Taimma Communications Inc specializes in the development of custom and off the shelf medical learning programs relevant to health care, life sciences and medical education.
iMedicalApps recently interviewed Thierry Semoff, Vice President of Taimma Communications to find out more about the company and their new range of medical education iPad applications.
Please tell us a little bit about your background and the initial founding of Taimma.
Thierry Semoff: I have been working with my partners in crime (Soula Chronopoulos and Melanie Gauthier) for the better part of 20 years. In the mid 90s, we designed unique technology-based learning solutions during what was then a fledgling multimedia industry. This included interactive spreadsheets and simple didactic modules that were delivered via disc drives for our pharmaceutical clients.
We evolved as the industry did, and launched into award-winning game-based simulations for patients, representatives, and physicians-and we have not looked back since. Thousands of programs later, our expertise in the multimedia education domain is unsurpassed.
Taimma was born after a conversation on a park bench during the summer of 2004. The three would-be founders of Taimma, co-workers at the time with another eLearning company, would spend our lunch hour each day on this bench, eating over-priced ham and cheese sandwiches from a nearby French bistro.
One day we asked ourselves, “Are these education programs the best we can do? Are we as innovative as we can be?” As soon as we asked and answered those questions with a resounding no, Taimma was born. And it is this drive for innovation that permeates our company to this day.
What is your vision for Taimma as a company?
Thierry Semoff: In a nutshell, Taimma believes in innovation, technology, and accessibility. We are always looking to create better learning programs-we always question the status quo. Our best existing learning programs set the bar, and we continually try to raise it. With over 150 Off-the-Shelf eLearning programs in our catalogue, our vision is to become the best and most comprehensive source of medical mobile learning programs (mLearning) available from the Apple iTunes Store.
We create true medical mLearning programs, complete with narration, animation, dynamic progress checks, glossary terms, pop quizzes, and final assessments, that present information in a clear and concise manner. Our programs are designed so that users can more easily absorb, retain, and recall the information, and consequently master all elements of the content. We want to provide students, patients, teachers, nurses, and physicians with access to industry-standard eLearning programs on their mobile devices.
Taimma has a lot of experience in the medical education sector. How have you found developing applications for the iPad?
Thierry Semoff: It did have challenges initially, but the process was very rewarding! We had to rethink how to engage the learner through a touchscreen interface, but as we became accustomed to designing for the iPad platform, ideas started to flood.
On the technology side, most eLearning developers like ourselves have been faced with the challenge of finding alternatives to using Flash or iOS devices. Some companies are now developing native applications, with all the obstacles that entails, such as resources, effort, portability, and cost. Others are struggling to make HTML5 look and perform like Flash, which is mostly an animation challenge. With eight years of Flash development and assets under our belt, we had to find a more efficient and affordable way to create our applications.
After all, we want to sell our apps at the best and most economical price possible. After a few months of aches and pains (not to mention beating our heads against the wall) we have been able to leverage Adobe AIR to publish our Flash applications on iOS devices. With the latest Adobe AIR updates and availability of native extensions, we now have more flexibility and options when implementing advanced features in our applications.
Do you think tablet devices are the optimum medium to improve medical education?
Thierry Semoff: Absolutely! Touchscreen technology has transformed the human-computer interaction into one that mimics natural gestures. This leaves the learner free to touch and connect with the material directly, making the learning experience much more interactive, immersive, and engaging.
They offer the true mobile experience for medical education, since they are easier to read than a smartphone, more portable than a laptop, faster loading than a tablet PC, and are sized to increase comfort of use. All of these factors prolong the attention span of the learner.
Tablets occupy the perfect middle ground as a mobile solution for classroom, on-the-job, and home use of medical learning programs.
What do you think are the current restraints in the medical education sector?
Thierry Semoff: That’s easy-the first thing is budgets! There has been a lot of investment into the medical education sector over the last few years, centering on desktops, Learning Management Systems (LMS), and Flash-based courseware. The arrival of tablets, mobile applications, and specifically iOS constraints on Flash are demanding medical institutions to increase and/or reconsider some of these investments.
Fortunately, recent decisions by Apple to keep lower-priced iPad 2s in their lineup and the probability of cheaper Android tablets may help lower the costs of access for mid- to small-sized medical institutions.
The second restraint is resources! It is already difficult to find instructional designers and medical writers, but it is even more difficult to find designers and writers specialized for mobile devices. The same goes for programming and countless other essential skills. I think that Taimma has been handling this transition remarkably well, but I would say the medical education sector still suffers from a lack of the expertise needed to keep up with the technology.
Are you working with or planning to work with any medical schools to integrate your products?
Thierry Semoff: We are very excited at the prospect of working with medical schools. In fact, since we launched our apps, we’ve received an overwhelming response from teachers and students alike. Everybody seems to agree that this is the way forward, that this is how they see their medical curriculum come to life.
We are currently working with many interested medical schools, educators, and medical institutions from around the world. Our intention is to make all our medical applications available through the Apple Volume Licensing program for educational institutions. We are also in discussions with well-known universities in both the United States and Canada to obtain CME/CDP accreditation for our courses.
Could you describe the process used to make an interactive app?
Thierry Semoff: Well, first of all, you have to be an avid user of mobile devices so that you can imagine yourself using your app and envision new ways of incorporating interactivity. Also, you have to be able to evaluate new ideas-depending on the goal of your app.
For instance, here at Taimma, we build educational programs, so we always ensure that there is an instructional payoff before adopting a new feature or functionality. Every interactive element must in some way make the instruction more effective-if not, we won’t adopt it just because it’s different or flashy.
Would you ever consider releasing or developing Taimma products on other platforms, such as iPhone, Android, or even desktop OSs?
Thierry Semoff: Absolutely! Accessibility is part of Taimma’s vision, and smartphones and Android devices are part of our short-term plans. Smartphones would make excellent learning platforms, either as support to tablets or as stand-alones, and would showcase learning programs specifically designed for these devices.
While I personally prefer the larger canvas offered by tablets, I feel that we have barely begun to exploit the potential of mobile devices as education platforms-whether they are smartphones or tablets.
As for desktops, we have been making learning programs for that platform for years, and we have no plans on stopping.
Where do you see the future of medical education?
Thierry Semoff: I think that mLearning can take much of the burden off traditional textbooks and classrooms. Why read a 200-page book when you can learn about a medical topic in an engaging learning program in less time? When people get together in class, they should not waste time reading the same paper in the same room; instead they should interact with each other and discuss the material they each learned beforehand in a learning program. Spend more time on application instead of theory.
From the instructional designer’s point of view, I see a world of opportunities. We can now build learning programs with capabilities that we never imagined before. We are currently working on features within our applications that will enable teachers to change the contents of our learning programs to match or support their classroom lectures.
We would be able to incorporate instant feedback so that teachers could evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of every learner. The learning program could then respond and instantly adapt to the performance of the learner-the list goes on and on.
Watch for reviews of some of Taimma Communications latest apps here on iMedicalApps in the near future.