Dr John Ang, President, The International Vision Academy (TIVA), shares how the educational institution will enable eye care practitioners to better serve their community’s vision care needs
For a company like Essilor that is committed to providing good vision to everyone, everywhere in the world, it was but a natural step to establish an educational institution that takes this cause forward. The International Vision Academy, or TIVA, is the newest feather in its cap, a 1,000 square metres state-of-the-art training facility based in Singapore that’s designed to provide education relevant to the ophthalmic profession. We talk to its president, Dr John Ang, to learn what the academy has to offer to eye care practitioners (ECPs) worldwide.
VisionPlus (VP): You moved from a marketing role in Essilor to take up charge as the President of TIVA. How was the transition?
Dr John Ang (JA): Previously, I was head of Marketing and Professional Services at Essilor, but with TIVA, my focus is only on education. I believe that marketing skills and education or knowledge are both essential to achieve the best outcome for a business, and considering that my background will definitely help in my new role. With education as my current focus, me and my team will strive to ensure that TIVA has the best to offer to its students.
VP: What’s the objective behind the establishment of TIVA?
JA: The market is changing, technology is changing, consumer behaviour is changing, and even the ECPs themselves are changing – we believe that we need to support this change. Education is a critical factor to drive change and lead to business growth in optical shops. For us at Essilor, it is very important to support the eye care practitioner to enable him to understand not just the product and technological innovations, but also receive insights on consumer behaviour, shopping experiences and retail technology. The objective behind the establishment of TIVA is to provide a ‘flagship’ entity to lead Essilor’s already extensive commitment to education and help opticians give more value to their customers.
VP: Who can enrol in the academy? Are there any eligibility criteria?
JA: Anyone can enrol in the training programmes, which focus on Management, Communication, Retail and Technical Training. There will be structured courses four times a year. The facility can be booked by all the countries of AMERA and can be used to run customised training programmes for each country. Those interested can talk to their local Essilor sales representatives to get more details.
VP: What is the fee structure for the courses?
JA: There will be a range of user paid courses practitioners can choose from, typically about 1,900 USD for a three-day programme. These fees include lectures by international speakers as well as trips sponsored via Essilor Loyalty programmes.
VP: What differentiates TIVA courses from the others?
JA: There are some critical differences, the most important being the experience and skills of the education team in Singapore that is responsible for the development of TIVA courses. The team consists of three optometrists who have extensive experience working with optical shops. Amongst themselves they have over 50 years of experience, either working at optical stores or owning optical businesses, as well as teaching within the optical industry. The fourth team member comes from a Business and Finance background. He has provided consulting services to over 3,000 optical businesses from all over the world over the past 10 years. So, all in all, they make up a team that can impart the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully run an optical shop. The TIVA experience brings an education package that is highly relevant to the eye care practitioner in today’s rapidly changing environment.
VP: The Academy has been designed to maximise adult learning. Can you elaborate how it achieves this?
JA: The strategies used in training an adult (Andragogy) are different from that of a child (Pedagogy). Evidence-based teaching methodology requires five critical elements to facilitate adult training. These five elements are Theory, Evidence, Group Models, Practice Situations and Supervision. In designing the physical setup, we incorporated these critical elements into the three key learning areas. The first area is a 50-seat Lecture Theatre with simultaneous translation capability and real-time participant response system. The second area, The Collaborative Hub, offers a flexible learning configuration to facilitate large or small group discussions. The Collaborative Hub also contains five fully-equipped optometric consultation rooms where participants can hone their clinical proficiency. The Retail Hub is the third learning area where participants can sharpen their skills and techniques required for optical retail. As a result, students will be able to:
- Answer questions electronically via an audience response system, so they don’t need to raise their hands or stand up. Lecturers will also be able to easily compute the results electronically at the end of each question. This offers the lecturer scope to pace the delivery for maximum impact.
- Discuss new concepts formally and informally in small groups and tap into their existing experience collaboratively to evaluate a new concept.
- Practise what has been taught right after the lecture. They will be able to video record, playback and critique what went well and what did not. This is a very important point as adult learners will be able to see their own ‘blind spots’ and reflect on their performance.
In short, we want adult learners to achieve an internal acceptance of a new concept to do things better, practise the new concept in the Academy and return to their practice to implement real change to drive growth.
VP: Any inputs you would like to share with today’s practitioners?
JA: Today’s business environment is challenging as consumers and their needs are continually evolving. Business practices that worked a few years ago are becoming less effective. So, change is critical for survival. The best way they can achieve a positive change is by taking the assistance of a strong education partner and implementing the new concepts in their practice.
VP: Sound advice, Dr John. Wish you the very best.