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Online Learning: Critical Mass
This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on March 24, 1999. All rights reserved.
If Princeton Learning Systems is bringing online learning
to the financial industry, another Princeton-based company — Eduneering
Inc. — has taken it to the healthcare and energy industries. And
even as Dow Jones is offering Internet-based investment classes for
consumers, the Princeton Center for Education Services has just launched
web-based classes in entrepreneurism for the United States Small Business
Any successful training effort has a testing component, either informal
or formal. How else does one know whether the training is complete?
Various firms — at least two based in Princeton and one global
firm that has just opened an office here — deliver tests. The
Chauncey Group, a for-profit subsidiary of Educational Testing Service
with corporate, professional association, and trade group clients,
is partnering with Princeton Learning Systems. Knapp & Associates
International is partnering with a competitor to Princeton Learning
Systems to provide similar tests. And Saville & Holdsworth (SHL),
the world’s largest test provider in the private sector, has just
opened an office at 100 Canal Pointe to serve Fortune 100 clients
such as Staples and Pepsi.
Meanwhile Kelly Scientific Resources, a recruiting company with an
office on Route 130, has begun to offer both free and fee-based online
training for technical personnel to its clients and to the general
<B>Princeton Center for Education Services has developed
the online classroom for the federal Small Business Administration
(http://www.sba.gov). Since the site was introduced by Vice
President Al Gore in January, more than 60,000 free courses have been
taken and an estimated 50,000 classes weekly will be delivered in
the third quarter.
"Our job is to design, develop, and obviously deliver the material,"
says Donald Martin, vice president of business development. "We
are trying to encourage people to look at the SBA and realize there
are enormous resources out there for small business." In February
3,000 people took advantage of a hot link at the end of the course
to counseling services.
"People can get through the courses in from 20 to 70 minutes,"
says Martin. "We opened with three classes, are just completing
the next six (on how entrepreneurs can get loans), and are building
the next 10. Our most widely hit course is the one on the Y2K problem
with content from IBM."
With nine people in Pennington plus full-timers in Minneapolis and
Seattle, the firm offers a process — the Princeton Center Process
— not a platform. Last year, for United States embassies, it built
a 4 1/2 hour course on software applications. "Our business is
converting information into knowledge, and we do this with a series
of tools," says Martin.
The SBA classes run off a database of visuals and tests that require
the user to download the player, which takes from three to five minutes.
The Harvard Business School will contribute a monthly component to
"We are not giving CEUs (continuing education units) at this time
but have started discussions on using certifications with the banks.
If we could improve how loans are handled and how people are qualified,
that should expedite getting small businesses the loans they want,"
Franklin Avenue, Straube Center, Pennington 08534. Peter J. Rizza
Jr., president. 609-737-8098; fax, 609-737-3787.
Eduneering Inc. is doing for the healthcare and energy
industries what Princeton Learning Systems is doing for the financial
services — all industries that are subject to heavy federal regulation.
In 1997, when Eduneering was bought by Hastings Healthcare, Hastings
wanted to be an early entry into the online learning market, and CEO
John Eichert was predicting he would take Hastings public by his 10th
anniversary in 2000. But instead Hastings has merged with a much larger
firm, Healthway Communications International, a 350-employee global
company based in Austin, Texas that offers digital publishing, multimedia,
medical education, sales training, direct-to-patient relationship
marketing, Internet, and telecommunications services.
Eduneering did not go with the deal. It is independently providing
innovative technological learning solutions — distance learning,
enterprise learning, and extensive libraries — compliance training
for pharmaceutical and medical device companies and health and safety
training for the energy industry. It has the largest library of energy
"Not only are we a technology company but we have instructional
design abilities to create content for our clients," says Janice
McFarland, Eduneering’s vice president of marketing. "Our systems
create, launch, and track all training, enterprise-wide. We have a
very large customer base; about 350 energy and pharmaceutical companies
are using our systems."
Building B, Pennington Office Park, Pennington 08534-4399. John Eichert,
president and CEO. 609-730-0100; fax, 609-730-0330.
A, Second Floor, Pennington 08534. Robert P. Delamontagne, president.
609-730-0030; fax, 609-730-0131. Home page: http://www.eduneering.com.
What’s available now in online learning, says Joan Knapp,
"is just the tip of the iceberg in sophistication and the kind
of support that people need — simulations, interaction, support,
and providing access to faculty or study groups." With 10 employees
at Montgomery Commons and a hefty roster of consultants, Knapp
& Associates is working with KnowHow, a competitor to Princeton Learning
Systems, to do assessment for professional and trade associations
and online learning companies.
"Industry is no longer willing to pay for training unless the
person can prove that they know their stuff," says Knapp. Noting
that some certificates are not "high stakes" she predicts
students will soon be able to authenticate their tests with voice
or video recognition technologies and avoid having to take the tests
at, for instance, a branch of Sylvan Learning Centers.
