hours of teacher time used up on paper assessments.
Our free EAL resources on the FlashAcademy® website were downloaded thousands of times, providing extra support for teachers and pupils. As ‘distance learning’ temporarily became the new normal, our team ensured specialist support was available for schools and their EAL pupils.
New personalised learning experiences were introduced for Primary and Secondary school learners. FlashAcademy® had now become the UK’s leading EAL platform for schools.
Beyond the UK, international schools had started to enquire about FlashAcademy® and so the platform is now also used in schools across Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Working with FE Colleges, Local Authorities and businesses, a (ESOL) version of FlashAcademy® for adults was also launched.
Between 2020 and 2022, the FlashAcademy® team doubled in size, there are now over 40 of us. The team also surpassed 1,000 UK schools as customers – a long way from partnering with our very first school, Anderton Park Primary.
The team is built upon a culture of collaboration, experimentation and progress – which has developed from the journey through which the company was founded. There is also a clear purpose that drives us all: “to unlock the potential of learners held back by a language barrier.”
FlashAcademy® are not slowing down any time soon! 2023 is shaping up to be our biggest year yet by far for making a difference with EAL/ESOL and more.
There are over 10m people globally that have been forcibly displaced in 2023, which is double the levels of 10 years ago. Our role is to keep improving FlashAcademy® and our support of teachers and students everywhere, so that we can make the biggest impact possible for those that need it.
If you’re a school, college, Local Authority or charity that needs support accelerating English for your learners, we’d love to explore how we may be able to help.
FlashAcademy® is a Multi-Award Winning Platform, Partnered With Credible Associations