Education emersion

5 Apr 2009

It was a tight competition, but it was e-learning venture Asimil8 that walked away as the Bright Ideas Challenge winner at Bank of Ireland’s Business Advice Show on 25 March. In the process, this innovative business also received a cash prize of €5,000 and €5,000 in mentoring. 

Understandably, CEO of the company Paul Groarke was very happy with the win as he explained his on-trend language-learning product, which is based on the concepts of gaming and virtual-world technologies.

Currently, there is no real practical way for somebody to immerse themselves in a foreign language without spending a lot of money travelling to a foreign country. However, with this product, language students will have the opportunity to converse in their language of choice thought a virtual 3D world, accessible online.

“We’ve run some informal focus groups and the feedback has been hugely positive from the kids,” explained Groarke. He added that industry experts believe the gamer generation will demand to learn in 3D going forward. “They’re familiar with video games and they expect e-learning interfaces to mimic 3D video games.”

Groarke compared his product to the way students are ‘immersed’ in Irish when they visit the Gaeltacht. The key in both cases is to promote fluency. “We’ve figured out a way for our virtual assistants to converse with students, so even while they [the students] are making mistakes, you’ve still got an intelligent conversation being maintained. That is the key differentiator with our product.”

Once the virtual experience is complete, students receive a score. They can then log on to Asimil8’s parallel website and find out what mistakes they made during the conversation, and find out how to improve their scoring. “We’ve taken a lot of elements [from the video-game aspect] such as scoring and reward through advancement, which we also use within the product,” says Groarke.

He says the next stage in development is software trials, where students will test the product online and give feedback on any flaws. They will also give tips for improvement of the overall user experience. Groarke says the product is due to come to market in approximately six months.

As for the €5,000 cash prize, Groarke says this will be used to construct the in-world building content such as the libraries, supermarkets and banks that will appear in the virtual world.

For more on Bank of Ireland’s Business Advice Show and to view exclusive video content with Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Gavin Duffy, visit