Learn how to build an internet company teaching English to Spanish speakers online with Marcus Carter in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett from LifterLMS. Marcus currently lives in Spain and runs his online course website CarterSchoolOfEnglish.com.
Marcus grew up in the UK and traveled to Spain as a holiday destination when he was younger, and he thought that would be the place he wanted to live as an adult. He worked as a teacher in many different places and taught all ages from three-year-olds all the way to up to his oldest student who was 82.
One of the biggest obstacles he noticed in his profession was the way students learn languages and the materials that were available to teach students. That’s where he started diving deep into different methodologies and how he could facilitate learning as quickly as possible. Through this process Marcus ended up writing his own method for teaching language, which covers going from zero all the way up to an advanced level where he now uses Zoom to teach classes live.
Currently Marcus does a lot of marketing work on TikTok and Instagram Live. Getting TikTok users and Instagram users who are interested in learning English, he’s able to funnel them to his Telegram group where he markets his course offerings.
He is using the LifterLMS Groups functionality to sell to companies who are interested in teaching English to their employees. He adds in their company logo and sets up a group leader who can sign in and enroll their employees. Just because you sell to companies doesn’t mean you have to abandon individual learners. You can run both side-by-side in the same course.
Marcus also works with interactive quizzes in his LifterLMS website using Camtasia. You can work with H5P content or other interactive learning content in your LifterLMS website. At the moment the results don’t track to the reporting, but for flash cards or videos intermingled with knowledge checks, it’s a great avenue to explore.
To learn more about Marcus Carter and the great language learning content he has, be sure to head to CarterSchoolOfEnglish.com. He has an evaluation quiz there to test your level of language learning (from Spanish to English) and that helps him diagnose the level of course to introduce students to.
And at LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. If you like this episode of LMScast, you can browse more episodes here. Thank you for joining us!
Chris Badgett: You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to create, launch, and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end, I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.
Hello, and welcome back to another episode of LMScast. I’m joined by a special guest, his name is Marcus Carter. He’s from carterschoolofenglish.com. He teaches English online. He’s currently living in Espania. Welcome to the show, Marcus.
Marcus Carter: Thanks very much, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Chris Badgett: I want to get into your story a little bit of language learning online. There’s all these niches or as you say, in Britain, I think niches of online education and language learning is huge. I know the pandemic and stuff changed things, but take us on your story arc as a teacher and language learning. How did you go from being a British guy to living in Spain and teaching English to Spanish-speaking people?
Marcus Carter: Okay. Well, obviously when I finished studying in the UK, I did some traveling and basically Spain has always been a holiday destination for the Brits for most of my life when I was younger. And I thought that what better place to live than a place where you would go on holiday? That’s how I sort of started coming to Spain and I met a few people here. Cut a long story short, met my wife and the rest is history as far as living in Spain is concerned.
When I started my teaching career, I’ve been teaching in many different places. I’ve been teaching in schools, in language schools, in normal schools. I’ve taught all ages from three-year-olds, which I love teaching, three, four, five-year-olds, all the way up to 82, I think was my oldest student that I’ve had. I’ve been an employee, I was an employee for the first few years of my career. Then I branched out on my own and started opening up my own schools.
One of the biggest obstacles that I noticed in my profession was the way students learn languages and the materials that we had available to teach students. So I started diving quite deep into different methodologies and how I could facilitate learning. My premise was always, how can I make this as easy and as quick as possible, learning a language, especially like English, which is quite a difficult language to learn? Especially for Spanish speakers.
That led me down quite a deep rabbit hole where I ended up writing my own method because I couldn’t actually find the materials that I really wanted. I did franchise a method, but I couldn’t find the best of both worlds that fitted with the society in which I live. So I’ve written my own method, which goes from zero all the way up to an advanced level, and that’s what we use now online with our Zoom classes, my team of teachers and myself to teach students.
I had three schools before the pandemic hit us and obviously we’re all closed down, so we closed all the schools. But we continued literally immediately, because I’ve always been quite a fanatic as far as technology is concerned and I love tech. So I very quickly got some of the teachers who were senior teachers, up-to-date with all the technology so that they could continue online, including using these tablet things to write on and things like that and using some kind of digital whiteboard.
We finally got it all together, started with Skype, then we changed over to Zoom and that’s where we are today really Should I continue?
Chris Badgett: Well, yeah, that’s good. A couple of quick questions. When they were in-person schools, how many teachers… It was more than just you, you had some teachers, how big were these? How many students? How many teachers kind of thing?
Marcus Carter: Well, we’ve had up to about 22, 23 teachers in total. That was when we were our biggest time. I will say that before the pandemic actually we were… There’s more and more competition every day it seems to be. It became like a fashionable business to open an English school even if you knew nothing about English teaching, a lot of people were just opening English schools because it was quite a profitable business when many of us and then there were more and more and more. So you just had to keep working harder and harder on marketing.
I’ve worked very hard on SEO and all kinds of marketing techniques, I’ve tried them all over the years. Not really have much luck with internet marketing at all, really throughout all the time that we’ve had the website. One of the problems I had is I used to have a different name when I was a franchise, so I was using the franchise’s name, which I gave it to myself, I didn’t have to. I popularized that name where I am. Then when I stopped working with the franchise, I lost all my rankings completely. I was on page one and we were getting much more traffic.
