Dublin-based Interactive Services is a trusted compliance training partner to some of the largest organizations in the world such as Walmart, Visa, UBS, Biogen, Avon, LinkedIn, Uber, just to name a few. Interactive Services provides training to many Fortune 500 companies, touching more than 3 million learners worldwide.
As an award-winning, mobile-ready, global corporate compliance training solutions provider with more than 25 years of e-learning expertise, Interactive Services partners with organizations who seek high-quality training to help them achieve their business goals. Interactive Services’ customer, BNP Paribas in fact, was awarded the “Best Compliance e-learning of 2017” award. Interactive Services also took home four Brandon Hall awards for their compliance training solutions in 2018.
Interactive Services provides trackable online compliance content that allows US clients to reach all their people, every year, with the relevant regulatory learning content. The customization options allow clients to tailor the message to their organization, and even to different areas within the organization, and detailed localization tools allow clients to reach all employees globally.
“Irish companies and especially Irish tech firms have a great pool of talent to pull from with a quality-first mentality and a very global business perspective,” said Murphy. “Our tech sector is well positioned to serve all markets, and organizations like Enterprise Ireland have been excellent in developing and supporting Irish business around the globe.”
The company’s Interactive Compliance Training (ICT) suite of compliance programs is relied on by some of the world’s biggest multinational companies to meet their regulatory workforce training requirements in the US, Europe, and Asia. ICT covers 120+ essential compliance topics and the framework allows clients to customize every word of text that appears on every screen.
“We offer an enterprise-wide license which appeals to large global organizations with fluctuating employee numbers,” said Becky Murphy, Client Engagement Manager, Interactive Services. “We focus on behavior and culture, rather than rules and regulations, which means our content is relevant and engaging to the end user.”
Best in market customer service
The Interactive Services approach is to offer clients the flexibility to expand their staff and grow as required, while still covering all areas of legally-required compliance training. The company’s decades of experience within the training space provides the expertise to create the best workplace training supported by the best customer service possible.
“Our customer feedback survey shows that our level of customer service is the best in market. We are very responsive, reliable and consistent with our deliverables,” said Murphy. “Our US clients, for example, are often global organizations and our experience of working within Europe and other regions makes us a best-fit provider for global rollouts.”
Murphy explained that clients search for the best fit for their organizations, and more often lately, that happens to be Irish firms. There are several advantages for US companies to working with European firms in terms of managing time zones and understanding EU regulations, but of equal importance is the quality and flexibility of the company’s offer, no matter where it is based.
“For over two decades we’ve built relationships with Fortune 500 firms in the US, offering a range of training design and development solutions, and we are now able to augment this service with a customizable online compliance learning product,” said Murphy. “We still offer a high-touch, consultative partnership to our clients, but in the compliance space we can now move more quickly and with greater flexibility.”
By offering a wide range of leading knowledge solutions — including custom e-learning, instructor-led training, mobile learning, virtual classroom training, infographics, and blended learning — Interactive Services, the e-learning compliance experts, is consistently developing new opportunities to design and build the best learning solutions in the marketplace.
Award-winning Irish company TestReach is transforming the world of examinations and assessment with its innovative technology that allows any type of test to be run and invigilated over the web.
In a world with unprecedented demand for education, qualifications, certifications and compliance, you could say these are testing times for awarding organisations and corporations tasked with frequently running assessments locally or globally.
But Dublin-based TestReach has created a 21st-century solution to solve the mounting administrative burden associated with running exams. Its cloud-based system cost-effectively streamlines the process, eliminates time zone restrictions, and enables organisations to run any kind of e-assessment, from formative tests through to high-stake summative exams.
Moreover, the system can provide secure remote invigilation.
“TestReach was set up to recreate the exam hall experience online,” explains Louella Morton, TestReach’s Co-Founder and Executive Director. “It removes the logistical headaches and expense of running face-to-face exams, delivers an excellent experience for the candidates, is totally secure and also easy to use.”
