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Fairport firm gets boost from a national study

Strong results from a recent national study have put Fairport-based CypherWorx Inc. in an ideal position for 2016.

The company partnered with Excel Beyond the Bell—a San Antonio-based collaborative program that unites non-profit and public agencies to provide out-of-school-time services to families—to test the effectiveness of CypherWorx’s e-learning out-of-school time professional development courses.

The San Antonio pilot study is one of the few studies in the country that looked at pre-test and post-test scores of users in the child care industry. The study tested 147 participants in six courses.

The results—released in July—found statistically significant increases in the knowledge of participants based on CypherWorx’s e-learning training.

“The surprise was that we’re on the cutting edge here in 2015,” said Paul Cypher, CEO and president. “What we’re experts in is how to take content and deliver it in an effective way.

“I just assumed there had to be hundreds of studies like this out in the field. We’re the only one that looked at objective measures online,” he said.

CypherWorx partners with a national association that requires training for individual members or member organizations and works with them to create a customized system. Once completed, the company sells that system to members of the association.

Jill Oettinger, CEO of Good Samaritan Community Services in San Antonio, managed the study as part of the Excel Beyond the Bell initiative.

“What we wanted to know is (if) online learning is effective and scalable, and what we’re finding is there’s a resounding yes,” she said. “So we’re very excited about the scalability.”

Given the multiple differences in demographics of participants, the results help to strengthen CypherWorx and its offering, said James Marshall, an e-learning and design-based research expert who analyzed the results of the study. He is a faculty member in the department of learning design and technology at San Diego State University.

“What I find interesting about this study is when you look at the pre-test scores and then compare them to the post-test scores, pretty much everybody—with a few exceptions—was performing up in a very close-knit group where their scores were not only much higher but they were all similar,” he said. “That’s the kind of difference in education that you dream of.”

The bulk of CypherWorx’s 500 clients are outside of Rochester. The company’s clients include close to 70 percent of the zoos in the nation and 25 percent of the YMCA market in the United States. The company also partners with the American Alliance of Museums. The child care market is the firm’s emerging market, officials say. The company has 25 employees and is targeting $2.8 million in revenues this year.

CypherWorx recently won a 2015 Brandon Hall Group bronze in the category, “Excellence in Learning: Best in Custom Content” for its Out-of-School Time Professional Development Course Series.

It has around 500 courses that encompass thousands of hours of learning, officials said.

“They’re a company to watch,” Oettinger said. “The example of this out of school time curriculum is it aligns with all the national standards, and so they have put together a product that we are all are seeking. It applies to us all across the country.

“They’ve identified a need; they have gone to the highest standards of accreditation for training purposes,” she added.

When he started the company in 2009, Cypher knew he had a market right away, he said.

“I went out with this proof of concept to essentially five associations,” he said. “It was one of my best days and one of my worst days because all five said we are interested and I really didn’t have a product yet.”

Today e-learning has established itself, and companies and educational institutions understand its benefit. But that was not always the case, Cypher said.

“There’s a lot of people who have real-ly looked at: Is online learning effective? And that has probably been put to rest,” he said. “Over time colleges said, ‘Wow, this is actually not only effective, it’s actually really good and in most ways it’s more effective.’

“We don’t hear the objection anymore at all that the online training won’t work. What we hear is we don’t have time budgets.”

E-learning is about connecting to learners, experts say.

“In the profession of online learning it’s often said that there’s more bad stuff out there than good in terms of stuff that is well-designed, pedagogically sound and really pays heed to who it’s for,” Marshall said. “And that’s a huge part of engaging an audience and making them persist through the training regardless of the organization.

“As a learner you see yourself in the content, and we know that that is research proven to drive people forward through learning experiences.”

Al Ryan, a veteran of Xerox Corp. for over two decades, used to participate in company trainings in Lynchburg, Va. He joined CypherWorx last year.

“(There were) huge budgets for travel, huge budgets for expense and what if you had a family situation and you couldn’t make it? There was nothing else, so you missed it for the year and that didn’t value your job,” he said. “So what we did was we took all of that negative, put it online, and now you have a positive. (Employees can use it) anywhere in the world, any time that works best, and there are proven results that you have better learning.”

Ryan did use online training in a limited capacity while at Xerox, he said. But today e-learning can be so much more.

“It wasn’t used for learning,” he said. “It was just a compliance check mark.”

CypherWorx is able to get results, Marshall said.

“They clearly are doing something right to get those kind of results,” he said.

10/9/15 (c) 2015 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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