acatar: An Innovative Learning Environment for Online Higher Education

Todd Zipper, President & CEO, acatarTodd Zipper, President & CEO
New technologies and the ubiquity of the internet as a learning resource have contributed to large-scale disruption in the education sector. Education is no longer confined to a campus; instead, universities are now expanding their student population by offering e-learning programs. However, switching successfully from traditional education systems to a digital platform requires not only new pedagogical strategies but also excellent tools. The challenge of building an online platform that is clean, modern, and focused on creating an intuitive and delightful experience for students and faculty alike is the mission of Pittsburgh-based Acatar.

Todd Zipper, President and CEO of The Learning House, Inc. which has recently acquired Acatar, believes the time is ripe for a learning platform with this kind of carefully-designed power and adaptability.

“Most of the LMS systems currently used are not designed with the user experience in mind,” said Zipper. “They also aren’t compatible with devices like smartphones and tablets, creating a challenge for faculty and students to deliver and learn in an innovative way.”

Because Acatar is a learning environment, rather than an administrative system, it facilitates collaboration and participation among faculty and students in an interactive interface, across all types of devices. The data collected in the Acatar learning environment provides universities with continuous information about how faculty and students are using the platform—ultimately helping to identify areas for improvement.

Building on deep pedagogical and design expertise, Acatar’s white glove service approach assists faculty in course design, video production, and content delivery to create rigorous and engaging online courses. “Apart from course and instructional design services, we streamline video production to make it more innovative and engaging for both faculty and students,” adds Zipper.

Acatar has a strong client base, working with premier higher education institutions. It helped develop a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) in thermodynamics for a professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering. Acatar was involved in course design, script writing, storyboard creation and video production. The 7-week-long MOOC had a completion rate of 20 percent – twice the national average. In addition, Acatar is assisting the faculty member as he takes the MOOC content and adapts it for a “flipped” version of Thermodynamics that will be offered on CMU’s campus.

Providing a virtual learning environment for higher education institutions to extend their reach while maintaining rigor and collaboration

The recent merger of Acatar and Learning House has opened new possibilities to enhance collaboration and social connection in online courses. Scalability and quality are merging to provide universities with the tools needed to deliver the best in online programs. “There is a need for better tools and through our knowledge and platform, we deliver solutions that help universities and faculty in implementing pedagogical skills,” concludes Zipper.