Little Fire Digital and the New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling
The New School of Psychotherapy and Counselling is a bustling college specialising in the promotion and eduction of existential therapy and counselling. The school is certified by Middlesex University and (at the time of writing) about 500 active students.
The school’s principals are world-renowned figures in the therapy and counselling sphere Emmy Van Deurzen and Digby Tantam.
The school operates from the custom-built Existential Academy in Hampstead, North London. The Existential Academy runs short courses and acts as an asset to the local community.
Meeting the needs of so many students and the specifics of the therapy teaching environment presents manifold challenges, many of which require custom solutions or the intelligent leveraging of existing systems.
At the heart of the organisation is LARA (Login and Registration Application) – this is a staff-only online application which allows students and staff alike to be managed in one place. This application has grown from the simple start to include management aspects of the school’s function.
The school uses many websites and technologies and users need to be able to use the same logins wherever they access the school online. Usernames and passwords are maintained across multiple websites including the Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and the Moodle mobile application for which we wrote a custom Moodle authentication module.
The courses offered by the school are typically Masters-level or higher. These are therapeutic courses and the intent and experience of an applicant needs to be validated before a potential student can be enrolled. Our vCMS content management system allows for production of multiple application forms specific to each course. On completion, common field values a recorded as specific data so that all applications from homogenous data sets.
Applications are stored online, triaged and processed by NSPC staff to ensure that only appropriate applicants are accepted at the school.
Many of the courses share common modules and so, logically, people completing different courses might well sit in the same classes some of the time. The process of breaking the 500 student learning schedules down and assigning them to individual classes so that each student’s learning needs were met at minimum cost to the school was a mind-bendingly complex task. But we managed it.
A sophisticated set of user groups and permissions has allowed us to tightly manage the data and functions available to staff and students alike across the entire environment. Faculty members update their details on the NSPC website, they are saved in LARA and published across all of the school’s digital presence.
The Existential Academy hosts short courses and lectures for the benefit of the community and to introduce potential students to the ideas and practices of NPSC. Attendance is by ticketing integrated through the Existential Academy website and payments are taken using the Stripe payment gateway.
One of the great advances in the long established VLE is the availability of a touch screen application which shares data with the website. Little Fire Digital helped the school launch their own app.
When the pandemic hit and the Existential Academy had to close, we enabled the school to teach online. We extended the existing TheTherapy.space app to accommodate classes and book them into Zoom for online teaching. As costs mounted, we wrote an algorithm so that the minimum number of Zoom licenses were used at any given time.
At the end of each set of classes students are emailed an invitation to complete an online survey to appraise the tuition and course. This allows the School to keep tuition standards high and consistent.
Faculty members and students alike are emailed and reminded when the School needs documentation uploading: student assignments, staff qualifications and so on. So that the school can stay on top of its marking and compliance requirements.