Author: Althea Chokwe
Many students feel that the average school is not as concerned with their overall wellbeing as with their contribution to the institution’s image. Commercial success is rather the area of focus. Stress, attention disorders, and drop-out rates are among a plethora of issues the traditional system fails to address. It pays more= more attention to letter grades and myopic testing. Other facts include a person’s learning style, interests, dedication, and environment. In the Internet Age, education is in competition with entertainment–unless the two are combined to maximize academic potential. Old-fashioned norms are thrown out for a mentally and emotionally aware approach to education, trading wooden desks for Zoom sessions from home.
Muhammad Al Andalusi, 27, embraces the evolving digital landscape in the age-old teaching industry. Al Andalusi, the founder of the Andalus Institute, an online Arabic language school, concerns himself with the progress and mental space of his students. Cultivating an image that resembles the elitist cohort is not a concern, as Al Andalusi prioritizes substance over appearance. Mastery of classical Arabic in only 15 months is the product alone, one he deems needs no introduction. The promise of a result as this, attracts droves of customers; a trend evident in the institute’s monthly income that consistently ranges between $20,000 and $50,000. Reeling in consumers is far from difficult; keeping them engaged in the program, however, is where the brunt of the work lies.
The Andalus Institute caters to those with the most hectic of schedules, a trickier situation than that of full-time programs. Al Andalusi’s solution is to assist them in balancing their busy lives and rapid progress in learning Arabic. This makes him more of a guru or advisor, an attractive deal for one paying only $2,000 entirely. Before starting the course, every student must make a schedule and listen to Al Andalusi outline: his expectations and highlight top recommendations relating to study habits, sleep patterns, and the like. But no one is off the hook afterward. The entrepreneur checks in with everyone individually throughout the 15 months to either scold or praise, but he comes from a place of being truly invested. After all, the Andalus Institute started off as a passion project, meant to combine Al Andalusi’s past online business experience with his love for the Arabic language.
Al Andalusi’s Instagram serves as a portal for 24/7 communication with both his students and those simply window shopping. Although there are other instructors in the school, everyone has direct access to the headmaster at all hours — an underrated feature of this company. Imagine being able to call a professor and get a response in under a few hours, regardless of whether it is a weekday or holiday. The students love it, and Al Andalusi honestly could not be less bothered.
Beneath the guise of accessibility, the 27-year-old is cleverly putting himself three steps ahead of his clients. If there were ever a general sense of dissatisfaction or disappointment, Al Andalusi is already aware. There is a sense of friendliness and familiarity between him and his followers. It’s a welcoming setting for even the shiest person on the block. Whenever Al Andalusi uploads a post pertaining to some feature of the Arabic lexicon, comments rush in with questions and responses. Al Andalusi does not only teach but collaborates. He’s not afraid to hand the spotlight to another bright mind.
Closeness is the core strength of the Andalus Institute. Scheduled check-ins, group sessions, and private chats lend a familial air to the whole experience, facilitating honest dialogue and discouraging unhealthy competition. Honesty is the best policy and the reason students are comfortable enough to voice their opinions in the open. Even better, there is a greater chance an individual critique or recommendation will be listened to, cultivating a culture of conceptualizing improvements to the program. Al Andalusi maintains a system behind the scenes where he hands over monotonous administrative tasks to an internal team, allowing himself to focus on the creative and public relations side of running his company.
And it works. Al Andalusi’s charming personality onscreen and offscreen renders him approachable and disarming. Even so, these traits are not confused with a soft teaching persona. On the contrary, every lesson comes with a challenge. And for anyone promising language fluency in just a year and three months, there is no time to waste on distractions or a persisting lack of energy. Al Andalusi’s method of combatting such missteps includes warning the student against bad diets and insufficient sleep, evoking the image of an athletic coach in many ways. It is a race, really, to master classical Arabic, despite the ease of working online and having one-on-one study sessions with an expert.
If deans and principals were available to regularly conference with their students, critics can say that satisfaction levels with orthodox education would be at unprecedented heights. While most formal institutions still keep some distance from their student body, entrepreneurs are offering a respite from conventionalism in this industry. Muhammad Al Andalusi is a part of this rebel class, and his hope is that a quality education will be affordable, accessible, and inclusive to all.
You can connect with the author on LinkedIn here.