That sent me back sort of five or six pages, really difficult to get back up on Google. I didn’t have much luck with that. Really, if you want me to segue into how I got into a LifterLMS now, is this a good time?
Chris Badgett: Yeah. And I do want to at some point circle back to designing the Carter Method, your own teaching method, but yeah, let’s go into the tech for a little bit of… You talked about Skype and Zoom, what we call instructor-led training, then where does WordPress and Lifter come into the picture of your tech stack here?
Marcus Carter: I’ve always wished for years now to have some kind of platform where my students can go online and find and do exercises and additional material and things, but I never had the technological know-how to really build that.
Chris Badgett: Like on their own without an instructor, right? Is that what you mean?
Marcus Carter: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: On their own, [crosstalk] time, passive.
Marcus Carter: Exactly, exactly. A login area where space where they could feel that they’re members of a place and they could go in and they could find their own material and even teachers could upload their own things maybe during the Easter holidays and things to do activities for students to do. I’ve wanted that for years really, but I’ve never really… It was never a necessity before the pandemic. And so when the pandemic came in, obviously we were online, we started online.
I lost all my traffic, obviously because we used to have high street schools, so it was people walking in through the door all the time. When you’re online and you’re not ranking well on Google, that doesn’t really happen. I had to look for new ways of finding traffic. I started, I’ve been… I consider myself an expert in phonetics under the umbrella of language teaching. It’s always been something that I’ve been advocating in my methods that I’ve been teaching.
I started working on social networks and I had never had any success with social networks before. I’ve had Instagram for years and I’ve actually had times in my life where I’ve tried to push it a bit harder and 200 people following me or 200 and something people. Actually my wife, she pushed me onto a TikTok and she said, “Try TikTok. Try using that.” I’m up to nearly half a million followers now on TikTok.
Chris Badgett: Wow. What kind of content are you putting on TikTok? Because most TikTok content is like five to 30 seconds, so what are you doing?
Marcus Carter: I’m actually going… I’m using the new… Well, not the new, but it’s relatively new that they let you upload now three-minute videos.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Marcus Carter: Having quite a lot of success with those, the recent ones I’ve been uploading [crosstalk]
Chris Badgett: Are you’re teaching a phrase or what is it?
Marcus Carter: No, because basically I know that the golden rule of marketing is that you have to strive to be different and whatever… You can’t be in the same category, you got to find your blue ocean. You can’t be in the red ocean where everybody is, and there’s lots of English teachers giving phrases and things like that. What I specialized in many years ago was phonetics and I advocate that you really need to learn to pronounce like a native speaker to be able to understand the native speakers.
Because Spanish speakers, the problem they have is they find it very difficult to understand fast conversation in English. I started publishing things that I have always encountered throughout my career that were difficult for students. I knew Spanish people, Spanish speakers, because a lot of my followers are from South America were having difficulties with, and a lot of those things were phonetics-
Chris Badgett: What’s an example of a phonetic thing you would put up to help people?
Marcus Carter: Well, maybe just the difference between can and can’t for example, that was one of my recent videos that I uploaded. Because the difference in phonetics, although they’re written the same way, C-A-N with a T on the end, I know that in North America you’d say can’t, but we say can can’t, it’s a completely different phonetic sound that we use. And really native speakers, I can play tennis, I can’t play tennis. I don’t really pronounce the N or the T, is just that long A that I use that a native speaker will understand and say that I cannot play tennis.
That would be an example and some difficult structures that are different in Spanish to English, things like that. I started taking off on this on the social media platform on TikTok, although, it’s a platform where it doesn’t really matter how many followers you have. When you launch a new video, your followers don’t necessarily see that video. It has to be spectacular content every time for it to go anywhere for them to push it. Not like Instagram, where your followers are going to see your stories and they’re going to see your posts.
Which is good in some sense, because you strive to create new content all the time. Then I started going into live TikTok sessions, which really opened my eyes to a new way of driving traffic and moving people to my website and to… I created a Telegram group as well, there’s over 6,000 people in the telegram group now. It’s a place where… Because from TikTok, I couldn’t really speak to those half a million people and say, “Hey, I’ve got this course. Why don’t you try this? Or you do it live, or you don’t do it.”
My humble 26 years of experience, I’m quite comfortable in front of a camera speaking to… When I go live on TikTok, I’ve had my maximum being 1,270 people watching me-
Chris Badgett: It’s a lot of people.
Marcus Carter: … at the same time. That’s a lot of people at the same time, because on Instagram, you’re lucky if you get, even like the famous people that get a couple of hundred people watching them at the same time most of the time. I’ve got a normal average of 5, 6, 700 people at the same time watching me. I know that most of them are not really interested in what I’m saying, they’re just flicking through, but there is a constant fan base there. And I traffic those people to Telegram so that I can remarket them there and to my website.
This is where I started with LifterLMS and thinking of what can I do? How can I turn the website into some sort of platform where people could learn English with me? A lot of people ask me for classes when you’re quite popular on social media. “Can you give classes?” Obviously you can’t because you’ve only got a certain amount of hours a day and you’re talking about 100 to 1,000 of people. I didn’t have that many people asking for classes. But what I did is I started thinking, “What could I digitalize and put onto a course?” And the first thing that came to my mind was phonetics, because-
Chris Badgett: Are these free courses or paid courses?
Marcus Carter: No, no, they’re paid courses.
Chris Badgett: Okay.
Marcus Carter: I have invested so much of my time and I do invest so much of my time for free for people, especially on the TikTok lives. I now do TikTok and Instagram at the same time live.
Chris Badgett: What tool do you use for that?
Marcus Carter: The thing is here in Spain, we can’t get an RMTP code for TikTok. I think you can in the states, but I can with Instagram. I use OBS with Instagram and what I’m trying to do now, and don’t tell anybody about this, it’s going to be broadcast, but is I’m trying to traffic people from TikTok to Instagram, being very careful because TikTok detects when you move people from the lives. I’m sure they do because they punished me in the past, so you got to say it very…
You’ve got to be very subtle and say, “Hey, why don’t you check out my Instagram when this finishes and follow me, because what I do is I’m using OBS software, which I suppose you’re familiar with and I’m projecting semi-transparent things onto my live sessions. Phonetic, symbols and phrases in phonetics so that people can see it, but they can’t see it in TikTok.” What I do is I download the live show from Instagram or I publish it on my feed on Instagram with those projections.
That is a reason why people who are on TikTok might want to go to my Instagram. And now, every live show I’m… It’s not to show, but every live lesson that I’m doing, which is about an hour long, I’m managing to move about between 70, 80, 90,100 people from TikTok to my Instagram account every time I do it. I presume that they are warm customers, people who are interested in what I’m doing, they’re going there, they’re following me. They’re interested in learning English, otherwise they wouldn’t go there.
That’s how I’m generating traffic now to the website because I’m then going from there. I’m also promoting every five, 10 minutes a new level test, which I have designed. I’ve got on my website level testing is also something that students really like to do. They like to know how much English they know. The level tests that are basically available online is just a grammar test where just ABC, let’s see if we can fill in the blank and it’s not very trustworthy.
It’s not very reliable really to tell you what level of English you have, because when I level test somebody through Zoom, it’s always an oral test to see what you understand, and I get more and more difficult. I’ve tried to change this to a test where people listen to things on the website and I’m actually using LifterLMS for them to register, to get their data before they do that level of test as a way of just having their information so that I can remarket them.
That’s a free test and that’s a good way for me at least to get people to go to the website and do the test. When they finish the test, according to what school they have, they are sent to one page or another, where there’s a little video of me saying, “This is your level of English, this is the course I recommend.” And then we give them the calendar slot where they can reserve a free class with us, which is a one-to-one Zoom group class.
Chris Badgett: At this time, what percentage of the training is course-based versus Zoom class-based? Self study versus active.
Marcus Carter: Right. At the moment, I would say most of it is active courses at the moment because my phonetics course is something that people don’t really understand very well yet. Only the people that have done it love it. But when you say to somebody… Look the problem with learning English,” because here in Spain, for example, people learn English throughout their whole life and they’re never satisfied and they always want to know more. And they think it means that you’ve got to learn the most advanced vocabulary and grammar to get to the higher level when really what you need to do is understand how we speak and just get that fluency.
At the moment, I’ve literally only been doing this for the last few months. I’ve had quite a few students go through the course on the LifterLMS plugin and everybody loves it. What I’m doing now since I acquired the groups plugin, which for me was a massive game changer because I have been working with companies for many, many years since I started my career here in Spain, teaching English to the employees, most of them were company directors. I realized something I could do, I could offer the different packages of licenses to companies and put them into this group package.
That’s where I am right now. I’m very, very heavily marketing companies, phoning all the dozens and dozens and dozens of contacts that I have already before I start cold calling to offer them the phonetics course as either a compliment to what they’re already doing or as a just a unique course that they can do at the moment. What I’m doing just so that I give you my… This is my marketing tactic at the moment. I phone the company, I speak to human resources.
I say to them, “Look, I’ve got this course. This is something that you haven’t seen before. It’s something that I greatly recommend and I would like to offer you a demonstration of this product.” And they say, “Yeah, that sounds okay.” I say, “Can I have your email?” And I just take their email and then I set up the group in the backend, I put the banner up, I put their logo in, I get it all from the internet. I rescale everything. I create their group, I open up three or four seats, and then I send them the link.
I enable the link and I send them the link so that they can go straight in, they can register and they can try the product. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last two weeks and having some success. Companies are starting to go in, they’re trying the product. This takes time, I know, but I think that one of the major outlets for my course is going to be with companies because… Well, one of the companies has already bought the large, what I call unlimited licenses.
They have lifetime access and unlimited licenses. If they need more, I just open up new seats for them.
Chris Badgett: That is cool. LifterLMS groups allows you to get a leader at the organization and then they can have a certain number of seats. You guys work out a price for their license. You have this big unlimited license. Is it fair to say that just from a business standpoint, from a revenue perspective, there’s these two different markets, there’s the individual learner and then there’s the company.
Marcus Carter: Exactly.
Chris Badgett: Going after companies, doesn’t mean you have to abandon individual learners, but there’s a lot of revenue potential there, right?
Marcus Carter: Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s like the long tail, isn’t it? That they [crosstalk] where you’ve got. You can have hundreds of thousands of individual learners. And it’s something that I totally agree on that and I’m going to start a new campaign, I think next week I’ll be starting, just for individual learners to get them onto the platform. I have had quite a few individual learners go through and every time they go through, I create a little group. I did the first course I ever did.
