Are We a Technology Company or a Content Company?

Jul 18, 2017 | Exam Master

In the twenty-plus years we have been fortunate enough to serve many thousands of aspiring health sciences professionals, educators, and librarians, we have often asked ourselves, “Are we a technology company or a content company?” Do we think of ourselves more as a medical science publisher or a software development company? It is an interesting dichotomy, and the answer to that question has certainly evolved over the years and is important in understanding who Exam Master is today.
Our first product, released in 1996, was a CD-ROM-based self-study resource developed to help medical students and International Medical Graduates (often referred to as IMGs) prepare for the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). Back then, once your CD platform was built, you sort of moved on from the technology side of things to the content. CD technology might get updated once every six months or even less. Our initial resource consisted of many thousands of test questions covering the breadth and depth that is medical science and delivered by means of a sophisticated testing engine. So back then, we primarily thought of ourselves as a medical science publisher, with the technology playing an assisting role. “Content is King” was our favorite saying.

In the late 1990’s, with the true advent of the Internet and World Wide Web (does anyone use that expression anymore?) for common use, business owners and leaders were seeking ways to profit and leverage this emerging medium. From dog food to groceries it was all about being online, and we were no different. The idea that students, faculty, and others could use the web to access content and study, was an attractive one to us and, in fact, we were one of the early adopters of the internet for electronic, online exam delivery. For us, it was essentially a no-brainer, a must-do for our product development roadmap.

The nature of the internet in software publishing completely changed the paradigm for software development, as we moved from periodic releases of a fixed medium (CDs) to a system that was available anywhere, anytime. This included responsibility for 24/7 duties, unlike any software application that came before it. As we moved to developing online testing systems, our identity became more aligned with that of a technology company rather than a medical publisher.

The benefit of delivering Software as a Service (SaaS) are many. How do you update content for a customer who has your CD-ROM sitting in their computer? With the Internet, we could immediately push through content changes, content updates, bug fixes and new features for our testing platforms. While the benefits were many, the responsibilities were demanding, as supporting a live, always-available application posed many challenges. Think about how often your connected resources, from browsers to apps, are updated today: almost continuously.

In recent years, we realized that to stay relevant to our customers, we needed to provide the right combination of content and technology. While we still believe that Content is King in the health sciences, we also recognized that to make that content useful and usable, our technology had to meet certain standards of accessibility, utility, and usability. The bar for these standards has never been higher, and we continually strive to offer the best combination of content and technology we possibly can. Now our mission is to make sure we publish the best possible content, whether we are talking board preparation, or helping a program better assess incoming students, and to deliver it in a way that supports the outcomes our customers need and depend on.

Related Topics: Exam Master // Online Testing // Technology