While there are systems that offer either e-assessment or online invigilation (also known as online proctoring), TestReach’s SaaS platform is the only solution that combines online assessment – including test authoring, question bank management, test assembly, exam delivery, marking, moderation and reporting – with remote invigilation.
During e-assessments, administrators receive a wealth of real-time data via the examination dashboards enabling them to monitor answers given and the performance of questions – information that can be used to refine the quality of future tests.
And unlike many other software vendors, TestReach does not charge annual site licence fees. A simple pay-per-test system allows organisations to explore the potential of the technology, which is totally scalable for any number of candidates.
Benefits to BACP
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) is the professional association for members of the counselling professions in the UK. Before implementing TestReach’s technology, BACP ran weekly assessments in hotels or conference centres across the UK.
“As a forward-thinking organisation, we’re trying to set the tone rather than follow and as we’d been implementing a lot of technological changes, it seemed timely to modernise our approach to assessment. TestReach’s solution particularly appealed because the system incorporated a professional remote invigilation service,” says Eve Orton, Quality Assurance Supervisor at BACP.
The remote invigilation involves trained supervisors watching and listening to candidates through a webcam. The candidates’ screens are locked down so they can’t access information online and the session is recorded.
Using TestReach’s intuitive software, BACP was able to create an online assessment that includes sequential clinical case studies and questions, structured to mirror the experience of a therapist dealing with an actual client. The easy-to-use system also means that candidates do not require a high level of computer literacy.
“We are getting some very positive comments about the online assessment process. One of the things we really wanted to achieve was a reduction in exam anxiety and we’ve been able to do that using TestReach technology,” adds Orton. “We completely trust the system to administer assessments effectively and securely, and the benefits to BACP in terms of time and cost savings are obvious.”
Over 50 organisations now use TestReach’s technology either to blend with their physical exam hall approach or to replace it. Many, including BACP, work internationally and appreciate the flexibility the system gives them.
“We have more international members taking our exam now, whereas previously there was no way for them to do the test and progress their membership,” says Orton.
Future focus for TestReach
Since setting up in 2014, TestReach has achieved substantial success in Ireland, the UK and Benelux, with customers across educational institutions, professional bodies and corporations in highly regulated industries. It now has its sights set on the USA, Australia, and the Nordic and DACH regions.
“We’ll be taking a focused approach to entering these markets, pinpointing which area we want to go after and which type of customer,” says Morton.
The company is also committed to further developing its remote invigilation solution.
“We’re looking at many different cutting-edge technologies so that we continually enhance and improve our offering,” continues Morton.
Focus, passion and ambition have underpinned TestReach’s growth and have garnered it accolades including the Digital Disruptor Award 2018 and the Women Mean Business ‘Woman in Technology 2018’ award for its co-founders Louella Morton and Sheena Bailey.
Support from Enterprise Ireland, including early-stage supports, innovation grants and export development assistance, has also bolstered the company’s progress.
“Outside of the formal support mechanism we’ve also found it incredibly beneficial to be working with Enterprise Ireland throughout their office network. Their in-market people are very helpful,” says Morton.
Alongside its technically sophisticated yet easy-to-use technology, the company’s relationship with its customers plays a key role in its success.
“We’re passionate about the positive difference technology can make for companies. They shouldn’t have to struggle with mediocre or inflexible systems that make life difficult for them. It’s not about them fitting around our system but us supporting their business,” says Morton.
“Moving assessment online can be challenging and there’s a huge amount of change management required but we can guide our customers through the process. We’ve a good reputation with our clients and prospects. The words “cultural fit” and “refreshing” are used a lot in the feedback we get. Maybe it’s an Irish thing, but I know it’s appreciated.”
VR Education is a virtual reality (VR) software and technology group based in Waterford, Ireland. Dedicated to transforming the delivery methods of education and corporate training by utilising VR technologies, VR Education delivers a fully-immersive virtual learning experience. The group’s core focus is on the development and commercialisation of its online virtual social learning and presentation platform called ENGAGE, which provides a platform for creating, sharing and delivering proprietary and third-party VR content for educational and corporate training purposes.
