Our tech start-up of the week is ExamTime, a free online platform that’s being developed in Ireland for students to create their own personal learning environment. The solution features software tools, including mindmaps and flashcards, to help people improve their learning techniques.
ExamTime is the brainchild of Dualta Moore, who is also CEO of the education software company Software Asset Management Ireland (SAMI). The latter company has won awards in the Deloitte Fast 50 for the past three years.
Moore founded ExamTime in 2011 and 15 employees are now engaged in the project, split between Dublin and Belfast.
"We have been developing code for about a year. Our development team is based in Belfast," explains Moore.
He says the platform will allow people to build their own learning environment, set goals, make connections, memorise more effectively and collaborate with others.
"We’re trying to introduce the best learning techniques to students through software. By using our solutions, students and teachers will be able to bring multiple learning resources and content into one location."
ExamTime was also a finalist in the ‘Best Education Startup’ category at the Europas start-up awards that were held in Berlin in January.
In beta mode
The company had its beta launch at the end of October, and since then a network of users has been testing the platform.
Moore has used the reach of SAMI’s customer base to get teachers, educators and students to try out ExamTime.
"We’ve built up a great network of beta users. Our network proved to be very effective, as we have trial users in 60 countries at the moment."
According to Moore, the platform is targeted at second and third-level students, as well as teachers who are involved in curriculum-based learning modules.
He says that if you look at how IT has been used in schools, colleges and universities, you have traditional virtual learning environments (VLEs) that have been built for the institution down.
"They see the customer as being the institution rather than looking to the end user of the applications, who are the teachers and students. The customer really should be the students and teachers so we started out with that concept," explains Moore.
A personal learning environment
ExamTime, he claims, will differentiate itself from the current ‘commercial software’ that’s available for learning environments.
Rather, Moore explains that the solution is being built as a personal learning environment.
"What we have tried to do is allow the student or the teacher to create an environment that fits their learning needs. They can move resources around and build connections," he says.
As well as this, Moore says that one’s learning life isn’t limited to one institution so the ExamTime software will be aiming to complement that.
"You don’t stop learning when you leave college or school so it’s about being able to bring what you learn with you and develop that and bring in new learning areas that you are engaged in."
Features on ExamTime will include mindmaps to help students explore their creativity. Other tools on the platform are flashcards to help with memory testing.
"We’re also developing a tool to build quizzes from past exam papers. There’s no real tool available so we’re developing a tool for people to do such quizzes online to prepare for exams," says Moore.
A goal-oriented tool will also feature on ExamTime so people can set themselves tasks.
"It’s much easier to achieve those learning objectives if you can break all your goals into tasks," he says.
ExamTime will be in beta mode for the next few months.
"We will be bringing out a lot of new features. We are getting a lot of feedback from people who are using it and we would expect to come out of beta mode in the next four months," says Moore.
Another aim of the platform is to create a more ‘social’ element so students can create their own online groups and learning environments, connect with their peers and develop their own content.
"We’re trying to create a tool so that students can pull all of that online information into one centralised resource," explains Moore.
The plan is that the full version of ExamTime will be ready for release in the next 12 months.
Moore says the service will be free for people to use.
Down the line, he says the company will be looking at ways to monetise from the platform, including the potential to build in a premium-based solution.
"Our objective now is to make a really strong, free offering.
"We’re hoping that students and teachers will engage with it and that they find it a useful tool to be able to communicate and collaborate with their friends and to bring various learning resources into one place," adds Moore.