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Academy Xi Blog

Five years into designing the Xi learning experience

By Academy Xi

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Academy Xi Head of Learning and Student Experience Frank Guzman shares his thoughts (and a little bit of storytime!) in designing communities and learning experiences in celebration of our 5-year anniversary. 

Some of you might not know this, others might only know us from where we started, and probably the big majority of people in our community might be wondering what we’ve been up to. Or how we’re doing after an unprecedented 2020.

Here’s a little bit of storytime.

Five years ago, Xi was a dream. It was a few of us wondering how we could change the way relevant and practical skills are learnt in order to transition into a new job. Looking back, I can still remember sitting on a couch and one of the co-founders sending emails from his dining table. We started at a coworking space a couple of days a week, worked from home (before it was cool and mandatory), and had a ute full of foldable chairs and tables. These, along with a suitcase full of stationery to build pop-up classrooms and events on nights and weekends.

Me, first day on the job in 2016, with a similar outfit as the boss: Xi co-founder Charbel Zeaiter.

It wasn’t much, but it was enough to get us up and running and realise the dream. 

After nine months of pure hustle, hard work, meetings with industry leaders (not to mention the countless cups of coffees)—much like a baby, our first campus was born. This not only meant a place to work from, but more importantly, a hub for students, instructors and industry partners to learn, connect, and grow. We were building a community of like-minded individuals all wanting to make a difference. 

Having a place we could call home allowed us to not only grow our community, but to put it at the centre of everything we did. It became our driver and motivation to keep going. Soon after that, it allowed us to expand our course offerings and reach community members outside of the design space and into the business and tech space. 

Setting up the Academy Xi campus in Melbourne.

Fast-forward to 2020 and a pandemic no one saw coming—its impacts and consequences, felt by every other organisation, threw a spanner in the works. . Our community and tribe were challenged, but we rose to the occasion.

Beyond the operational hurdles of running a fully-remote and online school, our biggest concern was “How do we keep this sense of community, connection, and personalisation? This thing that makes us unique. This thing that our students find so valuable and helps them elevate and transform their careers. This thing that is now under different circumstances, as we move into the online education world?”

Online but not alone

Simple: we looked back on what our core is. Rather than designing a space to host our community, we built moments within our students’ journey that encouraged them to connect with each other and helped them drive the community themselves. Acknowledging the hesitations around online education, we embarked upon a new challenge and designed our courses and student experiences with one thing in mind: online but not alone. 

This translated into courses packed with gamification, varied activities, multiple touchpoints and opportunities for support—all hosted in one online learning platform. I call it useful procrastination. Rather than doomscrolling, Xi students can access their course on the go via an app; scroll through discussion forums, videos, quizzes, and message and engage with each other. Just like what they’d do in a physical classroom. 

Our tribe and community are the center of everything that we do at Academy Xi.

We are still on a journey of discovery and improvement. But one thing is for certain: our tribe and community of staff, instructors, mentors and students is still our driving force to be leaders in the online learning space. 

Whether you’re looking to transition into a career in design, tech, marketing or data, become a thought-leader in this space, or are simply curious about how this all works, feel free to reach out. 

Join our tribe or be part of our community of like-minded individuals all wanting to make a difference in the world. 

Talk soon. Always happy to help and up for a chat.

Frank