In addition to the ongoing development of the ENGAGE platform, the group has also built two downloadable showcase VR experiences – the award-winning Apollo 11 VR experience and the Titanic VR experience. In March 2018, VR Education listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange and on the Enterprise Securities Market, a market regulated by Euronext Dublin.
ENGAGE allows any interactive virtual environment to be created, whether it be a replication of a real-world workspace or a place in which it would be impossible, dangerous or cost prohibitive to visit in real life, such as the bottom of the ocean, the surface of Mars, a disaster zone, ancient Rome, an architectural model, an artist’s 3D painting, or even a journey into the human body.
“ENGAGE leverages the presence-inducing power of VR to enable us to learn experientially as we do in the physical world, resulting in increased retention of information and accelerated skill acquisition,” said David Whelan, CEO & Founder, Immersive VR Education. “Companies can save time and money by reducing travel and can avoid the enormous expense associated with using real-world physical assets and locations.”
Designing a human-centered platform
Whelan explained that there are a number of reasons why the company has attracted several US clients, but primarily it’s because VR Education has successfully designed a human-centered platform, that enables users to interact with each other experientially, in much the same way we would in the real world.
“Clients have stated that our down-to-earth, friendly and supportive approach is appreciated as they make pioneering steps into this new frontier of immersive technology,” said Whelan. “I’m sure it’s apparent how genuinely excited we are to work together with partners, who are providing us with amazing use cases that make our technology shine.”
For example, Shenandoah University is using ENGAGE with a partner to train intellectually-challenged clients in job interview skills. One of the clients rarely communicates vocally but when he logged into ENGAGE via an embodied avatar, he shocked everybody when he completely opened up, bringing tears to those who witnessed the transformation.
Additionally, Shenandoah University is immersing itself in the worlds of virtual and augmented technology by creating Virginia’s first bachelor’s degrees in Virtual Reality Design. Shenandoah’s majors uniquely bring a human element to virtual reality by preparing live actors to provide training for various industries using virtual reality. Student developers will build content for the simulations. Shenandoah intends to be a hub for virtual reality development and education, and these majors will allow Shenandoah graduates to lead the growing AR/VR industry and whatever its successors may be, for years and years to come.
VR Education’s Irish Advantage
When asked why he thinks Irish companies are seen as world-class technology providers, Whelan explained he believes that Irish companies benefit from strong state support, which enables them to invest in the necessary R&D to develop products and services that can compete and excel on the world stage. This support allows Irish companies to work in a collaborative environment where commercial, educational and Governmental entities work in tandem towards a common goal. The Innovation 2020 strategy on R&D, science and technology is a perfect example for this – aiming for Ireland to become a Global Innovation Leader.
“For our industry, in particular, the future is bright for the Irish workforce that will be emerging over the next few years, because currently, over 30% of all students are enrolled in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses,” said Whelan. This is an excellent foundation for the future of technology and business, and Ireland will continue to lead the way.”
Read more about VR Education’s successes:
LearnUpon was founded in early 2012 with the vision of building an enterprise level Learning Management System (LMS) platform that is quick to set up and easy to use. LearnUpon’s LMS helps organizations train employees, partners, and customers alike. With an intuitive user interface, businesses can manage, track, and achieve their diverse learning goals — all through a single, powerful solution.
“Our platform stands out in an industry that’s filled with clunky, outdated learning management systems,” said Brendan Noud, CEO, and co-founder of LearnUpon. “We constantly work to improve our product based on customer feedback. A LearnUpon customer is not only subscribing to a world-class LMS now, they’re subscribing to a platform that will continually enhance and evolve.”
Industry-leading customer support
LearnUpon is recognised as one of the top-5 cloud-based vendors in the world. The company has achieved this success by putting their customers at the heart of everything they do. The company has built an experienced and passionate global team of more than 80 employees across offices in Dublin, Belgrade, Sydney, and Philadelphia to support their global customer base.