I created a little Telegram group and I was giving them a class on Saturday as well as doing the course. And they will love that because we all go together and we could speak about things. Because obviously what I find in language learning, I’m fighting against a divided society where people want to be face-to-face with their teachers because they think that you can’t learn English if you’re not face-to-face. And also how can I sell a course that they don’t interact with really?
I’m fighting against those two great obstacles in my business at the moment. The first thing I decided to do was, we’ve had enormous success with our students this year as far as passing official exams more than any other year this year, actually. I really do think, because a lot of parents says, “Oh, I don’t think my child really concentrates as well when they’re online is when they’re in the academy.” And I’m thinking to myself, “But do you know what your child was actually doing when he was in the school? He’s in the academy, you don’t know that. You can see him now, but maybe he was worse when he was in the academy and now he’s calmer.”
What I’m doing with the digital course is turn it into something more and more interactive, because I have been a consumer personally of digital courses myself and I really liked them because you can go back to them. If you go to a school for a couple of hours a week for English lessons, you’ve got two or three hours a week, and then it’s up to you to open your book and see what you can do between now and the next lesson. Whereas with the digital courses, you can go back to that same lesson over and over again, and it’s the same one and you can learn that concept well.
That’s one of the great advantages of the digital course. And with the language learning, obviously all the courses I’ve done, it wasn’t really necessary. They were personal growth and those things, it wasn’t really necessary for me to interact with that person who was speaking to me. But language learning, there has to be some kind of interaction or something from the student. That was my massive learning curve over the last few months of how to create a course where people could actually… which was more interactive than just a video and PDF or something underneath it.
Chris Badgett: How do you do that?
Marcus Carter: This is where it gets a bit more complicated. I’ve been bouncing around what they call interactive video creating programs or software. And I sort through-
Chris Badgett: Like H5P or what?
Marcus Carter: Don’t know that one, but Camtasia, have you heard that one?
Chris Badgett: Yeah.
Marcus Carter: Right. I was on Camtasia for a while, but basically the only interaction that you have is you can bring up a little quiz in the middle of the, wherever you want or you can move the play head. They can click on something and the play head moves, but it was quite limited until I discovered Adobe Captivate. That’s the game changer, total game changer [crosstalk]
Chris Badgett: For interactive content.
Marcus Carter: Yeah. But it’s just… It’s really complicated. It’s a really complicated program. I do everything. I’m the graphic designer, I’m the sound technician, I’m the video editor. I do everything myself. That was something that I was talking to your colleague, Will about, saying that we’re in a time where you might be a yoga teacher and you’ve got LifterLMS, and you’ve got your little yoga website and you want to do a course or something like that. We don’t necessarily have the means to pay graphic designers and video editors and sound technicians. We have to learn most of these things ourselves. And I consider myself-
Chris Badgett: Quick clarifying question there. You have other teachers that work with you, but in terms of running the school and the online version of that, you do everything by yourself, is that correct?
Marcus Carter: Yes. Yes.
Chris Badgett: Wow. That’s impressive.
Marcus Carter: My son helps me with… Yeah. He helps me with the website, the design of the website and things like that, but he’s not a professional either. He just helps me with that to take some of the load off. But all the content creation, he helped me with the editing of some of the videos in premiere too, I do it all myself, including the recording and the lighting. Yeah, everything. That’s pretty… One thing I’m very, very adamant about is quality. I like to deliver good quality.
Good quality audio, good quality something that’s visually pleasing to look at. When you’re on the website, that everything looks good and sounds good. I don’t like shabby things, so I spend a lot of time and all the little details. When I got to Adobe Captivate this program, I’m very familiar with Illustrator, Premiere, Photoshop, all of those programs, Audition, because that’s what I’ve been using for years. But Adobe Captivate, although it says Adobe, it used to belong to other companies previously and it doesn’t really look like an Adobe program and it definitely doesn’t behave like the Adobe programs.
Luckily, I did find one person in particular, who’s got lots of tutorials on YouTube and he’s very helpful tool. You can ask him questions and he’s got me out of some sticky situations with the interactive videos. But basically I’ve ended up now, and I’m just finishing the course. My course has 12 lessons. I’m on lesson 11 and then 12 to finish the interaction with the videos going back through them right the way from the beginning. I’m redoing all of them, making them all interactive.
Chris Badgett: This important point I just wanted to highlight is, sometimes when you launch a course that’s not the finish line, that’s the starting line. You’re actually revisiting your original video course and making it better by making interactive lessons, so it’s like another version, right?
Marcus Carter: Totally. Totally. In fact, I call it Pro Speech 2.0. this is the second version. Absolutely. And I agree with you, and this is probably the third or fourth time I’ve gone back to the beginning of the course and I’ve started revamping and-
Chris Badgett: Nice.
Marcus Carter: … redoing it. My wife keeps saying, “Stop going back over the course. You don’t sell it more because…” But I can’t. Because when you discover something new in the technology, you think, “Wow, I can put that into the course and then go back to the beginning. As I said, 12 lessons, it might not sound like much, but there are hundreds of hours that I’ve put into that course, literally sitting on this chair.
Chris Badgett: Approximately, how many… People ask this question and it’s really it depends question, which is how long should my course be? But how long is your 12-lesson course to in total more or less?
