Natalia Vladimirova of iDialogue tells us about learning with the world, not just about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Natalia Vladimirova: Good, thanks for asking. Most of our team (myself included) already went through COVID-19, luckily we experienced it in a light form. Apart from that, we are doing our best to adjust to the New Normal just like the rest of us.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded iDialogue.
Natalia Vladimirova: I always believed that in today’s increasingly interconnected and diverse world our success in life is defined by our ability to interact, cooperate, and learn with others who are different. This inspired me to create a global learning ecosystem that inspires students to become “world citizens” -to fulfill their potential in our globalized community, to celebrate and be enriched by diversity. The main idea behind iDialogue is to help students thrive in our interconnected world as they develop creativity, compassion, intercultural communication skills, and global citizenship.
How does iDialogue innovate?
Natalia Vladimirova: provides teachers and students with the best solution for remote learning and collaboration. We offer tools to support instruction, learning, grading, collaboration, and assessment, all while emphasizing the importance of social interaction and peer-to-peer learning.
Our platform allows educators to connect their classrooms with others around the world. We make it simple for virtual connections to exist in classrooms by combining everything needed in one platform: live video, file sharing, a partner classroom, and collaborative activities.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Natalia Vladimirova: The COVID-19 outbreak didn’t invent remote learning. But it certainly put a spotlight on the importance of supporting students and teachers wherever they are, in any situation, and in whatever way they teach and learn best.
To stay ahead of the curve we pivoted from being a simple platform for collaboration to a full-blown ecosystem that supports virtual learning. But we stayed true to our values and offer unique tools for immersive learning across geographical and cultural boundaries. Teachers and students benefit from access to virtual tours and exhibits, online fireside chats with experts from different areas, and unique extracurricular experiences curated by our ambassadors and partners around the world. These immersive, virtual activities include topics such as Indian cousin from Calcutta, sustainability from Costa Rica, and design thinking from Silicon Valley.
We believe the pandemic will end but the value for collaboration and co-dependence will stay. For better or worse, education has been transforming, and we want students, teachers, and parents to be able to take the most of the digital tools that can enrich learning experiences, both at school and at home.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Natalia Vladimirova: For us, the Coronavirus – as terrible as the consequences are for many people – had a positive effect. Right at the beginning, we saw an opportunity emerging in the field of remote learning and we shifted gears to leverage this transformation. As a result, our team expanded, our user-base grew 5X to over 100,000 students, and our revenues went up.
I think it is fair to say that the virus has brought out a trait that is one of the most important qualities for individuals and businesses – RESILIENCE. It feels as if we can get through this, we can get through any road that lies ahead.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Natalia Vladimirova: Rigorous planning and self-care (and yes they can go together hand-in-hand). While planning and discipline are the keys to your productivity, it is also important to realize that you’re no use to anyone if you’re running on empty. Caring for yourself first is often the best thing you can do, in order to serve your business and team better. I came to realize that I am not benefiting anyone when I am unbalanced – overworked, unhappy, or sleep-deprived– so I take time out of my day to exercise, connect with my family and friends, and sometimes even just to take a bike ride in the middle of the day.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Natalia Vladimirova: iDialogue is not just a new way of learning; it’s a way of working together.
The educational experience is totally out of touch with today’s students: they’re disengaged, and they’re not succeeding. While several EdTech companies provide remote learning services, iDialogue stands out in the modern ways it leverages technology and simplicity to create a rich and robust platform for both connecting and learning. Our platform helps educators take advantage of the very technology students are already bringing into the classroom: smartphones.
Your final thoughts?
Natalia Vladimirova: COVID-19 not only changed our plans for the holidays but also radically transformed most of the industries. We can either embrace or ignore these changes if we ignore them however, we run the risk of becoming irrelevant. It is time to change your perspective from seeing it as a threat to appreciate it, to welcome it as an exciting opportunity to reinvent yourself and your business. As entrepreneurs (at work or at heart), you just have to open yourself enough to all these experiences and learn from them.
Remember. What you give your attention to, grows. It’s normal “not to feel normal” at this time. But instead of dwelling on something that is beyond your control, try to redirect your attention towards the opportunities that come with this global transformation.