LearnUpon competes and succeeds against Nasdaq and NYSE listed PLCs, as well as highly funded private equity and venture-backed companies. They are positioned to become the LMS market leader for SMB and enterprise businesses.
“LearnUpon hasn’t raised professional investor money; our growth to more than 1,000 customers, with the majority of those based in the US, has been driven by customer recognition,” said Noud. “By putting our customers’ goals first, we make sure that every learning opportunity is an experience that advances their employee, partner, and customer success.”
LearnUpon’s reputation as an easy to use platform with exceptional customer support has resulted in generating exceedingly happy customers. Customer surveys show that the company’s high-quality customer support is a key competitive advantage. LearnUpon holds a Net Promoter Score of 55%+, compared to an average of 30% for software companies, and negative NPS scores for the LMS industry. Approximately 25% of their new customers are referred by existing customers.
“Some of our first customers were US-based, so we’ve always focused on building strong relationships with US businesses and it’s our biggest market,” said Noud. “Our team works in shifts to support US time zones, and because the service is cloud-based, many customers are not aware that we’re an Irish company until they hear our accents.”
The majority of LearnUpon’s customers are based in the US. Notable US customers include SmartBear, Ping, Allstate, Twilio, and Herman Miller. A selection of LearnUpon customer success stories can be found here.
LearnUpon’s Irish advantage
Irish companies are known for their unique approach to partnering with global customers. A forward-looking mindset means that product, service and process innovation is a key driving factor. Coupled with a proven track record of meeting global market leader needs, the Irish Advantage is obvious.
The adaptability of Ireland’s exporting companies is further helped by a young, motivated workforce, which, according to the OECD, is one of the most educated in the world. Ireland’s education system also ranks in the top 10 globally for meeting the needs of a competitive economy.
“Irish companies are made up of a highly educated workforce that believe in using technology to improve the customer experience,” added Noud. “We’re confident but not arrogant, we work hard to put the customer first. Irish employees’ experienced, friendly, and understanding nature enables them to work with customers from a diverse range of backgrounds and cultures.”
LearnUpon was recently named the sixth fastest growing company in the 2018 Deloitte Technology Fast 50.
A few years ago, Rob Laffan was waiting in line at a chip shop near his home when his phone beeped. It was a text message from his daughter, with a simple instruction: “I want chicken nuggets.”
Seconds later, another followed: “I want fries.”
It may sound like an everyday interaction but for Rob and his daughter, Sadie, this was an exceptional moment that marked a major breakthrough in their relationship.
Sadie, who had been diagnosed with autism and experienced difficulty communicating her needs verbally, had just used her father’s invention, TippyTalk, for the first time.
The ‘out-of-room’ approach
TippyTalk is an app inspired by PECS, or ‘Picture Exchange Communication System’, an established method used to assist non-verbal people with communicating a want, desire, need or a feeling.
Using this system, a non-verbal child or adult can point to a picture of their need or want in their ‘PECS book’ so that their carer can provide it for them. However, the method requires that both people be in the same room in order for it to be effective – and so, it can’t substitute for those moments when a child might need to call out to a parent or carer from another part of the house.
Rob and Sadie had some success with the book-based method, but he recognised an opportunity for the system to be improved upon by using more up-to-date technology.
“Sadie doesn’t sleep much,” he explains, “and it was during one of those late-night sessions that I asked myself: What if she could select her pictures on a screen, and send that information to me as a text message?”
That way, Sadie could ask her dad for what she needed, or tell him how she was feeling, whether he was on the other side of the room or the other side of the planet.
This ability to communicate over long distances is one of the key features that marks out TippyTalk as a true trailblazer in its field.
“At TippyTalk, to date, we’re the only ones who are focusing on an ‘out-of-room’ approach to non-verbal communications. All the other solutions out there mean you’ve got to be in the same room as the person you’re communicating with, which is very limiting – not to mention out of step with today’s connected world.
“We have Facebook, Twitter – we can communicate with anyone we want,” he says. “Non-verbal people have been left behind in that sense, which makes this a matter of technological equality.”
