Eiffel Corp: The story of “us”

Eiffel Corp has been in the educational technology space for 21 years. While we are well known for our services and solutions that we sell, few know the story behind the blue Eiffel Tower logo. Here is a bit more about how it all began.

Eiffel Corp was founded in 1998 by husband and wife, Gwen and Andre van der Merwe. Both Gwen and Andre had a background in Education. While Gwen went on to become a teacher, Andre decided to take a different path, swopping a potential career in Education for the IT world.  Intrigued by IT, but not so much the corporate world, Andre always remained passionate about Education. As Andre so eloquently puts it, he indeed “left education, but education never left [him].” Therefore, it was almost inevitable that Andre’s interest in the IT World would at some point meet up with his latent passion for Education.

Where Internet and Education Would Meet

It was the 1990s and the rise of the internet, that would light the spark this underlying passion for Education in Andre. Seeing the excelled impact of the internet in other sectors, Andre had a gut feeling that somewhere, somehow education and the internet would meet. Andre’s intuition was that our future would somehow be based on the inflexion point between Education and Technology – the possibilities of what this would look like was endless. Andre took it upon himself to analyse these possibilities.

A Calculated Leap of Faith

With the support of Gwen, Andre took a very calculated leap of faith and stepped away from everything else for six months – searching to find cases where his theory on education and technology had been proven. Indeed, Andre would find a case in Ireland. Unfortunately, while this company had offered EdTech products that were pioneering, they weren’t ready to pioneer into Africa. So, Andre did the logical thing and approached their greatest competitor.

WebCT – Technology for Education, by Educators

Andre found what he was looking for in WebCT (Web Course Tools). This was a solution that not only embraced new technology but was created with education in mind. Spearheading WebCT was Murray Goldberg of the University of British Columbia, Canada.  The internet brought many new opportunities within Education. One such opportunity was that of Web-Based learning environments. Web-Based learning was essentially a mirror image of the classroom, projected online. The question was how to increase educational outputs, by marrying online with face-to-face teaching and learning. As an Educator himself, Murray was eager to find a solution that would have an impact on Education as a whole. During his search for an answer, Goldberg found building a course for online purposes was both time consuming and expensive. And here the “a-ha” moment – Goldberg decided to create a platform that would be easy to use and speed up the process of creating web-based learning environments. This was the birth of WebCT. WebCT became a worldwide catalyst for online learning, starting from 1997.

The Birth of Eiffel Corp

Andre reached out to a very surprised Goldberg, to see how we could introduce Africa to WebCT. It did not take long for Andre and Murray to find common grounds, and Andre signed a half-page agreement to sell WebCT to at least three universities per year. This was the start of Eiffel Corp – and the rest is, as they say, history.

Why the Eiffel Corp

While the name “Eiffel” Corp may seem far removed from both Africa and Education, there is a very specific underlying meaning to this name. Much like our company, the Eiffel Tower was ahead of its time. It was an innovative piece of art, reflecting the advances made during the industrial revolution. Ahead of its time, the impressive structure married the strength of steel with mechanisation made possible through technology. Few may know that this “piece of art” was initially completely rejected by the community of Paris.  While the Eiffel Tower was both functional and beautiful (to some), it took years before the Eiffel Tower was accepted as more than an eye-sore in Paris’ skyline. Today it is embraced by the Parisians as so much more – it is the icon of Paris, a symbol of innovation and a beacon for the future.

Hence, the name “Eiffel” Corp refers to technology brought to Africa ahead of its time. Andre and Gwen dared to upset the norm and “erect a tower” in Education that signalled a change.  Eifel Corp has in many ways, paved the way to an Education Sector in South Africa, and Africa for that matter. Setting up a “tower” and changing the Education landscape in South Africa – forever.

Built to Last

Eiffel Corp was born out of two people with a passion for education and one’s particular need to marry his passion for Education with his knowledge of the IT world. Twenty-one years later, the marriage of Education and Technology makes more sense than ever before.

Much like it is impossible to imagine Paris without its Eiffel Tower, so Education cannot be separated from technology.

In fact, in 2020 the digital technology landscape in education has changed drastically from where we started. Furthermore, the speed at which it is continually changing is unprecedented. Tools on offer are no longer about accessing information but offer real-time interaction  – from submitting and accessing information, to socialising online, to having conversations with an artificial intelligence assistant. It has become a real-time opportunity for not only virtual education, but for incorporating face-to-face education with the virtual realm for both teaching and learning; but also impacts the management of institutions in its entirety.

From the very inception of Eiffel Corp, we were asking the right questions. Now, with a team with over 440 years of combined experience, we have been and will be ready to constantly develop and apply technology solutions that “make sense” in the changing digital landscape.

The proof has not been in our successes, but in the success stories of how technological solutions have made a difference in the lives of the nearly 10 million students, we have been involved with through our clients over the past 21 years.

Today, just as from the beginning, Eiffel Corp is constantly striving to find new technologies that enable education – taking its outcomes to the next level and South Africa into the future.

How can we help? Contact us for relevant edtech solutions.