Assessment Company ACT, Touting Broader Mission, Acquires Knovation

Managing Editor

The longtime assessment organization ACT has made another business deal in its latest effort to broaden its focus from testing to becoming a provider of “learning, measurement, and navigation” services.

The nonprofit announced Thursday it is acquiring Knovation, a company that works on curating content and finding standards-aligned resources for school districts, among other goals.

It was the latest in a series of acquisitions and investments made by ACT over the past few years.

The others have included deals to snap up OpenEd, a resource library of videos and other content; and investments in ProExam, an assessment and credentialing provider, and in New Markets Venture Partners, an education-focused investment fund.

It has also sought to expand its research and product development in psychometrics, learning science, and software. Two years ago, ACT created ACTNext, a multidisciplinary unit within the organization, to focus on that mission.

In an interview, ACT’s CEO Marten Roorda said his organization still has other mergers and acquisitions “in the pipeline.”

Over the next year, ACT hopes to finalize other deals that will strengthen its ability to focus on product development at the intersection of measurement, data, and learning. The acquisition of Knovation fits squarely with that goal, said Roorda, who took over as CEO three years ago.

ACT wants to support schools in “using assessments to provide the data to inform the learning,” Roorda explained. The organization is already producing new products that seek to accomplish that, but it has much bigger ambitions, he said.

“It will come to full capacity about a year from now,” the CEO said of ACT’s goals. “We’re still building some components.”

Business in the States

The acquisition will also strengthen ACT’s hand in responding to big requests for proposals put out by states, a market where ACT is already active, Roorda said. It’s likely to help ACT in cases where states are looking for a combination of assessment work and broader help aligning content to standards, he said.

The terms of the Knovation acquisition were not disclosed. ACT will take over a variety of Knovation assets, including tools and platforms for content collection; netTrekker, an application that helps students search and share resources; and icurio, an application to help teachers design and deliver curated digital resources.

In addition to serving K-12 districts, Knovation also works with education technology companies whose customers are in the school market.

Knovation CEO Randy Wilhelm said in a statement that his company “delivers unparalleled capability to effectively curate any kind of content with unlimited metadata and alignment connections.” The agreement, he said, will “help ACT move the market for learning.”

Wilhelm will join ACT as vice president of learning resources, the organization said.

Knovation, based in Cincinnati, has about 40 employees. There are no plans at this time to move any of those workers to ACT’s Iowa City, Iowa-based headquarters, a spokesman for ACT said.

ACT will try to build on Knovation’s current relationships with K-12 schools and businesses, said Suzana Delanghe, ACT’s chief commercial officer, in the announcement of the acquisition.

The deal is “yet another milestone in our journey to becoming a learning company,” said Roorda, one that can use data to “inform the use of the best learning resources.”

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