By acting on his lightbulb moment, Rob has helped to improve access to communications technology for non-verbal people across the world.
A solution for Sadie
In the early noughties, Rob worked as a pharmaceutical sales rep, but his career in the sector was cut short as a result of the economic downturn.
“I lost my job in 2010, just a week before my daughter was born,” he explains. “It was a kick in the teeth. No financial stability. How were we going to pay the mortgage? There were no jobs out there.”
Concerned for the security of his family, he decided to take action and reskill. He saw potential for employment in the engineering sector and enrolled in LIT to study Automation and Robotics.
“It was about six weeks after I started the course when we noticed that Sadie wasn’t developing as you’d expect a child to develop. She wasn’t interacting, playing with toys or speaking – so alarm bells started ringing. All signs were pointing to autism.”
Sadie was eventually diagnosed, and the family began to engage with various programmes that supported interactions between children with autism and their families.
At this point, Rob also began to relate his studies in automation and robotics to the work they were doing at home to support Sadie and decided to focus his final year project on solving an issue that had become central to his family’s life.
And once that penny dropped, the rest fell into place remarkably quickly.
“For six months, I built out the code and the program. In April, I finalised it and introduced it to Sadie. Then, after only a day or two, we had our first communication: the order for chicken nuggets!”
Project to product
A string of successes at nationwide student awards convinced Rob that he could translate TippyTalk from a final year project into a marketable product.
“After my final year project presentations, someone asked me if I’d heard about the [Irish] Student Entrepreneur Awards. I looked it up and I thought, that’s something I should look into – even if to only get placed. In the end, I entered, and I won it. Then the same thing happened at the Innovative Student of the Year award. I was called up to the final and won again.
“That was when I realised that this was the real deal. At that point, talk of finding jobs was in the past – TippyTalk was my job.
A stint in Enterprise Ireland’s New Frontiers programme – a “bootcamp for entrepreneurs”, as Rob puts it – was enough to fill in the gaps around how to commercialise and build out the business from that initial spark of inspiration.
It was through this work that Rob made a fundamental decision to shift the offering from a hardware product to an app, in order to reduce the cost from a large outlay to a monthly user service charge.
“Some people become verbal over time, and some people don’t,” Rob explains. “Changing from hardware device to an app meant that people could use it for as long as they needed to and didn’t have to invest long-term.”
Using an app also means that parents and caregivers can capture photographs of particular items from the non-verbal person’s life via the camera function on their phone or tablet. They can also record speech to accompany the picture, which further encourages the development of language skills.
“With Sadie, we’re now really focusing on her verbal communications and TippyTalk has made that process much easier. In times of overwhelming stimulus, when she can’t get the appropriate reaction out, the app is there.
“That’s a hugely important safety net for us.”
As well as facilitating private communication between non-verbal people and their families, the upcoming Version 2 of TippyTalk will also be aimed at the classroom, allowing teachers, special-needs assistants and carers to communicate with non-verbal people in their professional settings.
Bringing the technology out of the home and into a public setting creates a truly unique opportunity to analyse the data from communications with non-verbal people.
“We’re creating a web portal where communications can be logged. This can be used for educational analysis, analysing KPIs, and looking at variances between in-room and out-of-room communications. For example, we could find out what the most frequently requested items are, or which feelings are most prominent.
“We can gather data that has never been gathered before.”
Rob suggests that this data can be used to make improvements in educational settings – analysed to provide an indication of teaching quality, for example, or used to customise the curriculum of classes and school-based activities to better suit the interests of students.
Building out the B2B element in this way means that TippyTalk can make a positive impact on the non-verbal community in ways far beyond personal communications technology.
TippyTalk’s US connection
While most of the team is based in Ireland, 81% of TippyTalk’s business is in America. They have strong bases in Texas and Wisconsin, where the app is state-funded.
“Anyone non-verbal with access to a speech and language pathologist can get our product for free in Texas, or for a $100 co-pay in Wisconsin – and in both states, that package consists of a consultation with a speech and language pathologist, an iPad and our latest launch, TippyTalk EDU.
