Learnology was going to be the first grind school in Ireland to provide grinds at only €10 per class. But just because we were low cost, this did not mean that we would take short cuts in respect of teacher quality. In fact, Learnology was going to bring some of the best teachers and finest book authors in the country to exam students. Not only to Chloe and Greg from the leafy suburbs of D4, but also to Stacey and Jason from crime-filled Coolock. When I say low cost, in actual fact it’s not really low cost at all. It’s normal cost. There is no reason for Expensive Greedy Grinds School (EGGS) to charge any more than €10-15 per student, per class. Well……there is……GREED.
Take a well-known EGGS on Dublin’s Leeson Street. I won’t mention the name for fear of receiving another letter of love and affection from Arthur’s Cock. In fact…… fuck it…… one of my objectives of this blog was to see how many SL’s I could get, and I’m a man who stands by my word, so here goes: THE INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION AKA THE INSTITUTE AKA LEESON STREET AKA GREEDY BASTARDS (SL).
The IOE runs weekly grinds for secondary students who need extra help (and who obviously have cash to burn – must be related to the dwarves) on evenings and weekends. It charges its students approximately €35 per class. If you consider that there could be 60 innocent students sitting in (squashed into) a class, the IOE are pulling in €2,100 for EVERY SINGLE CLASS they do. Let’s assume they run 15 grind classes a week, that’s a whopping €31,500 A WEEK. And this is not their main business; this is simply the evening and weekend grinds I am referring to.
It is common knowledge that the IOE own their premises on Leeson Street. They have no rent to pay like other EGGS who have to pay hotels substantial rental fees for conference rooms to hold their classes. The main cost of running a class for the IOE is the teacher. Let’s assume, and let’s be generous, that they are paying their teachers €300 per class. This leaves them with €1,800 to play with. I realise of course that there will be overheads and tax to pay etc., but once these are deducted, you can be pretty sure that the IOE are making a healthy 4 figure profit on each class they run.
What do they do with all this money? Your guess is as good as mine. But I often have visions of the owners sitting in the basement of the building on Leeson Street, masturbating at the sight of the mounds of cash that surround them in whatever direction they look. Ben Dunne once said that Seanie Fitz was “addicted to money”, in my opinion the IOE have a fetish for cash. My premonition of the email from UPC came true, for all we know this could be true too.
Considering that our school system in Ireland is so desperately shite that up to 73% of exam students need to do grinds (Student Enrichment Services Survey, 2010), the kind of rip-off strategy currently practiced by the IOE pisses me off no end.
My vision for Learnology was that we were going to charge a maximum of €10 per student to attend a class in our grind school. My strategy was that we would start off small in one centre in Dublin, and in 2 years from the date of inception, we would have centres in all the major cities (Learnology Regional) and towns (Learnology Local) across Ireland. We would start off with a universal charge of €10 per student, per class, and as we expanded across Ireland we would gradually reduce this to €5 per class, and still make a (moderate but by no means greedy) profit due to increase in volume. Learnology would be a national brand that would blow all the EGGS out of the water. Never again would a student, who had to do Irish or Maths grinds through no fault of their own, but as a result of a shite teacher in their own school, be ripped off by an EGGS.
Rather than locating somewhere in the Range Rover Vogue territory of south county Dublin, we needed to strategically locate ourselves in a venue convenient to all parties. Learnology was going to be accessible as much in terms of location as in terms of price. Having researched a number of venues, the one that seemed most suitable was the Alexander Hotel at Merrion Square. It was a short distance from the DART so that Greg could get to us from Dalkey, and Stacey could come to us from Harmonstown. It was a couple of minute’s walk from the Luas Green Line so Chloe could access us from Milltown, and just across the Liffey from the Luas Red Line so Jason could reach us from Fettercairn. We would also be served by the 46A bus which would bring Rory from Donnyrbook and Micko from Phibsboro.
The room rental fees the hotel was charging were not cheap, but we managed to negotiate a deal. Under no circumstances were we going to increase student’s fees because of expensive conference room rates.
About a week before our official launch, the Alexander Hotel decided to fuck us over. I won’t go into detail here, but it essentially meant that we really didn’t want to locate there anymore. We decided to continue shopping around and contacted several colleges such as the American College Dublin (ACD) on Merrion Square (where I had been lecturing part time), DIT Kevin Street, DIT Aungier Street and finally, DBS on Aungier Street. ACD didn’t work out as I would have inevitably ended up strangling the lady we were dealing with, neither Kevin Street nor Aungier Street were suitable, as the classrooms weren’t good enough to put a pack of dogs into them, but at DBS, we struck it lucky.
We met with a gentleman in DBS called Tony. He resembled a security guard more than a business man, but who was I to judge, as I would have been wearing my usual mix of shorts and t-shirt that day (it was August). He showed us the best classrooms he had, and was willing to drop the price to whatever we said we were willing to pay. I have never done a sweeter or easier deal in my life. Shooting a sitting duck would have been a far greater achievement than doing a deal with security guard Tony. In fact, I was nearly going to ask him to put on my pink lycra tutu to greet students when they arrived on day one, which I am sure he would have done without any hesitation whatsoever. Such were the lengths to which he seemed willing to go to get our deal across the line.
DBS were looking for ways to generate extra revenue in periods of down time, and this seemed to be a perfect option for them.
During the summer of 2013, anyone who was anyone in the teaching world would have been contacted, if not hounded, by yours truly. Anyone who had written a textbook, who had outstanding ratings on ratemyteacher.ie, who had taught previously in EGGS, was targeted. Noone in the ranks of Ireland’s teaching elite was safe.
