Fred Thompson, owner and CEO of e-learning technology company, BuildEmpire says “E-learning is, now more than ever, a huge priority for businesses. Employee’s priorities have changed, and businesses need to change with it. I truly believe the pandemic has brought a new era for technology, and it’s finally time for e-learning to shine!”.
Here, tech entrepreneur, Thompson, left, who owns a variety of technology businesses, including e-learning software company BuildEmpire, and Clarus, a warehouse management technology business, tells us more about his thriving bespoke e-learning company, his other projects, and his opinions on the shift to online and technology reliance.
Fred, you’ve a lot going on within the tech world, not just within the e-learning sphere. How did it all begin for you?
My background is actually software development, I think I happened to cross paths with it at the ideal time. Growing up, I’d always been interested in computers and software, and when the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) launched around the same time (showing my age now!), the game-changing era it created for developers was a perfect fit for a then-young developer like me! My first software job was within e-learning, implementing CBT (Computer Based Training) in Macromedia Authorware, and then Macromedia Flash, long before it was purchased by Adobe. I got to really excel at writing ActionScript. From that point on, I never left the world of L&D, creating early authoring tools, courseware review systems, and then ultimately bespoke learning platforms with my company BuildEmpire.”
What was it about the L&D worlds that kept you interested?
My frustration with the sector has always been around watching neighbouring sectors produce innovative and technologically impressive solutions whilst learning and development still placed importance on 20-year-old standards. My aim has been to use my software development background to enhance the products and services on offer and help push the L&D space on. That’s why I created BuildEmpire.
Yes, BuildEmpire. Tell us a little bit about your company.
We provide learning platforms for organisations to satisfy a range of objectives, from provision of professional development within a business to the delivery of learning content through a bespoke platform for independent training providers.
From those early days building e-learning in Macromedia, the market has certainly changed and grown, and we have too. Whilst we can build unique learning experiences, or integrate with unique systems, a key element to our service is the ongoing knowledge and support we provide our customers.
We have in-house development and management expertise in Totara TXP, and frequently advise around configuration and setup to meet complex requirements. If there is something that you need your learning platform to do, we’ll be able to do it. This continued commitment to our customers has led to a continued commitment in return and has been reflected in our recent award of the Totara Platinum Alliance Partner status.
What does being a Totara Platinum Alliance Partner mean?
To be a Totara Platinum Alliance Partner is a demonstration to our current and future customers of our expertise in the Totara TXP platform. The status reflects the range of customer platforms we implement, alongside the sectors we serve and the scale of platform that we maintain. The Platinum status is the easiest delimiter to use to identify a high quality and experienced company that can help deliver your ideal learning platform.”
Why did you choose to work with Totara?
The Totara platform is incredibly feature-packed and provides excellent value against the feature set. The structure of the software allows and encourages extensibility, enabling wholesale changes to all areas of the platform if you desire. This extensibility, coupled with BuildEmpire’s experience and knowledge, is the reason why we often select a Totara platform as the base for our customers. From completely redesigned user interfaces, custom authentication processes, video management tools or eCommerce models, we can build on to Totara the features that differentiate our customers whilst standing on the shoulders of a robust and feature-rich platform.
What are some of the most complex builds you have done for a customer?
The platform we created and still develop upon for Center for Creative Leadership is one of the most customised and advanced Totara platforms, ever! We have created a completely bespoke theme and course format, alongside around 15 custom learning activities that factor in social learning, gamification, and collaborative cohort driven learning. Couple this with bespoke authentication, scoring systems and customisable and downloadable takeaways per student, and the CCL platform stands as one of the most complex and powerful builds that has ever been created with Totara.
Has your company seen a change following the pandemic?
The immediate change during the pandemic was more a reactionary change as companies scrambled to offer learning online to continue to do business. This, however, was short lived as these fast reactions were often not the correct strategy for these businesses. Since the pandemic, we have seen a general increase in the provision of learning platforms, with noticeably more of a press towards online learning.
Certainly, some element of blended learning remains but quite often this is a Zoom or Teams meeting integration, rather than an in-person one. E-Learning is now more than ever a huge priority for large and small businesses alike. Employee’s priorities have changed, and businesses need to change with it. I truly believe that the pandemic has brought a new era for technology, and it’s finally time for e-learning technology to shine!
Tell us about some of the other projects you’ve been working on?
We’ve been working with some Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) who are connected in the space and have an intention of integrating their solutions or services into the Totara platform. Additionally, we’ve extended our reach within the network and are now looking to support various other partners with their technical requirements with the software. We’re enjoying pushing the boundaries of what is possible within the platform, and relish the challenge that our next customer may provide!