NUI Galway spin-off company scoops major international tender

Students receiving the marks on their phones — Dr Thomas Kropmans and Wexford native David Cunningham watch applications of their technology at NUI, Galway this week. Photo: Boyd Challenger

Students receiving the marks on their phones — Dr Thomas Kropmans and Wexford native David Cunningham watch applications of their technology at NUI, Galway this week. Photo: Boyd Challenger

Qpercom, a spin-off company from NUI, Galway, which specialises in providing high-tech solutions for practical examinations, has won a major tender with the National University of Singapore.

The company’s other clients include prestigious top ranking European institutions such as Dundee and St Andrew’s universities in Scotland, as well as the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, which awards the annual Nobel Prize. The contract with the National University of Singapore, which ranks eighth in the world, represents a significant breakthrough for Qpercom into a dynamic Asian market.

This software company was formed five years ago in Galway by Dutch academic Dr Thomas Kropmans and Wexford native David Cunningham, a software engineer, who came together to work on a sports evaluation project at NUI Galway. The pair collaborated on a research project which evaluated the skills of Galway hurlers and local soccer players. They found that this basic programme could also be applied in their own academic environment, NUI Galway being one of their first customers.

The marketing team at Qpercom realised the global potential of its online solution when enquiries flowed in from a surprising number of clients including emergency services, pharmaceutical companies, and human resource departments of international companies.

“While we recognised its use in HR appraisal forms, we were delighted that HR departments themselves realised that our online marketing tool could be adapted for use in assessing candidates during job interviews,” said Galway man Liam Griffin, head of marketing at Qpercom.

This online marking tool (OMT ) eliminates the costly paper trail in observational examinations and allows both students and applicants to be graded on practical examinations with up to 70 per cent savings on administrative costs. It gives on-the-spot results and sends feedback to candidates immediately on their phones. The team are currently developing state-of-the-art mobile apps to enhance the feedback process. Research in the UK has indicated that errors in the correction procedure last year during student examinations led to some 7,000 papers being re-corrected, at a huge administrative cost. The Qpercom marking tool reduces the incidence of human error in assessment by 30 per cent.

Dave Cunningham, head of research and development at Qpercom, has a crucial role in using the highest level of automation and most advanced programming languages to create the most robust product. “The only variable in any observational examination should be the student,” he asserted. Mr Cunningham, a graduate of the Institute of Technology in Athlone, has also noticed a significant shift in the willingness of organisations to move from paper based solutions to online platforms. “More and more institutions are relying on their wireless environments, and we provide comprehensive online training and support to our users,” he said.

This interest in quality assessment stems from Dr Kropmans’ personal experience during his secondary school days. “I was shocked as a teenager when I submitted an assignment and I got 40 per cent from my teacher,” he recalled. “I was so disappointed I asked another teacher for a second opinion, and this teacher awarded my assignment 70 per cent. At that point I recognised the whole world of marking was unreliable.” Thomas Kropmans’ teenage disappointment evolved into a lifelong career; he is currently head of medical informatics at NUIG.

Dr Kropmans will travel to Singapore this weekend to respond to further enquiries in Asia, generated by the company’s recent contract with the National University of Singapore. The Qpercom team will take part in the Annual Medical Education conference in Prague in August, and Dr Kropmans has been invited to attend the Annual Conference of Test Publishers in Malta in September as a keynote speaker.

Further information about Qpercom’s innovative marking tool can found at www.qpercom.ie or by phoning 091 495940.

 

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