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From Disruptor to Market Leader

Each year Baruch College, a constituent college of the City University of New York system, hosts an annual entrepreneurial business competition. In 2000, three students from the college were awarded a third-place prize of $5,000 in seed money for their development of a lesson builder tool that allowed faculty to author their own course content. The team had aspirations of disrupting and reimagining how training was delivered across many industries. Through the development of online simulations that used storytelling, character narratives and practice-based learning, Kognito was born.

Product Methodology

Kognito saw a gap in the training industry and knew there was a more meaningful and impactful way to provide training. They leveraged a powerful gaming engine, virtual human avatars, interactive conversation platform, relevant storytelling, and branching narratives to create a unique and interactive experience far from the traditional PowerPoint slides or the sit-and-get model of training. As technology advanced, so did the ability to create more life-like environments and characters. By 2012, the designers moved away from creating two dimensional avatars in favor of using three dimensional technology to create more life-like characters. This move to 3D also allowed for multiple conversations to take place within one environment too.

During this same time product development evolved from the use of Flash to the Unity gaming platform which featured the ability to host 3D characters and environments. Every step in the product development process has been intentional, with the hallmark being the ability to practice.

 

What's in a Name

You might be wondering how Kognito got its name. One evening, the same group of students who won the entrepreneurial competition spent hours brainstorming ideas in a lab at Baruch College. They considered several names and with the help of co-founder, Dr. Glenn Albright selected, 'Cognito,' a play on cognition defined as “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses." From here the name Kognito stuck. 

The Early Days

In those early years as a start-up, Kognito developed trainings for police detectives and a variety of industries and clients including Baruch College, Starwood hotels, Avalon Leasing, the DOE and disaster management of NYC just to name a few. In 2008, after the tragic Virginia Tech school shooting, Kognito sought to provide support in the form of training to college faculty. The goal of this training was to provide the tools and knowledge to recognize students in distress and assist them with how/when to make a referral to support. At-Risk Mental Health for Faculty and Staff became a flagship training product and spurred the creation of similar 'At-Risk' products for students as well as K-12 educators.


Evidence-based and Practice-based Learning

Kognito’s trainings are research-backed and grounded in the neuroscience of learning and social cognition. Proven effective in changing behaviors, these simulations appeal to users because they are fun, feature virtual coaching and allow the user to practice in a safe environment. With over 35 published journal articles, our team has created and contributed to efficacy studies on a variety of topics including student mental health, suicide prevention, addiction, and trauma. Check out our complete library of research.

Collaborations 

Over the years Kognito has collaborated with a variety of organizations on important initiatives. In 2013, Gallup hired Kognito to create a mobile app to teach parents how to educate their children about the risks of drug use. Two years later, we worked with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to create simulations focused on antibiotics as well as how to address the challenging behavior of children. In 2017, Kognito was awarded a contract to create virtual interview skills training for the Veterans Health Administration

Recognition

Throughout the years Kognito has received many awards and has been featured in various media coverage. In 2015, Kognito was accepted into the National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices (NREPP) by SAMHSA. This acceptance is considered prestigious as Kognito is the only training provider to be recognized by this program. We've also been the recipient of numerous product excellence awards including a gold medal award in the SEL category and bronze medal award in the healthcare category in 2019 from International Serious Play

Over the years, media coverage has afforded Kognito the opportunity to demonstrate how instrumental our simulations have been in teaching educators, students, parents and healthcare workers how to communicate and initiate conversations on sensitive and complex topics. Outlets ranging from the Wall Street Journal to NPR have highlighted how these training simulations have helped to normalize conversations, especially around mental health. 

A New Chapter

In 2017, Kognito was acquired by Ascend Learning, a company focused on providing training and certifications across a variety of different healthcare, safety, academic and fitness brands. This acquisition furthered Kognito's reach and allowed their products to be leveraged across many other Ascend businesses including ATI, NHA and Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Where We Are Today

Over the last two decades we've accomplished a great deal including the release of over 60 products featuring hundreds of interactive conversations. We're proud to say that we have onboarded over 350 clients across multiple verticals which have provided training to 1.5M+ users. The work we're most proud of is the impact we know we're having right now on someone who, because of one of our trainings, is now confident enough to initiate a life-changing conversation.

How Did We Get Here?

Late 1990's - 2000

Entrepreneurial Competition Launches Kognito

Three Baruch College students receive $5K in seed money after placing third in the college's annual entrepreneurial competition with aspirations of disrupting how training is delivered.

Late 1990's - 2000

2001

First Office Opens in New York City

135 West 26th Street, NewYork, NY

2001

2000 - 2001

Storytelling and Character Narratives

After creating several pieces of content for Baruch College, we created statistics modules called 'Adventures in Statistics: Cartoon Learning Modules.' It was from here that we used storytelling and character narratives to teach content to students.

2000 - 2001

2000 - 2007

From Police Training to Leasing

In the first seven years we created training products for multiple industries including Avalon Properties, Emergency Management Office in NYC and Starwood Hotels. During this time one of our most notable products was, Meet Officer Roberts.

2000 - 2007

2008

Released At-Risk Mental Health for Faculty & Staff

After the tragic mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, Kognito set out to create a resource for college faculty and staff to help them identify students in distress and refer them to support. They released At-Risk Mental Health for Faculty & Staff and began exclusively focusing on products for the higher education and K – 12 markets.

2008

2009-2011

Expanded At-Risk Training to PK-12 Educators

Kognito saw a need for educator training across different grade levels and got to work on creating it's flagship series of products known to many as At-Risk. This suite of products featured simulations for elementary, middle and high school teachers and staff as well as a student module. The goal was to address mental health and give educators and students the right training and tools. 

2009-2011

2012 - 2013

Taking Virtual Humans from 2D to 3D

Virtual humans are at the core of each Kognito training simulation. Each character is very relatable and has human attributes and characteristics. During this time we achieved a major product development milestone moving from creating virtual humans in 2D to 3D. Our designers also stopped using Adobe Flash in favor of Unity, a proprietary logic engine which would drive the conversations in the platform.

2012 - 2013

2013

Hired by Gallup to Create Mobile App

Gallup connected with Kognito to create a mobile app to teach parents how to talk to their kids about drug use.

2013

2015

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Collaboration

Collaborated with Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) Foundation to create several simulations about antibiotics and how to have conversations around the challenging behaviors of children.

2015

2015

Accepted to the NREPP

Kognito’s simulations are backed by research and are one of the only trainings recognized in the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP) by SAMSHA 

2015

2017

First big PR Hit!

We landed our first big PR hit with NPR when they profiled At-Risk Mental Health for Students

2017

2017

Acquired by Ascend Learning

In 2017, Kognito was acquired by Ascend Learning. Kognito simulations are integrated into various Ascend businesses such as ATI nursing, NHA and Jones & Bartlett Learning. 

2017

2019

Received Gold and Bronze Awards from International Serious Play

Kognito received the Gold Medal citation for excellence in the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) category in the 2019 International Serious Play Awards program. That same year they received the Bronze medal in the Healthcare category. 

2019

2022

Released Spanish Language Versions of Core Trainings

In 2022, Kognito released several Spanish language versions of our top-selling mental health training simulations for parents, caregivers and educators.

2022

2023

Where We Are Today

We've come a long way in the past two decades and have accomplished a great deal: 

  • 60+ training simulations
  • Hundreds of 'conversations' 
  • 18+ hours of content 
  • Efficacy research published in 35+ professional and academic journals 
  • 1.5+ million users trained 
  • 350 clients 

2023
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