Accounting, and Corporate Finance Finally Get Training Just for Them
John Kogan, CEO, Illumeo
Illumeo founders Greg Stout and John Kogan seem to have a perfect combination of backgrounds for bringing new technology solutions to training for accounting and corporate finance professionals. John is a many-time CFO with almost three decades in corporate finance and accounting, including extensive training leadership. Greg is similarly deep, but in technology, leading many companies’ development teams to build scalable, usable, class-leading solutions in a variety of product areas. When a prior company they worked at together was sold, they joined forces to solve a problem that has vexed accounting and corporate finance professionals seemingly forever – the challenge of high quality, continuous and affordable professional development for the millions of professionals in those critical corporate functions.
Today’s business environment runs at a dizzying pace. People who were hired for certain skills yesterday soon find themselves trapped with yesterday’s skills. That’s not good enough. To be truly effective one has to have skills that are up to the minute, and even ahead of the crowd. This enables working professionals to survive their jobs today and thrive in their careers tomorrow. It also allows their companies to stay ahead of the curve. Although most people don’t think about finance and accounting as areas of competitive advantage, they definitively are – and if not, they should and could be. Effective skills in these areas allow companies to get their leadership and stakeholders more insightful information, faster, enabling quicker and better decisions. That’s enough to turn an average business into a great business.
As in so many facets of life, education makes the difference. Not basic education, though, as virtually everyone in accounting and corporate finance is already highly educated, many with advanced degrees like an MBA, or certifications such as CPAs. But the difference is continuing education in highly practical and effective areas that directly reflect one’s work needs. This is what Illumeo provides and why it has been adopted so quickly by so many leading global companies. There is a clear trend of companies looking to upskill existing personnel as it’s far less expensive than continuous firing and hiring as new skills are needed – it’s far quicker and easier to provide advanced training to existing, great employees.
Illumeo has a highly unique combination of a massive course library, custom competency assessment and development planning, continuing education credit, and compliance monitoring – all focused on the highly specific needs of accounting and corporate finance, delivered through the cloud on a modern platform with an intuitive UI.
Traditional live training for these functions just can’t compare. It’s too slow, requiring months of advance planning; too generic, forcing people to consume the pre-determined agenda of a large conference rather than identifying and addressing their particular needs; and it’s certainly too expensive, costing thousands of dollars per live training event, as opposed to online, on-demand training which can cost less than $100 per person per year for unlimited, focused and immediate learning.
There is a clear trend of companies moving to online training, following the likes of Udacity and Pluralsight, who provide online training for software developers, among many others. The idea is not to entirely avoid live training, but to provide more timely and targeted training at far lower cost, which actually allows companies to have far more effective team or organization-wide offsites, allowing for team-building and strategic development instead of spending most or all of the development budget on core skill-building.
Illumeo, based in Silicon Valley, has brought an ‘EdTech’ culture to online learning for accounting and corporate finance, and has used that to develop the most modern and complete platform in its space. Illumeo has brought together disparate technologies in unique ways to provide better learning solutions with incredibly rapid delivery of new features and functionality, along with leveraging newer ‘social’ elements such as course ratings, written reviews, and even direct, asynchronous instructor interaction, all of which makes it easier to find and take just the right courses, and to thoroughly understand what is being taught. That technology-driven approach has clearly set Illumeo apart in its very large niche.
Speaking of technology and rapid development, Illumeo has a host of automation, compliance, and machine learning/AI capability coming down the road, keeping the platform not only ahead of the game, but continuously improving professional development outcomes for the accounting and corporate finance professionals served.
Illumeo’s core offerings are a learning platform for individuals, and an “LMS for CPE®” for audit firms and corporations. The individual offering provides over 1,000 on-demand courses, more than 100 live webinars per year, over two dozen CPE varieties with thousands of CPE credit hours, and an unmatched Compliance Monitor™, all in a simple subscription format. The corporate/firm offering provides all of that along with class-leading collaboration capabilities, learning controls and user management, and is used by many of the largest, most successful corporations and firms around the globe.
Illumeo is doing what Silicon Valley does best, which is disrupt players who have been moving slowly for decades by providing tech-enabled, massively improved and personalized experiences for the individuals and companies that need to keep moving their knowledge forward in order to get, or stay, on top.
Making Reading More Fun & Engaging Than Ever Before
Sven Huber, Founder & CEO Cristina Puig, Founder & Sales & Marketing Fiction Express
Fun, adventure, thriller, fantasy, myths—types of fiction genres for children today are much more diverse and exciting than before. Reading a wide variety of genres helps children to develop emotionally, socially, intellectually and culturally, making them effective learners. However, according to the Department of Education, one in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11. An equally worrying statistic also proves that 30 percent of children aged 11–17 do not read for pleasure, which ultimately results in insufficient reading and comprehensions skills. This is the same case for many countries across the world, pointing to a global challenge in education. With extensive experience in publishing industry, Sven Huber identified this issue and founded Boolino, in 2011, to help children increase their poor reading habit.
