Tailoring e-learning to suit the student, not the educator

7 May 2018

Damien Caldwell. Image: TechWatch

Damgeo founder Damien Caldwell speaks to TechWatch editor Emily McDaid about digital education and learner engagement in the online sphere.

Entrepreneur Damien Caldwell is behind the start-up Damgeo, and he’s passionate about how digital environments can transform education.

“Digital learning should never be a compromise,” he said. “Learners should be able to dictate the pace of learning, and what device they learn on.” Caldwell said he develops content “based on who the learner actually is”.

He described two of Damgeo’s major customer contracts.

uHub in Bangor is developing a web application for people with mental health issues. It helps you find a solution to your unique needs at that time,” he said.

Damgeo is also working with structural steel company Severfield. “We’ll roll out a digital learning module for them throughout the UK. Severfield’s projects include the construction of The Shard and the recent revamp of New Street Station in Birmingham. They’ve got an educational programme on ISO 9001:2015 quality management standards. We turned this into a digital course with every media format, including some gamification and embedded job specific pathways, because the feedback was that previous online learning modules were very boring.”

‘You don’t want to populate your platform with old-school PowerPoints or one-hour videos. No one even wants to watch a 10-minute video any more’

Keeping the learner interested and engaged is one of Caldwell’s key goals. I asked him how his team develops learning modules.

“Firstly, we engage with the customer and design a dynamic and robust content plan based on the agreed requirements. Then, we begin the digitisation process, selecting digital tools that fit the training need and, perhaps more importantly, the learners’ preferred style of participation.”

Caldwell’s unique experience led him down this path. “I was a web developer and had a background in software for 10 years, and I was a trainer,” he said. “That gave me two sets of skills: I understand the software requirements and the education requirements.”

This struck a chord with Caldwell. “eLearning is a £200bn-plus industry, but there’s no industry-aligned courses on how to create digital learning products. There are courses on education, and ones on software, but nothing that brings them together dynamically.”

He continued: “VLEs (virtual learning environments) and LMSs (learning management systems) comprise a huge industry but the content should come first, not the framework. You might get a great platform, but you don’t want to populate it with old-school PowerPoints or one-hour videos. No one even wants to watch a 10-minute video any more.”

Damgeo was founded in November 2017 and has moved very quickly. This has left Caldwell with a common gripe: the need to recruit quickly. “We need to bring in three more full-time staff in development and administration, plus an instructional designer, to be scalable.”

Owning his own business has been a breath of fresh air for Caldwell. “I’ve never been happier. Waking up in the morning and working on your own business – it’s the best. But it’s important to get a few quick wins early, to put wind in your sails.”

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland