Other 10.26.2017

Kognito is now part of Ascend Learning

A note from our co-founders, Ron Goldman and Glenn Albright


To our clients, partners, colleagues and friends:
Today, we are thrilled to share that Kognito is now part of the Clinical Healthcare group of Ascend Learning, a leading provider of health education content, software and analytics. This is a major milestone for us at Kognito and a true testament to our talented, passionate and dedicated team, as well as the many clients and partners who supported our growth over the years. This acquisition will allow us to continue to innovate and grow, with new and improved products and services, an increasingly sophisticated simulation and analytics platform, and a bigger team — all while staying true to our mission to harness the power of conversation to change lives.
If you are one of our existing clients, there will be no change in the way we work together. We will continue to operate as Kognito. Our leadership and your account teams remain in place.


A quick look back to the beginning

Our journey started in 2004 after winning 3rd place and $850 in an entrepreneurship competition. Our goal was to build interactive learning experiences that combined the science of learning with the power of gaming technology. We saw a real opportunity to disrupt a market that relied heavily on static, non-interactive “page-turners” to build skills and competencies. We knew that if we could build experiences that provide hands-on practice and then have scientific evidence to back their efficacy that we would have something special with unlimited scalability and potential.
But we quickly realized that we were early, very early, to the market. We often heard that “games are not a way to learn,” “we measure success by completion rates,” and “virtual humans are for kids, you can’t use them with adult learners.” But we were not ready to give up. And so, with a team of 5 we started building simulations.
We had many ups and downs over the years but we never questioned that we were on the right path. We did the best we could to “tune out” the doubters and concentrated on assembling a team of exceptional people, collecting data to back up the efficacy of our solutions, and finding the clients who shared our vision.
In 2009, after five years of operation we were ready for the next step in our growth and we made several key decisions that set the path to what Kognito is today. We decided to:

  • Specialize in role-playing simulations where users engage in conversations with virtual humans as a way to build their confidence and skills to lead similar conversations in real life.
  • Focus on health, and only create simulations that lead to improved social, emotional, and physical health.
  • Build a simulation platform that allows us to author and deliver simulated conversations that mimic the dynamic of real-life interactions.
  • Craft a robust analytics capabilities to allow us to also use simulations for assessment and garner in-depth insights based on user behaviors in those simulations.
  • Create our own portfolio of learning and skills assessment simulations to sell and license to many different clients.

The question was, which simulation to build first. The answer ended up being easy: listen to our clients. At the time, we already worked with several academic institutions and within a span of one month, all of them, without exception, told us that following the shootings at Virginia Tech, they all needed to rapidly train their faculty and staff about student mental health, and how to approach students exhibiting signs of psychological distress to talk to them about seeking help. These schools could “check the box” by bringing speakers to give lectures on the topic, but they all recognized that if they really wanted faculty to gain the confidence and skills to approach and talk with students, that they would be better off providing them with a simulation where they can learn through practice and personalized feedback. Otherwise, they wouldn’t realize the behavior change they were seeking.
In 2010, we launched At-Risk for Faculty and Staff. Within the first year, we had over 100 academic institutions who had purchased the simulation, and we knew we were on the right path.
In 2012, our work collecting outcome data resulted in our first simulation recognized as an evidence-based program and listed in the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
These early successes led to the entire Kognito portfolio of health simulations that now spans more than 25 simulations covering areas such as chronic disease, mental health, substance use, and treatment adherence that have been accessed by over 1 million health professionals, educators, students, patients and caregivers across hundreds of private and public organizations.
Today, joining forces with Ascend Learning presents the ideal scenario and partnership for the future. Backed by a stellar reputation in the field of education, a real and evident track record in innovation, and a remarkably similar mission to ours, it was obvious from our first meeting with Ascend’s leadership team that they were the ideal match.


The Future

So what now? It is a little cliché to say “we are just getting started” but it does feel like that. Our goals remain big and our mission remains intact. Being part of the Clinical Healthcare group at Ascend Learning will allow us to have our existing and future products exposed to an incredible number of additional organizations and users in and outside of the U.S., to more quickly add more simulations to our portfolio, to build our technology platform with more analytics and unique features, to design even more intelligent virtual humans, to integrate emerging technologies such as NLP, VR, AR etc. and to be even more responsive to the needs of our clients and partners.
Thank you for being part of Kognito and the role you have played in our journey thus far. We wouldn’t be here without you.


All the best,

Ron Goldman and Glenn Albright