Pearson Testing

Teaching & Testing

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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

Group,

boast enviable skills in setting up online training for banking,

insurance,

accounting, and securities industries. William J. Healy and Steven

Haase launched Akros Learning Group in May to provide turnkey

enterprise

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

companies,

Princeton Learning Systems. Four years later they sold it and have

been pursuing other interests, including Haase’s filming of children’s

travel videos.

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

systems,

content conditioning, authoring tools, instructional design, and

testing

and reporting. Akros joins the line of consulting companies that want

to help large financial services firms manage their enterprise

learning.

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

financial

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

established

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

children’s

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,

corporations

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

compatibility

and integration issues, it becomes a real problem for large

companies."

"We see these Enterprise Learning Partnerships as a huge

opportunity,"

says Haase. "We formed Akros Learning Group to provide enterprise

learning architecture and integration solutions focused on the

financial

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

learning solutions.

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

industry

compliance audiences."

"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

providers

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

Education

(Atlanta, GA), and Securities Training Corporation. "These

companies

are niche players focused on course content and compliance

management,"

says Haase. "Akros intends to lead the way in the financial

services

industry."

— Barbara Fox

Akros Learning Group, 83 Princeton Avenue, Hopewell

08525. William Healy, president. 609-532-9356; fax, 800-878-6708.

Home page: www.akroslearning.com

Top Of Page
Pearson Testing

An outpost of a big testing firm company quietly opened

a small office at Princeton Forrestal Village earlier this year.

Pearson

Professional Centers is part of an old British firm that started out

owning the Financial Times newspaper and the Penguin publishing

imprint.

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

company.

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

in 2000.

Among Pearson’s certification portfolios are the tests for Microsoft

and Cisco. Its major competitor is a Thomson Learning company,

Prometric,

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

Centers.

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

countries.

Computerized certification testing is here to stay, says Joan Knapp

of Knapp & Associates International Inc., a consulting firm at

Montgomery

Commons. "When we started our business in 1989, many people said

computerized testing would never work. Now it’s an international

business,"

says Knapp. Her company just surveyed 1,000 certification

organizations

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."

Pearson Professional Centers, 125 Village

Boulevard,

Suite 302, Princeton 08540. 609-452-8668. Home page:

www.ncspearson.com

Top Of Page
Teaching & Testing

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

lesson.

Peterson’s (TOC), 2000 Lenox Drive, Princeton Pike

Corporate Center, Suite 300, Lawrenceville 08648. Mary Gatch,

president. 609-896-1800; fax, 609-896-1811. Home page:

www.petersons.com

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.

eduNeering Inc., 100 Campus Drive, University

Square, Princeton 08540. Don Deieso, president & CEO. 609-627-5300;

fax, 609-627-5330. E-mail: contact@eduneering.com Home page:

www.eduneering.com

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).

Knapp & Associates International Inc., 712

Executive Drive, Montgomery Commons, Princeton 08540. Joan E.

Knapp, CEO. 609-921-3478; fax, 609-683-9295. E-mail:

admin@knappinternational.com Home page:

www.knappinternational.com

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

trade associations.

Secondary School Admission Test Board Inc., 862

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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