Corrections or additions?
This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the October 29, 2003
issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Serial Entrepreneurs Start Akros Learning
Entrepreneurs at one start-up firm, Akros Learning
boast enviable skills in setting up online training for banking,
accounting, and securities industries. William J. Healy and Steven
Haase launched Akros Learning Group in May to provide turnkey
learning and compliance solutions.
The team of Healy and Haase is the same one that pioneered in 1996
to establish one of the first Internet-based financial training
Princeton Learning Systems. Four years later they sold it and have
been pursuing other interests, including Haase’s filming of children’s
Now they are back in the game on Princeton Road in Hopewell. "Due
to tremendous growth of the E-learning sector over the past few years,
hundreds of providers of corporate learning products have entered
the market to offer their solutions to corporations," says Healy.
"Akros was formed to help companies choose, implement, and fully
support successful enterprise-wide learning and compliance solutions
— without costly mistakes or delays."
Because so many players have entered this market, it is difficult
to find and integrate the right tools — learning management
content conditioning, authoring tools, instructional design, and
and reporting. Akros joins the line of consulting companies that want
to help large financial services firms manage their enterprise
It has a help desk that offers phone and E-mail access to a dedicated
client service team that provides course, compliance, and application
support for entire user populations. Thomas C. Crawford is consulting
as COO/CFO, and Juan Villegas is director of learning technologies.
In 1996 Healy and Haase were working for the Toronto-based firm, VMI,
to create a training system for Prudential. Convinced that other
services firms would welcome a turnkey, Internet-based solution to
their training woes, they set up their own firm, Princeton Learning
Systems, at HQ in Princeton Forrestal Village. That year they
a website configured to perform the functions of a virtual campus,
Financial Systems University.
Haase had grown up in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where his parents had
a video production company that specializes in train-related videos.
After majoring in management and organizational development and change
at Rider University (Class of ’89) he worked for Healy at VMI. He
is married to a Rider alumna, and they have two schoolage children
who star in another enterprise, Trainfans, which moved to making
travel videos (U.S. 1, May 29, 2002).
Healy, a 1969 graduate of the University of Bridgeport, worked for
AT&T and Xerox, and Cigna Corporation before earning two master’s
degrees in psychology, and a PhD from Fairleigh Dickinson. As vice
president of executive development at Merrill Lynch (1974 to 1982)
he created an internal curriculum that had university accreditation.
He also designed courses for Shearson American Express, where he was
vice president. In 1986 he set up a firm that he sold to VMI Learning
Systems, and he was president of VMI from 1992 to 1995.
Healy and Haase invested $225,000 in the start-up, and
William Mayhall, who has an office on Chambers Street, was one of
the original investors. Four years later they sold it to a well-funded
dotcom, and it is now part of eMind (www.emind.com)
"In the enterprise learning marketplace, there is obviously a
definitive need for learning, testing, certification, compliance,
and licensing-related products and services. Historically,
have selected several vendors to provide associated solutions. And
until recently, this was a workable scenario," explains Haase.
"However, what’s happened over the last few years is that the
purchase decision has become much more difficult given the plethora
of solution providers. And when you combine this with the adoption
of Enterprise Learning Platforms that bring about product
and integration issues, it becomes a real problem for large
"We see these Enterprise Learning Partnerships as a huge
says Haase. "We formed Akros Learning Group to provide enterprise
learning architecture and integration solutions focused on the
services industry — insurance companies, banks, securities firms,
mutual funds, accounting, etc."
Given that Healy and Haase have installed more than 60 enterprise
learning and compliance solutions for financial services companies,
they are able to get face time with senior executives, focusing on
an "Enterprise Learning Partnership," analyzing their current
enterprise learning methods and recommending strategic enterprise
Often these large firms have multiple Learning Management Systems
(LMS) platforms in place that support different employee populations,
such as IT, sales, or customer service. "Instead of recommending
the replacement of each LMS (sometimes carrying significant costs
in the millions), we will often focus on creating `bridges’ between
each of the platforms that are designed to collect enterprise learning
data and generate associated reporting for senior executives and
"By not pushing a proprietary solution, Akros Learning Group is
able to develop more of a strategic relationship with our clients.
For instance, we have developed a `template’ client relationship with
Bankers Life & Casualty (Chicago), one of the country’s leading
of Long Term Care and insurance related products."
