Chris Williams, founder of Chatta tells us about online learning platforms.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Chris Williams: We are happy and healthy. The biggest change has been learning how to work online. Before COVID, I would travel the country visiting different schools every day. Now everything has changed I don’t go anywhere. I still work with schools but I’ve had to learn how to make training videos, run webinars and become skilled with a number of new digital tools.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Chatta.
Chris Williams: I’ve worked as a teacher for over 20 years in primary schools and in special education. Some of the methods I started to use in the classroom especially with technology made a huge impact and I started to write blog posts for others to read. When I was working after school I was invited to speak at a conference in the USA and realized there was lots of interest in the work I was doing. I managed to raise money to set up my company and build our software and very quickly our product, Chatta began to spread to other scores and other cities.
How does Chatta innovate?
Chris Williams: We are an education company and we try to combine proven methods and techniques into something simple that anyone can access. We develop our training software and classroom resources and scores and try to make an impact for children and young people. We are especially committed to inclusive education and removing barriers to learning for children and young people with special needs.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Chris Williams: This year has been hard because we haven’t been able to work in any schools. It’s been very difficult of course for scores and families too. However, we have adapted and developed our products and make big improvements. We created a new resource for families which helped us reach over 20 countries and the impact led to us being voted one of the world’s top 100 education innovations of 2021 by the Finnish education organization HundrED.
We’ve also been able to make major improvements and developments to our software. It has been a big job but because we haven’t been visiting scores we have had the time to really focus on designing and creating the software we need. This would have been much more difficult otherwise.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Chris Williams: It wasn’t a difficult choice but I decided I didn’t need a car this year so I ended the lease. The biggest lesson I’ve learned has been with our online training. When I made our first version I produced a linear training course for people to complete start to finish just the same as if I was meeting them face to face. This became very hard to edit and change so I have gone back to the beginning and made a modular course with lots of different bite-sized sections it is easier to update and people like being able to access the training with flexibility.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Chris Williams: The tools I’ve learned to use during this pandemic have been brilliant and I couldn’t imagine life without them. I use Thinkific for online training courses. I use Livestorm for webinars and online meetings. I use Asana for project management and collaboration
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Chris Williams: The education market is very crowded and competitive. With Chatta, we make an impact in lots of ways in nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools, and special schools. We have learned that it is our success stories and real-life examples of impact which help us to grow and reach new schools. We are developing new resources, software, and innovations, and our latest product focuses on language teaching and we hope to expand to more countries this year.
Your final thoughts?
Chris Williams: So many people have helped me and my company along the way and we wouldn’t be here without them. At the start of the pandemic, we were fortunate enough to take in investment funding from the UK government Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. This has allowed us to continue to focus on development and growth at a time when many of our regular business opportunities have been on hold.
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