Marcus Carter: It’s a very difficult question to answer because one of the things that I do when I sell the course to the companies, here in Spain, we have what’s called [Funde]. Fund Day is, they give money to companies… But they don’t give money. Actually, from your social security payments that you pay, a little bit of that money goes for training that the company can then reinvest in the employees. And so it can be language courses or whatever. So anything that you do has to be within the guidelines of Funde.
One of the things they ask you is, “How long does it take to do your course?” Because they pay per hour to the students. And it was really difficult for me to think, where the video lasts 20 minutes and then underneath that, and then there’s some exercises within the video because there’s… Actually, I’ve got this interactive videos, so maybe 20 minutes, let’s hand on another 20 minutes, about 40 minutes of video. Then I’ve got all my audio exercises, then I’ve got my own evaluations, then I’ve got the LifterLMS evaluations.
And I thought, well, I could probably do that in about an hour and a half, but then I think students won’t have learned everything in that hour, they’ve got to go back over that and revise that. I find that’s a difficult question to answer actually and I don’t really have a straight answer. I don’t have a little formula to calculate how long it would take. But for example, in the Chamber of Commerce, they’ve just accepted my course here where I live, in the region where I live.
They said to me, “The course has to be a minimum of 50 hours.” And I said, “That’s it. Don’t worry, it’s 50 hours.” I just said, “It’s 10 lessons… Five hours each. 12 lessons, four and a half hours, each lesson and that’s it.” They said, “Well, how do they do that?” I said, “Well, they got a week. They go through the lesson and they revise it and revise it, and there’s things to read and things.” It’s a difficult thing to say that, and people want to know, it’s one of the questions.
People say, “How long does it take to do the course?” I had it on drip content, my course. I thought, there’s a lot of information. I’m going to release a lesson per week. Then a lot of people were saying to me, “I want to do it faster.” Since I’ve been doing all the interactions, I’ve now released the first 10 lessons. 11 and 12 will be released very, very shortly this weekend. I’ve taken off the drip content, so people can do it at their own pace.
Chris Badgett: Do you do the prerequisite, so they have to do it in order, or do you not have that set?
Marcus Carter: I don’t know if I have that active. No, maybe they don’t have to do it in order. I didn’t actually think about that. I’m not familiar with that little part of the course to actually establish that [crosstalk]
Chris Badgett: What about getting the Captivate into the WordPress site into the LifterLMS lessons? How do you do that? What tools do you use or was that hard to figure out? Because we get asked that question all the time. I’m just curious how you solved it.
Marcus Carter: Everything has been really hard for me to figure out because I’m not an expert in any of this, and everything is whatever I need to do. I’m on YouTube and I’m looking for things and I spend hours on YouTube, listening to people. Anyway, I discovered a fast hosting service called Bunny, like a bunny rabbit, bunny.net, and it seems to be very, very good and very, very cheap. [crosstalk]
Chris Badgett: And I can hold Captivate content in Bunny?
Marcus Carter: Well, yeah, Captivate content at the end of the day, it’s just HTML5. When I first did my course, everything was on YouTube and it was obviously hidden on YouTube, and I was just streaming from YouTube. But then people started saying to me, “People can pirate that and download your videos and things.” And it looks horrible at the end because you get all the offering [crosstalk]-
Chris Badgett: Just recommended your competition?
Marcus Carter: Exactly, yeah. When I discovered that this was going to be HTML5, I thought, “Right, you can’t host interactive videos on YouTube.” That forced me to look for something else. I have my hosting service for my website, but bunny.net covered all those bases much better than anywhere else. It’s a very fast hosting service, super cheap, and I’m really happy with it. All I do is I just have it hosted there. And on the course, on my LifterLMS course, I just put an iframe at the top. And I just put the URL into that iframe and there it is, there’s the video.
Chris Badgett: On the WordPress site, you’re basically on a lesson, you’re just embedding an iframe that you get from Bunny?
Marcus Carter: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Chris Badgett: Then when you use Captivate to create the interactive video, do you upload that to Bunny?
Marcus Carter: Yes.
Chris Badgett: Wow. That’s cool.
Marcus Carter: Yeah.
Chris Badgett: I love how you said YouTube as a tool to figure things out. That’s where you go. I see the people that are the most successful, they don’t have all the answers, but they know how to search for answers. And they’re not afraid of spending a little bit of research time or reaching out the experts on YouTube. YouTube is definitely a place to learn, for sure.
Marcus Carter: Yes, absolutely. I agree with you.
Chris Badgett: While we’re in the tech, why WordPress and why did you end up with LifterLMS? Or how did that happen?
Marcus Carter: Okay.
Chris Badgett: Were you’re always running your site on WordPress, like a marketing site-
Marcus Carter: Yes.
Chris Badgett: … kind of thing?
Marcus Carter: Yeah. Really I don’t even know what alternatives there are. I don’t know any other way of doing it. My brother-in-law is an IT engineer and he’s got his website, and it’s on… He leaps from his website, he sells software from his website and he’s got it on WordPress, so that was a logical place to go. And as I say, I didn’t know any other way of doing it. That was the only thing, everybody said, “Well, everybody’s on WordPress, so let’s do that.”
LifterLMS, I started… I don’t want to disparage any other kind of plugin or anything, but I started with this other membership plugin and it was really, really complicated, difficult process, people couldn’t log in. It was just a really difficult thing to do, and visually, it was very… I was very unhappy with it. I did have somebody who was helping me at that time with that plugin and he was being a bit of my community manager with social media and helping me with things like that at the same time.
