“Don’t Panic, Assess Risk, Seize Opportunity.”
Fast Learner: How An Educational Software Firm Successfully Adapted to Pandemic Restrictions
EXTON, Pa. — Higher education health care technology company Education Management Solutions nearly became a pandemic shutdown casualty when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all “non-life-sustaining businesses” in his state to close their doors last March to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By the end of the year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 30 percent of the state’s businesses had closed. The national average was 19 percent.
The Exton, Pennsylvania-based company was on track for a banner year, blowing past its first-quarter 2020 goals and expanded its staff 100 people. That all changed with Wolf’s executive order.
Company Vice President Lynn Welch received the bad news in a text message after Wolf issued his order.“I was at a charity golf tournament when I got a text that our senior executives had met to develop a mitigation strategy,” Welch told Zenger News. “Our finance team was concerned that we’d have to lay off staff, reduce work hours and reduce salaries because of Governor Wolf’s mandate. Only three of our 100 staff members worked remotely, so we were facing an unprecedented challenge,” she said.
Welch, company CEO Anurag Singh and other executives didn’t let the pandemic freeze them in place or retreat from their first-quarter success. Instead they implemented what Welch called the “Don’t Panic, Assess Risk, Seize Opportunity” plan.
“Within 48 hours of the mandate’s implementation, everyone in the company was working virtually,” she said. “We kept all staff employed, we introduced several innovative technological solutions which led to our being acquired, and we surpassed our original 2020 revenue goals by more than 30 percent!”
Perhaps the most impressive change the company made was to its marketing strategy, which Welch leads. “Trade shows had previously grossed 50 percent of our leads, and they were suddenly canceled. Again facing an unprecedented challenge, our marketing team went digital with amazing results. We tripled lead generation compared to 2019, shortened our sales funnel from over 100 days to 22 days, and tripled our overall prospects and web visitors.”
Singh told Zenger the company’s success was based upon seizing opportunities in the suddenly virtual healthcare education world. “In early April, we launched our first COVID-era solution to medical students’ board certification exams,” he said. “Our virtual student testing and faculty evaluation program helped hundreds of nursing and medical students graduate and get into the workforce as the pandemic ramped up.”
Students have suffered immensely due to the pandemic; numerous studies show that virtual learning has been detrimental to college students’ experience and education. Singh said Education Management Solutions sought to keep medical and nursing students on-track for learning and graduation.
“We focused our solutions on the three core pillars of higher education — classroom lecture, hands-on lab work, and workplace practice — and ensured that our software was secure and able to work with the technologies already in use by students and instructors.”
Singh said Education Management Solutions’ initial success hinged on providing one unified technology platform that was widely accessible, as opposed to developing software designed to work on a particular mobile device, operating system or computer. The results of the streamlined exam software were enormous; the company’s organic growth jumped by 32 percent, millions of dollars in purchases came through, and the company was suddenly on the map for new potential hospital, higher education, and government agency clients and partners.
All this opened up other opportunities to help more frontline healthcare workers get into the field, said Singh. It led to a 600 percent increase in attendance in the company’s monthly industry webinars. And it was responsible for Education Management Solutions’ acquisition by another higher education technology firm, Collegis Education.
“Anurag and I met in April when our companies were helping a mutual client,” Collegis Education president and CEO James Cowie told Zenger. “We realized that our firms had overlapping focuses, and began talking about an acquisition.” By August — five months after nearly closing its doors — Education Management Solutions was acquired by Collegis, which has offices in Oak Brook, Illinois; Bloomington, Minnesota; and Orlando, Florida.
Cowie said the acquisition helped Collegis accelerate its goal of helping medical and nursing students stay on-track for graduation and joining the workforce.
“Before the pandemic, most states had very strict regulations on clinical requirements,” he said. “Once the pandemic hit, hospitals were not allowing nursing or medical student clinical rotations, and almost all simulation labs on campuses across the country were forced to shut down.”
Cowie said many states now have waivers to help students use simulations instead of in-person testing, so Collegis’ goal is to ensure the virtual testing is as rigorous and as accessible as the pre-pandemic, in-person testing.
“The nursing shortfall in America has been a major challenge for years; COVID-19 just made it worse,” said Cowie. “Together, Collegis and Education Management Solutions are going to keep the class of 2021 moving toward their original graduation date.”
(Edited by Matthew B. Hall and Bryan Wilkes)