“We just have to market to those states. We need to get in front of the end-user.”
But while Rob has been busy developing TippyTalk into the global business it is today, his innovation has also been hard at work where it matters the most – at home, with Sadie, helping to nurture and develop the relationship he has with his daughter.
“When she started sending out her first texts, they were just items she desired – food, drinks, toys. But over the next few months, she started to express feelings. Her personality started to come through.
“Now she can even make a joke with us. She might send a message to me saying, ‘Hi Daddy, I feel sad’ – but when I’ll look over, she’s just sitting on the sofa, smiling away.”
For a limited time, TippyTalk EDU is also available to schools and professionals in Ireland for free.
Ireland-based tech company, Avail Support, has developed a unique digital educational platform that promotes learning and independence for children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. By maximising the learner’s personal strengths, the avail™ system provides a guide for care staff and professionals to create individualised, step-by-step instructions of daily tasks using video and photo images, as well as audio and text prompts.
Lisa Marie Clinton, CEO and Founder of Avail Support, has spent her career within the disability domain, with more than 10 years’ experience in teaching, researching and managing interventions for children and adults with cognitive-related disabilities. As a high majority of those with a learning difficulty are strong visual learners, traditional teaching methods and practices would involve the use of laminated photos and flash cards, and a great deal of one-on-one verbal instruction which is cost and labor intensive. Clinton looked for ways to use everyday technology to empower and support those affected to live independently.
“We wanted to transform the learning process into an efficient, effective solution that provides support to all parties involved,” said Clinton. “Ultimately, we are here to provide positive learner outcomes as they develop independence skills and confidence. We’re seeing incredible achievement which is very rewarding.”
Advancing the Industry
The avail™ solution is unique in that it uses everyday technology to empower those who believed they could never complete daily tasks that most of us take for granted, such as taking a bus to meet a friend, having a job, or living independently.
“Throughout their lives, those with disabilities have had to rely on others to assist and support them, and it’s often the case where individuals and their support network accept lower life expectations,” said Clinton. “We are disrupting this by offering an approach that breaks the barriers that traditionally restrict individuals with disabilities.”
avail™ not only empowers the individual but their whole support network. For facilitators, it eases a heavy caseload and transforms the use of facility resources. For organisational leaders, reporting allows them to review progress and maximise their valuable resources through data-driven insights.
Clinton points out that while Avail Support is technology-based, they are not solely a technology company. The avail™ solution is based on years of experience, research and data from a therapy background, and by working across all domains. The solution was built from the ground up, with the individuals being part of every stage of development.
Exporting excellence to the US
The Avail Support team has found that US customers are very open to embracing digital tools, tech innovation and new approaches to learning. In the US, they have found success with stakeholders who are receptive to change — which is great for an innovation company like Avail Support.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 about 13 million people in the US report having cognitive difficulties. This means that avail™ and their partners could potentially assist as much as two percent of the US population to live a more independent life.
KenCrest is a US-based, non-profit organisation that supports over 11,500 individuals in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Connecticut. KenCrest’s mission is to help ensure that all individuals live well in their community by offering community living options and a host of adult employment opportunities.
“Implementing avail™ has exceeded all my expectations,” said Marian Baldini, President and CEO of KenCrest. “Our staff has embraced the system’s ease of use, and the learner participants have achieved results beyond their expectations.”
Clinton added that it’s no accident that Ireland is home to a large number of tech start-ups who find success in the US.
“In Ireland, we have a number of strengths in our favor, whether that be the quality of our technical workforce, the innovative environment, the common language or just the Irish approach to building and developing relationships, Irish business can deliver,” said Clinton. “At the end of the day, success for avail™ is all about positive learner outcomes, whether that be through the direct use of the avail™ solution, or because an organization has achieved greater efficiencies and quality of service through the use of avail. Being an Ireland-based company has afforded us the talent and flexibility to meet our goals.”