Based in Barcelona, Spain, the company develops reading tools that support parents to foster the love for reading amongst their children. In 2016, Boolino acquired UK-based Fiction Express—a digital, interactive reading platform that helps primary and secondary schools through the power of engagement and gamification. “For us, technology is an enabler that aids in the creation of a completely new way of interacting with learning content. With the Fiction Express platform, we are re-inventing book reading by turning a traditional linear process (author > book > reader) into deeply engaging experience of co-creation between students and authors,” says Sven Huber, Co-founder and CEO, Fiction Express (by Boolino). Besides enhancing reading and Making Reading More Fun and Engaging Than Ever Before comprehension skills, the platform also develops English language skills for students who are poor in English often due to lack of reading schemes that engage students to read for pleasure.
Establishing a unique value proposition for schools, teachers and students, Fiction Express today revolutionizes digital reading or literary resources. According to Cristina Puig, Co-founder and Sales Director, Fiction Express, e-books are “Stage 1 Reading Resources” that provide easy access to books, but offer no or very limited student/reader interaction. “Under ‘Stage 2 Reading Resources’, we classify a broad variety of online resources, including guided reading programs or reading assessment resources. This allows students to test their reading level by answering reading comprehension questions and there is more student interaction in comparison to the previous group, but rather passive.” In comparison, Fiction Express offers students a completely new reading experience or “the Stage 3 Reading Resources” which includes real interaction with the authors. The result is an unprecedented high level of engagement with reading. The platform not only attracts children who love reading but also reluctant readers, stating that “reading is boring but reading Fiction Express is a lot of fun”.
The stories in Fiction Express are published in weekly instalments; each week, students read the chapter and at the end, they are rewarded with the option to vote to decide what happens next. The author then writes the next chapter in real time. Students can also interact on the online book forum with the author and other readers from around the world to build the story together. “Every half-term, we publish three stories at different reading levels. In total, we release 18 new live books each academic year, written by renowned children and young adult authors who are highly regarded within the education community.”
Often limited access to good books can prevent children from reading more, especially in lower income/socio-economic backgrounds. “We give readers access to the full Fiction Express Library of over 110 books that have already been created using the Fiction Express methodology. This allows them to read as many books as they want, giving them the freedom to try books different from those set in class,” says Puig. The platform’s 6-step methodology (as shown) is flexible and easy to implement in a variety of learning settings, like whole class, guided reading, intervention groups, Family learning, English Language Training, etc. The methodology is designed with the goal to increase children’s reading engagement—both in school and at home. “I’ve seen Fiction Express hugely help kids with special needs, making reading much less daunting and scary process for them. It really is a good reading resource that is both useful and reader-friendly for kids,” notes Catherine Stuart from Guernsey School Library Service.
Fiction Express is today a global platform with new product features and benefits. As a web-based application, its online reader is compatible with a variety of devices like PC, tablets, and mobile phones. It is currently available in English and is used as a reading solution in English for native countries as well as countries where English is taught as a second language. For the 201920 academic year, Fiction Express is also being developed in Spanish language in order to successfully grow in a global education market segment. “Today, we have a presence in around 10 countries. Our goal is to reach a total of 50 countries by 2022,” concludes Huber.
A New Path for Live Video in the Classroom
Douglas Ashton, CEO & Co-Founder, Streamable Learning
A provider of live and interactive streaming content to the K-12 market.
The view that video resources will play an important role in the classroom of the future is not something many would argue. For starters, video-based content is being used to support many of the educational initiatives that schools and districts are implementing in classrooms today. Video is a multifunctional resource and it can be effectively used to supplement existing lesson plans, and bring subject matter expertise and content context into classrooms in ways no other technology can replicate. Also, video is a flexible resource and can be presented in a number of formats: recorded video, video conferencing and most recently, live-streaming.
The format creating the buzz today is live and interactive streaming. A derivation of live-streaming that allows for real time interaction through chats. It promotes classroom engagement and ultimately, improved learning outcomes. Charleston, SC based Streamable Learning was founded to put live and interactive streaming at the forefront of video learning the classroom. Historically, live video in the classroom was predominantly offered through video conferencing, a transactional model whereby supply and demand was basically driven by one-to-one contact. In such a service, each session is scheduled, purchased, and supported individually. Streamable Learning takes a different approach and builds a calendar of hundreds of supplemental curriculum-based events offered to schools and districts through a subscription model.
“We believe live and interactive streaming should slide in front of videoconferencing as the more prevalent service as it offers scalability and equalizes access across a district for a fraction of the price,” notes Ashton. As more teachers experience the value of live and interactive streaming video, they are more likely to seek out and value video conference experiences. In addition, recorded video remains valuable but from a vendor standpoint significantly harder to monetize and thus keep current and sustain. “It is our view that recorded video in the K-12 market is best married with a live and interactive model and not separately monetized.” Streamable Learning has shown that live and interactive streaming can crossover into new market segments and new content segments within existing markets. For instance, through a second platform called The Live Living Network, they offer a calendar of live and interactive streams to the senior adult market. Their latest service, StreamableU, will use live and interactive streaming to enhance student contact with college admissions departments, college planning and test prep.