He was the one that installed that plugin and we were using that for some time at the beginning, but it wasn’t an LMS. It was just a membership plugin that we were using. I was very unhappy with it because I can’t stand it when people come back to me saying, “Oh, we’re having problems logging in.” When you’ve got tech problems for something that you’ve been working so hard on a course and you’ve got everything ready, and then there are other things… Silly things that they can’t overcome to get onto the course.
Literally, I will say that on YouTube, I saw this guy and he said, “How to set up an LMS,” I don’t know, “in an hour,” or something like that or… It was a long tutorial and he was really good, this guy. I think he was Danish or Swedish or something like that. I can’t remember. I can type-
Chris Badgett: It might be Ferdy Korpershoek-
Marcus Carter: That’s the guy.
Chris Badgett: … or something?
Marcus Carter: That’s the guy. I don’t know if you’re paying him or whatever, but [crosstalk]-
Chris Badgett: I’m not. He makes great WordPress tutorials.
Marcus Carter: Yeah. He was the one. Well, I didn’t even know what LMS. This is the thing. There’s so many things that you… I didn’t even know that existed, L-M-S.
Chris Badgett: As a category of software.
Marcus Carter: As a category of, yeah, to put onto the website. I thought, “That’s just what I needed.” That’s how I stumbled across LifterLMS and I followed his tutorial, I installed everything. I had to basically extract the course from where I had it before and reput it into LifterLMS. I redid lots of things, this was another one of the times when I went back to the beginning, I doubled my audios and different things like that. It took quite a long time, it took me about a month to get it back up to scratch again on the website, and then it went from there.
Then I went to the bundle, is it the Universe Bundle? I think it was, so I could get the payment gateway, then groups and that’s where I am really.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. You mentioned earlier, Telegram is a tool you use. I know people are pretty familiar with social media like TikTok and Facebook, and whatnot, YouTube, but what about Telegram? Can you just for the layman who hasn’t heard of it before, explain what it is and how you use that in your tech stack?
Marcus Carter: Yeah. Telegram began at the same time as WhatsApp. I don’t know if it was a bit before or a bit afterwards, and it was like, I don’t know if you remember Beta and VHS when the two [crosstalk] 50 now, so there was a little war to see who was going to win. WhatsApp were the winners there, but people were using Telegram many years ago, and I hadn’t heard about it for a long time until this community guy that was working with me said, “Hey, why don’t we set up a Telegram group and channel people from the live sessions into the Telegram group?”
Telegram is basically very similar to WhatsApp as far as groups is concerned. The difference is that WhatsApp, you can put 250 people into a group and Telegram, you can put 200,000 people into a group. Basically, it’s just an instant messaging service, but it does have, for example, really cool emojis. Not that that’s really interesting for me, but a lot of people like that, is much better than WhatsApp in that sense. And you can now do calls, you can do a voice call to everybody in the group [crosstalk]
Chris Badgett: Like a webinar kind of thing.
Marcus Carter: Yeah. I can do a webinar in Telegram, which is pretty amazing. I haven’t tried that yet, but I will say at the same time that although I have 6,000 people in the group, a lot of people fall into the Telegram and then I think they forget about it. Because I’ve fallen into groups myself and don’t really listen too much about what they’re saying there because it tends to be just publicity.
Chris Badgett: So it’s like email list for text messaging and phone kind of thing?
Marcus Carter: Yeah, that’s right. The only thing is you don’t get the people’s information in Telegram, they’re just there, so you can publish things. The good thing about Telegram is you’ve got a channel and you’ve got, well, I call it my tribe, but I don’t know what it’s called the group or something like that. In the channel, if you want, you can open a channel. And if you’ve got interesting content with value that you’re adding to people, you can create the channel. Everybody’s in the channel, the only person that can speak is you, and publish is you.
If at the same time you want people to comment on what you’re doing, you open up the group as well and people can be in both places where they see what you’re publishing and they can comment in the other side. And if people are not interested in the comments, they just stay in the channel and just watch what you’re publishing. That’s pretty cool.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. I got a bunch of, they’re going to sound random questions, but there’s like a framework that I use that you got to wear all these different hats to be successful with these kind of projects. If we put on the marketing and sales hat, one of the things we need to understand is motivation. Why do Spanish speakers want to learn English? I know you serve a bunch of different markets and target customers, but what is the main driver and motivation behind the people that buy your programs?
Marcus Carter: Well basically, I would say not only Spanish people, but also South America too. The main motivator is that everybody knows now that if you don’t speak English, your life is pretty limited to your little nation or to your little town, or your region or whatever. You can’t really go. If you want to learn anything on YouTube, obviously, there’s a lot of content in Spanish, but the vast majority is in English, the vast majority. English films whatever. If you want to travel, wherever you want to work in Spain now, the first thing…
I got a call the other day from one of the companies I used to teach at and they said to me, “Look, we want a salesman who’s going to have a very good job, but the only requirements is he has to be trilingual, English, Spanish, and French, those three languages. We’re not looking for university degrees or anything like that, or college degrees or whatever.” And so languages are… Knowing English here in Spain, it’s like the eternal subject of the Spanish speakers, because it’s never been taught very well in schools.