She is working with KnowHow, which has a proprietary platform used
by Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, and Circuit City. For the Academy for
Healthcare Quality, sponsored by the Chicago-based Joint Commission
on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, she is helping five
universities — inexperienced in distance learning — develop
Internet-based materials on healthcare management practices. "It
is a real leap to go from `butt sitting on a chair’ to distance learning,"
Drive, Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540. Joan E. Knapp, CEO. 609-921-3478;
Because customers want one-stop shopping, we are using
Princeton Learning Systems as a partner to deliver what we have decided
not to develop on our own — value added services such as practice
exams and ways for people to look up their scores," says Judith
D. Moore, president of ETS’ for-profit subsidiary last year.
An alumnus of Northwestern and the University of Chicago, Moore had
worked at Eastman Kodak and was president of the National Industries
for the Blind in Washington, D.C. The subsidiary does testing, certification
and other human resource development services for corporations, government,
and the professions — including nurses, architects, financial
planners, accountants, pharmacists, and podiatrists.
"My opportunity is to grow the company significantly," says
Moore. "My challenge is the change that is going on in the way
everyone does business. Princeton Learning Systems can deliver content,
but they can’t really do a certification exam," says Moore. "They
are focused on building a delivery system. I am essentially the auto
maker, but there needs to be a dealer and a service garage."
Center, Princeton 08540. Judith Moore, president. 609-720-6500; fax,
609-720-6550. Home page: http://www.chauncey.com.
With 10,000 clients in Fortune 1000 organizations, Saville
& Holdsworth (SHL) is the world’s largest test provider in the private
sector, says Pete Hudson, managing director of the new Princeton office
at 100 Canal Pointe. The international human resources consulting
firm builds selection and assessment tests, some of which are web-based,
some offered on diskette, some simply taken with pencil and pen.
SHL markets more than 200 tests in the United States to such clients
as Staples, Toys R Us, Pepsi, Capital One, Johns Hopkins, Merck, Perrier,
Swiss Re Insurance, Union Bank of Switzerland, Barclay’s, Morgan Stanley,
America Online, the Chicago public schools, and Enterprise Rental
Car. Tests vary from measuring sales to manual skills, from assessing
customer contact service candidates to executive candidates. For Morgan
Stanley, for instance, it tests IT applicants. For Staples, it focuses
on sales associates.
Founded by Roger Holdworth and Peter Saville in London, SHL has 300
industrial organizational psychologists in offices in 42 countries,
with North American branches in Boulder (the main technological center),
Chicago, Cleveland, State College, Austin, Walnut Creek, California,
Toronto, and Ottawa. Hudson went to the University of Texas and
has master’s and PhD degrees in industrial organization psychology
from University of Houston; he worked at Pepsico before joining SHL.
"We do have off-the-shelf tests but more often we come in and
do a job analysis with an industrial psychologist — to get at
the knowledge, skills, abilities, and personality attributes required,"
says Hudson, "to devise a regime to assess the skills that would
equate to successful performance within an organization." Testing
is important for both a glut and a scarcity of candidates, says Hudson.
In the latter case, an employer needs to be sure it is focusing on
the right candidates before spending training money.
"Worldwide we are seeing a concern about test integrity. If you
go online and you want to do some type of testing, you need a secure
site," says SHL’s Greg Gootee (Ball State, Class of 1976). "Most
companies will do the testing at their office, but some companies
will do limited testing online, before they bring you in."
Suite 114, Princeton 08540. Pete Hudson, managing director. 609-520-1700;
fax, 609-520-1774. Home page: http://www.shlusa.com.
In December the Michigan-based scientific staffing company,
Kelly Scientific Resources launched its online learning campus, the
Science Learning Center (SLC), at http://www.sciencelearning.com.
Some of the 12 available courses, including one on regulations
for personal protective equipment, are free to anyone, and some, such
as one on ISO 9000, cost $50. The most expensive, Clinical Trials
Monitoring, costs $800 and requires two to three weeks of full-time
KSS places people in biotechnology, food, medical device, pharmaceutical,
and specialty chemical industries. In January 1996 KSS offered computer-based
training, and in 1998 it was the first staffing service to introduce
web-based training for its workforce. It has on-line classes, content
assessment tests and grades, contact with faculty, and — when
enough students are in a class — the capacity for real-time chats.
KSS does not offer certification tests, says Rich Pennock, branch
manager of the Princeton office, because — unlike the Chauncey
Group’s arrangement with Sylvan Learning Systems, which administers
the online tests at its branch offices — KSR has no arrangement
to authenticate the identity of the test taker.
08512. Rich Pennock, branch manager. 609-655-3570; fax, 609-655-1712.
Home page: http://www.kellyscientific.com.
— Barbara Fox
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