From a scalability and sustainability perspective, “we believe the K-12 market needs a centralized platform that can create a monetization and exposure opportunity for our content partners but still be affordable and equally accessible in our schools and districts. We are always aiming at the same three things in creating our content—that it is comprehensive, cost-effective, and convenient to access. As with anything, we try to build off of the innovations happening around us, whether cost effective video transmission platforms, mobile video capture technologies, higher speed networks, or improved video editing platforms. Lastly, we enjoy growing our content partner community of leading museums, aquariums, art and historical organizations, zoos, science centers, authors, health and wellness centers, and other qualified educational organizations.” The company’s customer traction in K-12 is both a US and Canadian phenomenon and has now transferred to senior centers and other older adult communities. “What we are encouraged by is that our services work well in groups with differing demographics, whether large and inner-city, small and rural or suburb.
According to Ashton, the keys in education technology is to demonstrate to the market one has staying power and the ability to effectively showcase successes. “When you are a content company, you have to keep adding more content and applicability across grades and subjects. Your content calendars and catalogs have to keep growing and getting better.” For Streamable Learning, this is in fact true as they are focused on continued growth in the amount of content partners they showcase in their calendars. Going forward, they will continue to serve any community that wants to enhance viewer interaction beyond traditional video.
NoteAffect: Engage, Interact, and Learn
Jay Tokosch, Co-Founder, CEO, NoteAffect
Before testing the ground, a seasoned entrepreneur looks for a way to provide a personalized experience to his/her target audience. With a successful track record of creating technology startups and scaling them into profitable companies, Jay Tokosch well succeeded in accomplishing this through his latest brainchild, NoteAffect—an application that allows instructors to broadcast ANY digital lecture/course material to students’ digital devices for personalized and interactive learning. Jay often finds it in his passion to explore the hottest segments in the market and design newest products that do not exist in the market. As an engagement application, NoteAffect is a unique platform that improves engagement, knowledge retention, and empowers higher education decision makers.
“The key to NoteAffect is the engagement features and the embedded algorithms that deliver unprecedented analytics, enabling data-driven decision making,” claims Jay, CEO and Founder of NoteAffect. By putting together engagement and analytics, the company increases the knowledge rate and helps provide more effective training, education, and meetings. This in fact solves the challenges faced by the three major stakeholders in the education ecosystem—Students, Instructors, and Administration. NoteAffect increases student’s grades by combining together the course content with their notes, annotations, highlights, polling answers, and instructor’s answers to questions, which promotes knowledge retention and easy studying. Additionally, students are being given a platform to openly engage with course content while instructors are provided with the tools to enhance that engagement. The engagement between the students and instructors is then tracked and produces powerful analytics to help isolate “at risk students” for any additional help. NoteAffect’s analytics dashboard, at the same time, offers instructors detailed insight into each student’s learning objectives as well as the classes’ overall learning.
Consequently, the administration of the school also benefits through the analytics captured that are delivered and rolled up from the students, classes, and departments, providing insight on institutional performance, comparing instructors or departments, and finding opportunities for educational or organizational improvement. The details available in the analytics for Higher Education top administration level reduces the accreditation burden process through easy-to-use reporting and exporting of files. Administrators in K-12 education use the analytics to show a RIO for the purchase of students’ digital devices.
Unlike disparate education products with features like polling, lecture capture, note taking, or Q&A forums, NoteAffect streamlines and enhances all of these features and functions into one application and delivers detailed analytics that is not available in these separate products. “These offerings all have individual costs, unique set-up requirements, and unique support arrangements. However, we consolidate and significantly reduce the cost, streamline the set-up and support, and prioritize long-term success with each of our clients,” notes Jay. For instance, NoteAffect possesses the unique ability to capture not only lecture material but also the audio, and combine them together with the file size only being 1/8 of the size of a video file; the smaller file size is saving a lot of money of data storage. In addition, for online classes, they enable live polling when a student views the class lecture at the time of the class and post class. “So, the students that viewed the class as it was happening online answered the polls live and the students that viewed the lecture class later also get to answer the polls for the first time with the analytics being updated as each student played back the lecture.” In this way, instructors also get much more knowledge about each students’ consumption of their material.
Since the successful launch of the company in the March 2018, a few businesses and government entities want to use their product for company/ product trainings and are adapting it to internal meetings as well as company-wide meetings. “Going forward, we will launch a corporate/government version that will use our base platform but also add in security controls for the presenter that will secure company presentation material with strict tracking,” says Jay. Alongside, NoteAffect also plans to add an aspect that companies could use the product/ platform to share material with external sources such as customers without losing security control and the analytics will give them the unprecedented ability to be “the fly on the wall” with sales presentations to help win business.