Examining Their Global Market

12th December 2018

Posted In: The Interview

Think about it – everything nowadays, in every imaginable corner of the global labour market, is about assessment. Hundreds of millions of tests, assessments and examinations of various kinds are carried out all over the world every year – and the demand is sky-rocketing.

Words: Áilín Quinlan

The old exam system of bringing all candidates together at a central exam centre in a city or town, is increasingly both out-of-date and logistically unsuitable. Enter Sheena Bailey and Louella Morton, Co-Founders of TestReach, a cloud-based application that provides a scalable and cost-effective way to deliver any form of assessment online – and winners of the prestigious WMB Woman in Technology Award 2018.

Their system covers everything from simple tests and feedback surveys, through to formal, high-stakes exams with multiple paper variants. It’s the only cloud-based assessment tool that incorporates authoring capabilities with the option of remote invigilation by in-house trained supervisors – and all built into one application. This allows users to avail of any combination of exam delivery methods, easily switching on remote invigilation when required, and have all results and data within one system.

Friends since college days – both are graduates of Trinity College – Louella with a degree in Computer Science and Sheena with a degree in Business Studies. The duo set up their fledgling business in 2014. Based at Nexus UCD, it now has 45 permanent employees and up 500 contract exam supervisors on its books – a workforce which, thanks to the spiralling demand for their services, they confidently expect to triple over the next few years.

Prior to going into business with Louella (who worked in the commercial side of enterprise software), Sheena worked in the area of technology strategy. “Sheena and I have a history in educational technology. We were very focused on it,” Louella recalls. “I had been working with a provider of learning management systems and managing training;  I worked in the area of sales. “This system incorporated some basic testing, such as Multiple Choice Questions. This was about eight years ago, and the system was very basic. “I had a lot of customers who were wondering if people could take a test online in a more formal approach – but one other than a test centre. “Customers essentially wanted an online system that preserved the integrity of the test. “I started to look into it. I talked to Sheena about it and we realised there was a huge increasing demand globally for qualifications.”

Yet, although all kinds of online learning was available, formal assessments were still mostly taking place in test centres, she points out. “With the growing demand for qualifications, that approach is not scale-able, so what we developed is a system of running examinations online where candidates are remotely supervised for the duration of the exam via video, audio and remote screen share. “We can see the candidate, hear him or her and see his or her screen, plus everything is recorded so it’s extremely secure.”

The system was launched in 2014 with what Louella describes as “a very good and extremely robust online examinations system.” The majority of TestReach customers, mostly professional awarding bodies, are currently based in the UK. The company runs assessments for a variety of organisations including the Institute of Directors and the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, clients in the university sector such as Birmingham University in the UK and Leiden University in the Netherlands and government agencies such as the Public Appointment Service in Ireland. “We are experiencing exponential levels of growth. We have clients who contact us, for example, to say they wish to run 10,000 exams in India next year,” Louella explains.

What’s the secret of their success – apart, that is, from a genius idea? “The main foundation of our success is our ongoing team, a really strong focus on customer service and an innovative solution to address the global education market,” ponders Sheena. “We have very ambitious plans for the future in terms of the market we focus on and the solutions we offer and we have a number of existing new solutions in the pipeline.”

Over the next two or three years, the company will “at least” triple its workforce, predicts Louella: “These are very exciting times! Our largest customers run 500,000 exams a year. The physical size of our customer base and the number of exams they are running is really ratcheting up.”  We look forward to hearing more news from our enterprising duo as they continue to make their mark on an international scale.