26 April 2023

Welcome back to the Censeo blog, where we are delving into the exciting (trust us) world of supercharging global certification systems! With that in mind, please take this opportunity to settle down and relax while you read through what we and the International Tennis Federation (ITF) have been up to in the wonderful sport of tennis via an inquisitive chat with our super-amazing partner the ITF Academy and specifically Riaan Kruger, who is the Manager of Education in the Development Department of ITF and leads on the ‘aforehandmentioned’ (sorry, couldn’t resist) ITF Academy. Consumption of strawberries, cream and Pimm’s is entirely optional, depending on the time of day or year (although please don’t let either hold you back!)

Censeo: While we sit back and ruminate over our diving volleys, please can you open serve with describing how the ITF came to work with Censeo?

RK: “We started off with a review of the ITF’s education system in 2018, which back then was a coaching education system essentially. Our courses were delivered mainly in-person and there was clearly a need for more modern education and certification-related content. A thorough brief was put together and it was sent out and shared with various companies. We went through a rigorous tender process involving our IT team and ultimately selected the World Academy of Sport and the excellent Censeo platform.”

Censeo: Well, given that Censeo’s robust and secure technology solution is based on pedagogical principles and their partner World Academy of Sport has a deep understanding of the global sport sector, that sounds like a perfect (game, set and…) match if we don’t say so ourselves! (Oh, ok, we did.) Could you please talk through some of the key project areas?

RK: “We had an existing platform called iCoach which was essentially an online library with a lot of content such as videos, recordings from conferences, expert interviews and so on. Phase one of the new project with Censeo was redesigning and delivering the library, using the new platform, and migrating our existing 5,000 registered users (coaches) over to it. Then we started putting together or reworking some of the content that we had to deliver into Phase 2, the ‘Information phase’. This phase would eventually support the blended learning of the certification courses (Phase 3) which were developed in e-learning courses or modules of 20-minute blocks. These were set up to be mandatory prerequisites for certification courses at different levels of coaching as well as for continuous professional development purposes where coaches or anyone involved or interested can take these courses, learn more for themselves, or satisfy licensing requirements that they might have in their national associations. The ITF Academy launched in March 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant we were in good shape to continue offering services to users of the platform when the world locked down. We took the opportunity to increase content on the platform and publish it in multiple languages (English, French, Spanish, and at that time Portuguese) before we moved on to where we are now with 11 active languages. Webinar functionality was integrated into the platform during the pandemic, allowing us to continue engaging with our members and users. That gave them a direct link to the ITF Academy and allowed them to attend a workshop, a conference, or training that we adapted to be delivered online.”

Censeo: That certainly sounds extensive. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, can you provide any comments on how the Censeo team has supported you throughout the development of the ITF Academy?

RK: “We have definitely learned a lot from Censeo and the World Academy of Sport. And as in all good partnerships, we like to think the learning has been mutual. We have enjoyed working with Censeo from day one and have had exceptional support and guidance, particularly with our Guided Learning Project, an ambitious project launched in 2022. Essentially a user who is interested in using the platform can go to the Guided Learning section and select the level of interest that they have i.e., beginner, intermediate or advanced/high performance and then the system recommends courses and content. Censeo helped us create something that was very complex become deliverable in a very easy, straightforward way. Working with them on that was a great experience, particularly with me not coming from a technology background!”

Censeo: [Blushes] Many thanks for those accolades. Next, can you talk about what have been the specific successes or should we say wins (in order to get another tennis-related pun in) of the ITF Academy to date?

RK: “Certainly. Having started off with developing the library and providing e-learning content that anyone can access, we then moved to combining this with delivering blended certification courses (i.e., a mixture of remote and face-to-face learning), increasing preparation for coaches and increasing the quality of the content. This has allowed us to spend more quality time during the in-person parts of the course, and by adding the e-learning elements, coaches then arrive more prepared. Another area that has been successful has been in certifications, with the system allowing the tracking of credits and expertise as coaches go through their education journeys. Everything has been tracked since we started using the platform in 2020. However, there was no record of certifications prior to that, so the system has allowed the bulk uploading of those. Where coaches have gained certifications many years ago, this can now be tracked within their profile once the details are uploaded and confirmed. They can see the number of years that they've spent at a particular certification level and at the same time track how their continual professional development is matching up and how much they still need to complete to move to the next level to achieve those different levels of expertise. We are also pleased with the usage of the platform. On our old platform, users spent an average of two to three minutes per session. Since we launched the e-learning section - with our aim to keep the courses to around a 20 minute duration - the average duration a user spent on the platform has increased to around 15-16 minutes. Our data also shows that we have over 75% completion rates for our courses, which we are very happy with. Meanwhile, there are currently more than 100 nations that have signed up to using the ITF Academy as their national LMS. Working with the nations, more than 320 blended courses and programmes were offered in 2022.”

Censeo: It sounds like you have achieved a lot already through the Censeo platform. What is next for the ITF Academy if you don’t mind us asking as a final question before we run around our office with arms held aloft before sitting under a towel?

RK: “There are quite a number of things. The ITF Academy started off as a learning management system for coaches. But the vision was always for it to be the education system of the ITF. This has really come to life in the last six months with user segmentation which is set to be developed further. Looking ahead, users will be able to select what their role is, what their interests are and then receive tailored content accordingly. We have already diversified our content by launching dedicated material for beach tennis, wheelchair tennis, and for parents and officials. Therefore, we envisage more inclusive and diverse developments. Another development in progress is mandatory education for international junior players, where through the ITF Academy regulation functionality, players can complete the required courses and this is automatically checked and confirmed against the player registration and management system.”

Censeo: Well, we certainly appreciate your insights Riaan and gaining an understanding from your side as to some of the key stages and successes of the ITF Academy. If anyone is interested in checking out how to become a tennis coach, player or simply to see the great options available through the ITF Academy, then do have a look at itf-academy.com. You will ‘love’ it!

Censeo and the International Tennis Federation (ITF)

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