It’s always been like couple of hours a week, that’ll do. Not with a very good methodology, 30 kids in the class, it’s difficult to teach a language. You can’t treat language learning like Maths, because I was saying, “You have to interact.” With Maths, you can passively watch a whiteboard, see what he’s doing, calculate it, and hand your homework in or whatever. But language learning is different. Actually, it’s a communication tool that we humans have converted into an academic subject.
Why? Because we’ve studied it and all the biomechanics of language learning, but really it’s just a tool to communicate with other people. And to do that, you have to interact and you have to listen. That’s a long answer to your question, but [crosstalk]-
Chris Badgett: Oh, it’s good. It’s like it opens up opportunity, a lot of different types of opportunity. What about the friction point of… You mentioned that some of your learners are children, kids. How do you solve that technically or in terms of making the sale or whatever? I know in different countries, there are different laws and minors, and does the kid have an email address? Does the parent need to be in the loop or not? It’s just another customer, it doesn’t matter how old they are. What has been your experience around serving kids with an online education company?
Marcus Carter: We have an enrollment form online, so when parents come in and they want to enroll their children onto one of our courses, I like courses, then they have to abide by what they said, and they have to check off the regulations that we stipulate and say that… Because we record all our classes as well. That’s one of the advantages is that all the classes are recorded so that parents can see them if they want to, children can revise them if they want to, or if anything happens, we have a recording of those classes. We obviously have to have permission from parents to record the classes as well.
Basically as they enroll, they have to agree to those terms and tick all the boxes. That’s the way we do it.
Chris Badgett: That’s cool. You mentioned creating your own instructional method. It’s called the Carter Method. And one of the things we have to do as education entrepreneurs is we have to be a expert and we have to be a teacher. And you were saying that the traditional methodology just wasn’t working for you, so you went back to first principles and built your own. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and what you discovered creating your own method? And if somebody else is thinking about really going back to the roots and building up a better way of teaching a subject, give us some advice around that.
Marcus Carter: Obviously, when I was first teaching, I was using materials that were famous materials, Oxford University Press and Cambridge University Press and those kind of things. But I noticed that I was bored. I was bored teaching those materials. I was thinking, “This is not fun to teach.” And I was thinking, “If it’s not fun to teach, it’s not fun to learn either.” As you were saying, teachers, educators, and things, when I… I’ve had nearly 200 teachers go through my schools when we counted them just recently.
I probably interviewed almost all of them myself, personally. What I look for in a teacher, the last thing I look for is, do you know… Obviously, you have to be a teacher obviously, but what I want to see is are you a performer? Are you an actor? Are you a clown? Are you a funny smiley kind of person? Motivation is like the number one driver for any human being to do anything really, we need to have some kind of motivation.
And so I thought, “I need to…” The only way people can be motivated is if they feel that they are progressing. That’s one of the best motivators, the quicker they progress. And as I said at the beginning, my idea is to make this as easy and as quick as possible for students to learn the language, maybe a lot of… I’ve heard things from other schools, they say, “No, they keep you there for years before they do the exam to keep you hanging on.” I did the opposite.
I thought, “I’m going to teach as quickly as possible.” I prefer to have a reputation for being a fast, place where you learn quickly and you get out, and then more students come in because of that reputation. With language learning, obviously, there has to be an interaction, much more interaction. I know that language has four skills, reading, writing, listening, and speaking. Those are the four skills and most of the materials that are available are focused on teaching larger groups where it’s reading and writing, a little bit of listening, a bit of speaking.
I thought, “No, this has got to be the opposite and this has to be in the order of a child, when a child is learning.” The child starts listening to things without really understanding. Doesn’t have a second language to translate to to just decode these things that you’re saying. And after that, they start speaking, which is the second step. And then the third step, when they go to primary school, they would start reading, and then finally start writing.
So I developed a method where first students listen to the vocabulary that we’re going to be using, and I put that vocabulary into context and explain it to them. Then they use that vocabulary with me with the questions that I asked them. They are actually using the language immediately, even if they’ve never spoken English before and it’s their first class. They’re immediately speaking in the first class with the teacher. That way they progress.
So many times people have said to me, “I’ve tried learning English so many times, but this is the first time I’ve actually felt that I’m actually progressing and I’m actually getting somewhere.” Because they’re using the language from day one and they’re breaking all those stigmas and barriers of, “Oh, I get embarrassed when I speak English, I’m going to get red, oh I’m going to make a mistake.” That doesn’t matter because you’re just continuously speaking in our classes.
So we’re focused on oral interaction really with the teacher, and reading and writing is like the least important thing on our agenda. Although it is included because they have to pass exams a lot of the time and things like that, but that’s a… 90% of our class is based on speaking and that’s much more enjoyable than reading or writing, and it’s more fun. With that way, the teacher can put his personality into the class as well. That makes it more fun for the students.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s awesome. Well, two more questions for you. One, if somebody is listening and they’re thinking about choosing LifterLMS for the online course, part of their LMS, Learning Management System website, what advice do you have for them about that?
Marcus Carter: Well, I definitely recommend it, absolutely. My experience until now is very, very good. I’d especially like to give a shout out to your support team as well, they’re great as well. I keep getting messages really quickly back from them for all the things that I don’t understand and they always help me. Especially when you get a new plugin and things like that, you can have these weekly calls and things and it’s really good support. In that sense, for me, that’s really important.
