Five minutes with Elspeth Briscoe at Learning with Experts

It’s good to know that there are some positive stories to come out of the coronavirus crisis: we interviewed Elspeth Briscoe Founder and CEO of Learning with Experts to find out how they’ve expanded over the last 12 months.

With the rapid shut down of face-to-face learning in March 2020, Learning with Experts looks like a start-up idea that could have been developed during the pandemic but the online learning platform was set up by Elspeth in 2015 to bring people together to learn from expert tutors – and uniquely each other.

“The pandemic has created a great opportunity for e-learning and our business has grown exponentially. In fact, our revenue has trebled in one year”, says Elspeth. “So much learning is isolating but what we do at Learning with Experts really builds communities and people can have fun learning together, which is incredibly important under the current circumstances.”

Learning with Experts provides trusted online courses by world-renowned experts in their field and the line-up is impressive. You can learn seasonal vegan recipes with Kirk Haworth, planting with garden design guru Piet Oudolf, do a photography foundation course with Michael Freeman, get a River Cottage diploma with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, learn classic French cuisine with Michel Roux or container gardening with Chris Beardshaw. Over the last year the company has launched courses on business and finance, art and design and wellbeing. And their new Tatler Collection – that teaches you how to cook a luxury dinner with Britain’s best chefs at home – is getting traction for Valentines Day.

The advantage of Learning with Experts online courses is that you can start whenever you’re ready and complete at your own pace. And, you learn in private online communities, rather than on your own, which is an added plus under lockdown. Each lesson starts with a 30-minute video from your expert tutor. The lessons are live and, unlike learning on Zoom, they use a multi-camera system which gives a much richer, three-dimensional experience – see the Art of Making Chocolate here. Classes are kept deliberately small so 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.

As digital learning becomes the new normal, tutors are excited about reaching audiences right across the globe and Learning for Experts is excited that their courses are creating online communities in specialist areas or “global classrooms”. They must be doing something right as completion rates for Learning with Expert courses are 80 per cent, whereas most online learning has an 80 per cent drop out rates.

“Our audience has grown hugely too”, says Elspeth. “Traffic has doubled over the last two years. We now have over 40,000 registered members from 78 different countries with students ranging from late teens to over 90! And the company has gone from 2 to 21 people in two years.”

Not only has Elspeth grown the consumer side of the business but business-to-business too. They are now working with key partners to deliver learning online, including Immediate Media (BBC Good Food, BBC Gardener’s World Magazine), Conde Nast (Tatler), the Royal Horticultural Society, and are undergoing CPD accreditation too. In addition, they have started running apprenticeships for jewellers with Goldsmiths and masters level teacher training courses with the University of Buckingham.

“We’re also excited about working with the NHS trusts,” says Elspeth. “We are collaborating with Oxford-based Professor Sir Muir Gray, former Chief Knowledge Officer for the NHS, to help provide training for healthcare workers post-COVID-19. This will be expanded to create courses for the older generation on wellbeing as many emerge from isolation after very long lockdowns.”

Elspeth says the team loves working out of OCFI and appreciates the flexibility of the office space on offer as the company grows and all the support offered by The Oxford Trust and Oxford Innovation.

If you want to find out more about Learning with Experts and their courses, see here

If you want to find out more about the Oxford Centre for Innovation, see here