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Rob Bruno – Achieve3000

COVID-19 brings new lessons in online education

Rob Bruno is no stranger to ensuring technology can be a valuable teaching tool for students. In fact, he says fostering equity in education is one of the greatest rewards of his IT career.

As chief technology officer for Achieve3000, Bruno was already bringing about changes in how the online educational content provider operates. He also helped integrate acquisitions the company was making. But changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, including a shift to remote learning across the U.S., created new demands.

“In over two decades in my career, [and] my most significant contribution is the things that we did during the shutdown to redeploy and offer things quickly, and in the scale for what the people really need, while also adapting to hybrid learning,” he says.

Pandemic lessons

Achieve3000 was founded in Lakeview, New Jersey, in 2000 to provide educational tools and resources to teachers and school districts. In 20 years, it has served more than 5.1 million students and 310,500 teachers in the U.S. and 48 countries. Achieve3000’s programs and software are used in 9,600 school districts and 40,500 schools, according to its website.

In 2018, Achieve3000 acquired Actively Learn, also a provider of an online literacy tool. In 2020, it launched Achieve3000 Math. This year, the company acquired Teachonomy, a professional learning platform for educators and administrators.

Along with the launch and acquisitions, Bruno says the company also expanded its curriculum to help schools shift to remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those are available, for a limited time, even to schools that are not customers and are accessible on a separate website he and his staff built.

Whether creating English and Spanish online booklets and online learning games for pre-K to second grade students, or remote learning sites, Bruno says his staff, who are also working remotely, “rose to the challenge and adapted quickly while providing online access to valuable information.”

He and his staff are now ensuring the content can be used on any device, he adds. An additional challenge is ensuring content can be used by visually impaired students and those who are deaf or have partial hearing loss.

Before the pandemic, Bruno and his staff shifted Achieve3000’s operations to the Amazon Web Services cloud. The shift allows the company to “grow faster without being constrained by physical services,” he says. AWS also offers tools, including speech recognition, for learning and data analytics that help teachers identify students who are either struggling or need more challenges because they’re succeeding, he says.

AWS analytics also gives teachers and administrators the means to determine where they can improve their own content, he adds.

A fitting role

In part, Bruno attributes his affinity for education technology to his parents. His mother was a music teacher, while his father worked at IBM.

His IT career began in 1997, when he joined Thomson Education Direct as a developer. One of Thomson’s companies was Penn Foster Career Schools, and when it was sold, Bruno became CTO at Penn Foster. The change gave him a chance to work with his father, albeit briefly, before he retired.

In May 2019, after nearly 13 years at Penn Foster, Bruno joined Achieve3000. As the company was new in the online education field, he says he was able to help it move from a startup to a maturing environment.

Reflecting on his career, Bruno says education is a good place to apply technology, because he can see the fruits of his labor at work so quickly.

“Providing for students, regardless of their situation, and ensuring they have equal access to content and tools in order to succeed, is what matters, and that’s where we can help out the most,” he says. “There will be an at home and in classroom. Our software is not to replace the teachers, but to help.”

Published on: July 6, 2021

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