And I imagine that a lot of the people who are putting LifterLMS plugins onto their websites, they’re not particularly tech savvy. I don’t think so, so it’s really important to have that support. That’s one thing that I would definitely say in your favor. One of the things that I would say maybe I haven’t done as well as I should have in my course is plan the course out from beginning to the end. I’m quite a spontaneous kind of person, so even my videos.
My son said to me… Because I now have a teleprompter, but I didn’t have one before. It was all off the cuff, talking into the… And my son was having a lot of trouble with the editing because I was talking about things and going off at tangents and things like that. Definitely, people talk about storyboards and things like that for your videos, and having a real good idea of how you’re going to lay your course out from the beginning to the end is a good idea.
I had an idea and I’m just… I do a lot of things off the cuff anyway when I’m live. Sometimes I don’t prepare the live sessions, I just go on and see what happens, and then I ended up doing all sorts of different things. But definitely a lot of planning and working out how you’re going to get your traffic to your website. That’s the big deal, that’s the big thing. If you know how to do that to get warm traffic to your website, well then you have the golden nugget basically. That’s the thing.
The only way that I’ve seen personally to do this, if you want to do it on a very low budget is through social media. And if you are an educator and you have the capability to make a course and you’ve got the knowledge that you think you can sell to people, then use that knowledge on social media. Not all of it obviously, because when they do the course, they’re going to get a lot more things and a lot more detail, but give a lot of value on social media of the contents of your course, snippets, bits and pieces, things people can take away indefinitely.
I talk about the big A, is it applicable? Whenever I publish something on social media, I think, “Can you apply what I just published to your life today and it will make a small difference in your life?” Maybe can and can’t, you’ll start understanding the difference because of that. That for me is the big difference between having success on social media or not having success on social media, is the value that you’re giving. A lot of people think, “Well, I don’t want to give away too much for free,” or, “How do I monetize this?”
But I haven’t found another way of doing it, so I think that’s what I would recommend, is to have a good fan base on social media and plan your course well so you don’t have to go over it four or five times like me, going back for the… If you’re going to use something like interactive videos, if you want to blow the learners away, start looking at something like that, because that makes a massive difference. And I’ll tell you, I’ve only just started scratching the surface, and my interactive videos, the students, they’ve already gotten the courses.
They obviously have the new interactive videos because I don’t charge more for that, it’s the same course. They love it and it’s something that they’ve never seen before. I had never seen an interactive video where I could click on things on the screen and sounds would come up, and I could change the state of an object when you click on it and it changes to something else. It opens up a massive world of creativity for educators online.
The teachers who are in this world now on these online education and these digital courses, we are now entering a new realm as far as I’m concerned. Obviously, virtual reality, that’s going to be something to look into and with workspaces or whatever that Mark Zuckerberg is talking about. Those kind of things are interesting is that, of course, but for the time being, I would say, “My recommendation, look into interactive videos.”
Chris Badgett: That is super cool. Super cool. I like how you mentioned, “Don’t be shy of giving away things for free.” You mentioned earlier using the LifterLMS groups add on, and instead of doing this hard sell to accompany, you actually go ahead and set up the group. You invite the key person at the company and give them four seats to just try it out. Now, the sale is not so hard. It’s like, check it out. If you like it, let’s work out a deal and do a lot more seats. It’s pretty straight forward. I love that idea.
Marcus Carter: Yeah. In fact, I don’t even have… It’s not even a demo version of the course. It’s the course.
Chris Badgett: It’s the real thing.
Marcus Carter: It’s the real thing. They can flick through the lessons and things like that. Obviously I’ll be calling them back [crosstalk] two weeks and saying, “How are you doing?” They’ll say, “Oh, we haven’t had time yet.” Because obviously I can see when they’ve gone into the course through groups. I can see if they’re there and when they’ve been there. I will be calling them back and obviously, if they’re not interested, then I will just remove them from the plugin. But it’s an easy way to… We have to have some Vaseline nowadays to help the sales go a bit more smoothly, make it easy for people.
Chris Badgett: All right. Last question, what’s one tip you have for somebody who’s thinking of teaching English as a second language and they’re just getting started on this journey? What advice do you have for them on day one?
Marcus Carter: I would say, learn phonetics. For you to distinguish yourself from other teachers, learn phonetics and you will see English from a different perspective. You will be able to teach English from a different perspective. You will be able to surprise students with, and help people who have problems understanding and speaking the language, not because… People study English for their whole life, and then I level test them and ask them a few questions, and they don’t understand. But if I show them the questions I’m asking, they do understand.
So there’s a massive difference between understanding the written word and understanding the oral word. And you can help students through phonetics overcome that difference and balance it out. So it will be a massive asset to your toolbox if you learn phonetics. A lot of people shy away from it, most people do because it’s not easy, but YouTube is full of teachers.
Chris Badgett: That’s awesome. That’s Marcus Carter. He’s at carterschoolofenglish.com. Go check it out. Marcus, thanks for coming on the show and thanks for being a shining example of what we call an education entrepreneur who’s helping improve the lives of others, really open up that opportunity using the vehicle of language. Thanks so much for coming on and sharing so much wisdom with the listener today. I appreciate it.
Marcus Carter: It’s my pleasure. Thank you, Chris, for inviting me.
Chris Badgett: And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMScast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends, and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. And I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action, and I’ll see you in the next episode.