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Success Story | Systems for Growth

Ken Hartman
Dr. Ken Hartman

Portage Learning & NursingABC

Dr. Ken Hartman has always been passionate about helping students learn. As a chemistry professor at Geneva College in Beaver Falls, PA, he often put in extra office hours helping his students.

In the early 1970s, the director of a local nursing program approached him about a small group of students who needed to learn the basics of high school chemistry so they could be prepared for nursing school.

Ken was happy to help. Before long, aspiring nursing students from multiple nursing schools were lining up to get equipped in Algebra, Biology and Chemistry with Ken and a few other instructors he recruited to help. The program became known as Nursing ABC.

Ken wanted to further increase his impact. There were countless aspiring nurses who needed the help of Ken and NursingABC.

But as demand for the program grew, it started to put a strain on Ken and the other instructors. In 2002 they started interacting with the students online. Students emailed their lab work and quizzes, the instructor would grade it and email it back. This increased demand, but also created a lot of administrative work to keep track of each student’s progress.

He didn't want to turn anybody away, but something had to change.

That’s when Ken, with his son Nate and son-in-law Steve Michalik had their next big idea. They needed to move the program completely online and eliminate the need to email work back-and-forth with students. They brought their idea to Spire in 2008, who helped build a sophisticated online learning platform, a website where students could purchase courses online, and the marketing to scale it.

It was year of intense work, while the team at NursingABC moved their courses online. But soon the new system was online, instructors were no longer buried in administrative hassles, students loved the convenience, and demand for NursingABC courses skyrocketed.

In 2011, they rolled out Portage Learning, which offered college classes through Geneva College, delivered on the same online learning platform.  Portage now serves students nationally; they are bridging the gap of educational opportunities helping students realize their endeavors within their existing life schedules.

Today, more than 35,000 students have advanced their life goals with more than 20 courses delivered on the NursingABC and Portage Learning platforms.  Enrollment continues to grow on an annual basis; eight-fold since the inception of the online platform.

Ken and the team at Portage Learning and NursingABC are making an immeasurable impact on students across the United States. Best of all, Ken is free to focus on his joy of teaching, and he's spending more time than ever with his grandchildren.

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