Aside from eMind, Haase points to companies in the financial services
compliance space — Financial Campus (Southborough, MA), Kaplan
Professional/Dearborn (Chicago, IL), RegEd (Raleigh,NC), Bisys
(Atlanta, GA), and Securities Training Corporation. "These
are niche players focused on course content and compliance
says Haase. "Akros intends to lead the way in the financial
— Barbara Fox
08525. William Healy, president. 609-532-9356; fax, 800-878-6708.
Home page: www.akroslearning.com
An outpost of a big testing firm company quietly opened
a small office at Princeton Forrestal Village earlier this year.
Professional Centers is part of an old British firm that started out
owning the Financial Times newspaper and the Penguin publishing
During the merging mania of the ’90s, it made so many acquisitions
and alliances that it now claims to be the world’s largest education
This Pearson office administers tests for nurses, doctors, and lab
technicians. Right now, it is open only on Mondays and Tuesdays, from
7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Headquartered in Minnesota, the company was
established as Virtual University Enterprises (VUE) and acquired by
National Computer Systems in 1997, which in turn was bought by Pearson
Among Pearson’s certification portfolios are the tests for Microsoft
and Cisco. Its major competitor is a Thomson Learning company,
according to a Pearson spokesperson.
One of the major Pearson companies is Pearson Education, based in
Saddle River, which acquired the trade book division of Simon Schuster
in 1997. With such imprints as Scott Foresman, Prentice Hall, Addison
Wesley, Longman, and Allyn & Bacon, it publishes about one-third of
the text and online programs on U.S. campuses.
The Forrestal Village-based testing center is one of the wholly owned
testing centers that operate under the name Pearson Professional
It uses its VUE website (www.vue.com) because that brand name is so
well established, says the spokesperson, David Hakensen. Pearson has
200 centers in the United States and 3,300 centers in more than 130
Computerized certification testing is here to stay, says Joan Knapp
of Knapp & Associates International Inc., a consulting firm at
Commons. "When we started our business in 1989, many people said
computerized testing would never work. Now it’s an international
says Knapp. Her company just surveyed 1,000 certification
on the eventual elimination of paper and pencil testing. "The
overwhelming majority think that computer-based testing is here and
will be more important in the future."
Suite 302, Princeton 08540. 609-452-8668. Home page:
In addition to Capstar, Akros, and Pearson, Princeton
boasts a number
of other online learning and testing firms, starting of course with
Educational Testing Service, which has 2,600 employees worldwide, most
of them on Rosedale Road (www.ets.org). Its online technologies
include several programs for improving essay skills, scoring methods,
and real-time feedback on how individual students absorb a particular
Corporate Center, Suite 300, Lawrenceville 08648. Mary Gatch,
president. 609-896-1800; fax, 609-896-1811. Home page:
Part of Canada-based Thomson Corporation and Connecticut-based
Thompson Learning, Peterson’s provides books and online resources
focusing on the educational-search, test-preparation, and
financial-aid markets for 110 million consumers annually.
It uses Learning Object Technology to deliver what it terms "a truly
personalized course curriculum for each test taker." A series of
learning objects, distinct modules of instruction, are assigned based
on the results of diagnostic tests that identify a student’s
weaknesses and strengths.
Square, Princeton 08540. Don Deieso, president & CEO. 609-627-5300;
fax, 609-627-5330. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Home page:
Eduneering is a 23-year-old company offering technology-based learning
solutions for the pharmaceutical, healthcare, energy, and
manufacturing industries. With about 40 employees in Princeton, it
also has outposts in Houston and London for a total of 100 people. "We
incorporate testing as part of the mastery learning that we use as
part of our instruction," says Tia Smallwood, who was hired from ETS
to be chief marketing officer here. Eduneering bases some of its
competency-based learning on artificial intelligence algorithms that
devise a pretest. The learners are directed to take only the course
work they need.
"We use technology to help companies solve their compliance issues,"
says Smallwood. "If certification is needed, we will help design the
online solution. We work with subject matter experts in a variety of
fields. We concentrate in those areas that are regulated and where we
can bring an overall compliance solution to the organization."
For instance, Eduneering devises the content for the Food and Drug
Administration’s online university for the Office of Regulatory
Affairs (see story on Capstar, page tk).
Executive Drive, Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540. Joan E.
Knapp, CEO. 609-921-3478; fax, 609-683-9295. E-mail:
email@example.com Home page:
Founded in 1990, this seven-person consulting firm offers competency
assessment, and research and development. It develops and improves
professional certification programs for professional associations and
Route 518, Skillman 08558. Regan Kenyon, executive director.
609-683-4440; fax, 609-683-1702. Home page: www.ssat.org
Non-profit educational organization that develops and administers
tests primarily for admission to independent schools.
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