Head-to-head with Elspeth Briscoe at Learning with Experts
Learning with Experts is a new online learning platform for adults who want to upskill or learn something new. We spoke to CEO and Founder Elspeth Briscoe about their exciting plans.
Elspeth is a serial tech entrepreneur. After stints at eBay, Guardian Digital and Skype, she decided to follow her heart and retrain in landscape design. With her tech background, Elspeth set up an online community for her class and their tutor said they were the best-performing group in the past 25 years of running the course. This got her thinking about virtual classrooms. The result: Learning with Experts.
Elspeth says, “Learning with Experts’ vision is to ‘own’ online learning for adults studying new skills or a hobby.” They provide trusted online courses by world-renowned experts in their field and the line-up is impressive. They started with gardening courses: you can learn planting or perennial management with Piet Oudolf – garden design guru, and architect of the NY High Line – or the multiple Chelsea Flower Show winner, Andy McIndoe. You can do a course in rose growing with Michael Marriott, who has worked for David Austin Roses for 25 years, or self-sufficient gardening with Sally Nex, who writes for Crocus.
The advantage of the Learning with Experts’ online courses is that you can start whenever you’re ready and complete at your own pace. Unlike many online courses, you learn in private online communities rather than on your own which can be isolating. Each lesson starts with a 30-minute video from your expert tutor. You can share assignments, message and discuss topics online with fellow classmates and get personal feedback from your expert tutor without stepping out of your front door.
Elspeth explains the idea behind the platform: “We think learning has lost some of its magic. We believe that magic happens in small tribal learning communities. Our on-line way of working unites experts with the community, creating a productive learning environment wherever you are.” They must have got it right as their course completion rate is 80 per cent compared to the industry average of 10–20 per cent and the customer feedback is rated as “great” on the ratings provider Trust Pilot.
Learning with Experts now runs courses in food and drink, jewellery (with Joanna Hardy of BBC Antiques Roadshow fame) photography, floristry and antiques and is expanding into other areas too. Craft beer, art, art appreciation and interiors have all been mentioned. Elspeth says: “We are also hoping to hook up with top chef and local restauranteur, Raymond Blanc, for our food and drink strand”.
The platform boasts over 31,000 students in 58 different countries, mainly hobbyists or those looking for a career change. Basic courses start at £29. They jump up in price if you want expert input but as Elspeth says: “You then get the bragging rights and can say you’ve learned flower arranging with Paula Pryke OBE.”
Elspeth’s next challenge is to scale-up the business: “We are looking to recruit a bigger team this year and we are raising capital to fund the next stage”. With a healthy interest already, the company anticipates closing its current funding round by the beginning of April. She says they love working out of OCFI and are keen to make better links within Oxfordshire, especially with all the expertise within the two universities.
Having spoken to Elspeth, I am tempted to learn how to “plant the Piet Oudolf way”…..What about you?
If you’d like to be interviewed for our head-to-head series, email Georgina Matthews on [email protected]