Orson Tormey is a web application developers for many years in Bangkok and has founded Rabbitlearning since 2013. He’s working with local developers on mobile projects for education and e-commerce. We recently had an amazing opportunity to interview with the founder of Rabbit Learning about the start of the app and what it means for those who wish to actively learn another language.
1. For those who do not know you, can you please introduce yourself?
Hi my name is Orson Tormey, founder and CEO of RabbitLearning.com.
2. Can you please tell us what Rabbit Learning is, and when it was created?
I founded Rabbit Learning back in 2013. It’s a creative platform for language educators, that lets you create interactive language content that can be shared socially, or embed in language websites, blogs or course builders like Moodle. A lot of people have asked why the name Rabbit? A trivial answer would be I watched too many cartoons when I was young. A more thoughtful answer is the pet Rabbit I loved when I was 8. He was called Snowy (I’ll let you guess his colour!).
3. Rabbit Learning is a wonderful learning app packed with powerful features to teach languages. Can you please tell us how you came up with the idea?
At the heart of any successful entrepreneur is a great idea and a healthy ego and skill set to turn it into something of value. My inspiration came as I learned the Thai language. I’d tried all the books, attended classes, and tried lots of language apps but felt something was missing in the whole process. Isn’t that where a lot of good ideas start? A feeling of dissatisfaction, discomfort that starts you thinking about ways to ease that discomfort?
I took a long hard look at the exisiting apps and software that was out there. Lots of hard work by a lot of very good people. But most of it was hardcoded on paper, dedicated apps at great expense, and no flexibility to create your own language training that could be customised for a specific classes, courses or situations. I wanted to create an easy way to create and share a language course, where ideally, you could walk into a village with a microphone, then walk out with content that could be immediately shared online and enjoyed.
So, we created Rabbit, a ‘creative platform for language educators’ that lets you create interactive language videos, dynamic images with sound, and interactive popup phrases that can be shared anywhere. We’re not about creating courses, we’re about creating shared ‘Learning Moments’ suited for a mobile generation with short attention spans. It also helps language educators improve their social credentials by helping them showcase their skills and expertise quickly and simply too.
4. What is your biggest achievement since the launch of your app?
Well, we officially launched last week at Language Show Live, London. While it might sound like marketing fluffery to say people were excited about Rabbit, let me give you just 2 examples that helped highlight Rabbit’s amazing potential.
My first example is a major online tutoring company that wants to use Rabbit to create a core set of Learning Moments that can be shared with students after an online tutoring lesson. This helps the tutoring company differentiate itself from competitors and also helps the tutor.
After the tutor provides the ‘main meal’ i.e., the lesson over video, they then share a ‘chocolate’ a practise lesson made with Rabbit. The added benefit is the student can also share this lesson link online which helps drive additional leads back to the tutoring company.
A second example is network of schools in England teaching Gujarati. Gujarati is a northern state in India with close to 60 million people and Gujarati is the main language spoken. An important principle we learned, is that governments may want to teach English, but they definitely want to teach their own languages.
Unfortunately it’s very difficult to find packaged software to do that for many languages especially in a way that reflects their local culture. That’s why the people from the UK Gujarati schools were so excited to see how easily they could transform a lot of their printed educational materials to online with Rabbit.
5. Can you tell us about one of your favorite projects you have worked on?
If we’re talking about projects being done using Rabbit, I’m really enjoying working with Andrej from Aakanee.com. Andrej who lives in Switzerland has developed an amazing series of language learning images and sound for teaching Thai and Khmer. He has brilliantly transformed his enthusiasm for language learning into some amazing content.
Using Rabbit we’ve now been able to combine the individual images and sound files he created, into a series of interactive images, that provide the sound and additional teaching when specific hotspots are touched. See some of Andrej’s beautiful work on our website.
6. What do you think what makes Rabbit Learning different from the other digital language learning platforms out there?
There are a number of key differences:
(1) We’re a content creation platform for language educators.
We need language ‘artists’ (educators) to use our tools to create interactive language content they can share anywhere. Example, walk into a village with a camera and microphone. Walk out with language learning content you can share.
(2) We focus on small sharable moments.
Our content is small enough to be shared and practised on social media, which suits the time constraints and attention spans of mobile users. Small also makes it easy for educators to create something of value quickly. Other solutions like course builders, don’t have enough specific features for languages, require too much time input for most teachers, and are too long for most casual students.
(3) We’re about promoting the language educator.
We want to help language educators expand their own social profile and opportunities, while other solutions focus on their own brand and courseware. Rabbit helps educators create and share language content online to showcase their skills and expertise.
(4) We put the language educator back in the revenue equation.
Look at some of the biggest tech successes out there and you’ll see one key ingredient. People aren’t just consuming those apps, they’re making money from them. AirBNB, Uber, Youtube, Etsy and others. Our focus is to help teachers create content, share their content, and earn from views of that content.
7. How can your company hire web developers with the right skills and experience for available roles?
We use a combination of in-house and outsourced talent. Finding the right mix is challenging. Apart from making sure their technical skills are sufficient, we also focus also on the candidate’s job stability, ability to fit into our culture, and mental grasp of what we’re trying to achieve.
8. Do you have any success stories of people who have used the app and gone on to great things with their new language?
During our development we’ve had a lot of people try our mobile apps, and language content online. Since we don’t build ‘courses’ but software for creating ‘learning moments’, our successes have come in small ways with teachers who’ve used our software to create some really amazing interactive language content. Some very cool examples are available on our website at Rabbitlearning.com.
9. How is the app currently being used within school environments? And how would you like to see it being used 2 years from now?
Rabbit is predominantly being used by teachers, but we are seeing more and more interest in using it as a teaching tool inside the classroom by students themselves. Students can use Rabbit to create short language learning moments. They write stories, take photos and then find the native speakers at school or outside to provide the translations and voices.
Their content can then be shared with the school, parents and public to showcase language learning at the school. In the next 2 years we hope to see a lot more students using Rabbit.
10. What sort of advice would you give to our students who would like to start good projects like yours?
When I was young (many years ago now!) a good friend told me “You have to clean the stables before you get to ride the horse”. What he was saying was, get an education first, get a job at any level in the industry you want, and work hard. As your work experience improves, so will your job options. So, if you’re just starting, start with the right course!