Nashville Post’s Techie Magazine. Summer 2018 Issue. Released May 17, 2018. – Earlier this year, OnSomble announced an important milestone for its OnRole adaptive learning platform. After just four years, (two of which were spent in beta), the company had collected over 200 million data points from more than 25,000 unique users — mostly clinicians and health care leaders completing professional development coursework at hospitals and health systems across the country. The news release focused on this number as a representation of the company’s astonishing growth. But it means so much more than that, says Enderson Miranda, who became CEO of OnSomble in December.
Miranda and his team are hoping to leverage this vast store of data to create best practices and nationwide benchmarking for improved instructional design. Just not yet. “There’s a huge opportunity to leverage big data, but it’s really important to utilize it wisely,” Miranda says. “To be actionable, it must be quality data that is representative, relevant and real.” To become all of those things, OnSomble needs more data — at least 500 million data points, to be exact. The team also needs clients to opt into data sharing — currently, each client owns its own dataset.
As massive as that 500 million figure sounds, it shouldn’t be too far a reach. Privately held OnSomble just finished one of its strongest quarters ever. All the while, data points continue to accumulate and Miranda says the 500 million goal could be hit as early as the end of this year. Customer referrals have been OnSomble’s biggest source of new business, but the company also has plans to market its platform here at home.
Interestingly, OnSomble has no clients in the Middle Tennessee region, despite the company’s Nashville roots. In 2007, Shawn Mathis founded Nashville-based The Nurse Co., which, among other things, developed an online community for nurses. In 2012, The Nurse Co. acquired a San Francisco-based health care consulting firm, changed its name to OnSomble and began building the OnRole platform. The beta version was released in 2013.
Created by Nashville-based software development firm DevDigital — which is also part-owner of OnSomble through its Kernel Equity arm — the cloud-based platform relies on machine learning and proprietary algorithms to deliver competency-based professional development, continuing education and individualized learning to its users. It also allows hospitals to collect and verify key professional development data needed for compliance with standards and certifications.
“Learning platforms have been around for a long time,” Miranda says. “But it was a lot like drinking from a fire hose. Hospitals would purchase a large system and hope their clinicians would find what they need. Missing was the ability to connect the user’s competency to what they actually need.”
OnRole aggregates every aspect of the user experience and every action they take within the platform into a searchable and analyzable data structure. “There’s not a click that is wasted,” Miranda says. Proprietary algorithms allow OnSomble to then turn what was once highly subjective data into actionable objective information.
“The adaptive learning algorithms not only identify areas of improvement for the individual users and groups, but also help identify the most beneficial educational content to develop the users professionally in a balanced and effective manner,” says DevDigital Senior Project Manager and Partner Thomas Ross, who also serves as OnSomble’s chief technology officer. “The more data provided to the algorithms, the less user input is required, allowing the system to identify the ROI for each course offering and adjust as needed.”
OnSomble is not in the content business, however. Hospitals are free to use their own education materials, or OnSomble can connect them to education from one of its content partners. “We don’t want to be in the content business,” Miranda says. “Our competency is building this platform. We have aligned with organizations that have a long-term track record of providing quality, reliable, up-to-date and evidence-based content.”
When OnSomble first started marketing OnRole in 2015, the company had two divisions — health care and non-health care. The latter “just outgrew the other one so substantially,” Miranda says, that it has been the focus. But that’s beginning to change. In March, Oklahoma Christian University was granted initial approval from that state’s Higher Learning Commission for a competency-based online bachelor’s program for nursing that will be hosted on the OnRole platform. While competency-based education is not a new concept, adoption and integration at the university level is still in its early stages. The months-long approval process was arduous, but worth it, Miranda says:
“This opens a range of new opportunities for us in the academic world.” The program is set to enter beta in the fall, with a full launch planned for next year.
As OnSomble brings on new clients, Miranda’s not worried about growing pains; the platform was built for scale. “OnRole was built as a multi-tiered, multi-tenency platform using shared proprietary code within separate databases,” Ross explains. “This allows the fastest deployment of updates while allowing us to ensure the strongest data segregation and security between clients. The separate databases and the use of virtualization technology allow us to scale seamlessly as the need arises across multiple servers and geographical locations.”
With just six full-time employees — that’s counting Miranda — OnSomble relies on strategic partnerships with companies like DevDigital to keep up with growing demand. “No matter how big we get, the platform will always be a response to what our clients are looking for,” Miranda says. To ensure that, the company funnels most of its funding to software development. OnSomble holds weekly meetings with the software team in order to discuss strategic software development priorities and current projects, which can be allocated to a team of more than 70 programmers based on each developer’s expertise. “We are constantly looking at ways to enhance the platform,” Miranda says. “We’ve never stopped building since we launched, and we don’t expect to.”