Having met and interviewed a long list of teachers, PWD and I arrived at our final line-up of teachers. Below is an image of our teachers, in addition to a short bio on each of them:
Far left: John Morris, HL Business – 25 years teaching experience. Blackrock College teacher. Former IOE teacher. Contributor to RTE’s “Countdown”.
Second from left: Dervla Murphy, HL French – 7 years teaching in Loreto Beaufort. Lived and worked in Paris for 5 years. Master’s Degree from Sorbonne University. Author of one of the most popular Leaving Cert French textbooks, ‘Tout Va Bien’.
Third from left: Peter Jackson, HL Chemistry & Biology – Head of Science at St. Columba’s College. Former IOE teacher. Over 30 years teaching experience. Corrected Biology papers and appeal papers for the SEC for over 25 years. Author of ‘Essentials Unfolded – Chemistry’. Has written Biology revision notes for mocks.ie. Teaches other teachers how to teach Chemistry in PDST.
Centre: Brendan Guildea, HL Maths – One of Ireland’s Top Maths Teachers. Has written both ‘New Concise Project Maths’ and the new ‘Less Stress More Success’ revision books for Project Maths. Taught maths, applied maths, and physics to both Leaving and Junior Cert students since 1973. Corrected Maths papers for the Dept of Education and various Universities. Appears regularly in the media leading discussions on maths teaching, exams and syllabus.
Third from right: Declan O’Neill, HL English – Examiner at both Junior and Leaving Cert Higher Level English. Chief Advising Examiner in Higher Level English at Leaving Cert Level. Has written and set state exam papers. Education Officer for the NCCA.
Second from right: Richard Barrett, HL Irish – Head of Irish Department in Blackrock College. He is a state examiner in both written and oral Irish.
Far right: Noel Cunningham, HL Physics – 20 years teaching experience. Teacher in Kings Hospital. Owns website http://www.thephysicsteacher.ie. Over 1 million hits on his YouTube videos. Corrects Leaving Certificate Physics Exam Papers. Awarded the Institute of Physics Teacher of the Year award in 2009. One of his students achieved the top mark in the country in Applied Maths in 2010.
RIP Joe Reville
Up until approximately one week before our official launch, the Biology teacher at Learnology was going to be Mr Joe Reville. However, one morning a few days before our launch I received a phone call to say that Joe had sadly passed away. Of all the setbacks we could possibly anticipate, this was never one of them. As I mentioned in a previous chapter, Joe was an absolute gent and a legend when it came to Science.
As you can see from the above, our show had a pretty stellar cast. And now, for once this calibre of teacher was going to be accessible to students of all socio-economic backgrounds.
Having originally intended that we would charge €10 per student, per class, MBB managed to pull my arm and convince me that is was still ok to charge €15. After a bit of a scrap, we agreed on the price point of €15. Even at that it was still 60% better value than some of the EGGS.
Below is one of the flyers we sent to homes around Dublin which included our price comparison graphic. Said graphic featured extensively in our marketing campaigns:
As PWD was a wizard, who had worked in the area of eLearning for quite some time, he came up with the idea to make our class notes interactive. All other EGGS would provide boring, printed A4 notes, but we would be the first grind school to provide notes in a format that could be accessed on a tablet or smartphone. Elements of the notes would be animated, videos could be integrated, the answers to questions could be hidden and then revealed at a click etc.
When it came to marketing and advertising, we usually used our price point as a weapon. We launched a full blown attack on EGGS, nearly to the point that we actually threw eggs at the EGGS. For example, one evening when an EGGS in south Dublin was running a free grinds evening, I sent our mascot, a cheeky monkey called Learnology Louis, down to stand outside the school and wave at students as they walked in. Below is a picture of Learnology Louis with his lovely t-shirt, taken right outside the EGGS by another one of our team on the evening of the free grinds:
When the directors of this EGGS saw Louis coming, they rang me and started screaming down the phone. They even threatened to call the Gardai to get our poor little monkey removed. The problem was that the monkey was under strict instructions from me to stand OUTSIDE the hotel on the footpath and not to set foot on the grounds of the hotel itself. However, when the taxi driver was dropping the monkey to the hotel, he naturally dropped him at the hotel drop off point, which is technically on the hotel grounds. That’s where Learnology Louis was spotted.
The abuse that the monkey endured from the owners of the EGGS was traumatising. So much so that the he had to ring me and ask me what to do. When I received his phone call I was furious. I think I actually threw my Café Sol paper cup, half-full with extra strong, hot coffee, against the wall in anger.
The monkey had called me. Did this mean that he had removed his mask to make the call? If so, this would have been disastrous, the element of theatricality would have been completely ruined. But alas, he informed me that he was still wearing the mask and was speaking through the slit in the monkey’s mouth. Phew. Panic averted. What a relief.
The feeling of concern I experienced in relation to the lads from the EGGS abusing the monkey, and threatening to call the Gardaí, was about as significant as the feeling I experienced when BS told me he was resigning. In other words, non-existent. My only actual concern was that the monkey had taken off his fucking mask. That would have ruined my day and made me a very unhappy bunny indeed. So the general gist of my reply to Louis was “whatever you do, under no circumstances do you take off that fucking mask…… and don’t stop waving at the kids”.
The event was so profound that I actually ended up making a little video about it. In the video you can see footage of what actually happened that day.
Incidentally, the gentleman in the white shirt is actually a director of the EGGS in question, not an actor as most people think.
The Big Launch
Learnology launched officially in DBS on Saturday 7th September 2013. With some classes reaching up to 100 students, we were very happy with the turnout. The idea I had back in May, a mere 4 months prior, that I wanted my partners in OnlineGrinds.ie to create with me, which they declined, was now becoming a reality. From what I could see, this idea looked like it was going to work. And guess what? It would all happen without Sean and BS.
Next Chapter – Chapter 13: BS gets mad jeal of my new biz