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JKN Spun Off To Be Private Company

A decade after starting as a research project at Holland College in Charlottetown, the Justice Knowledge Network is being spun off into a for-profit eLearning company called JKN Inc.

Executive Director Sandy Sweet said in an interview yesterday that Charlottetown-based JKN incorporated about three months ago and is in the process of becoming a private company designed to harvest profits for its single shareholder, Holland College. The company, which now has about 20 employees, is eagerly developing new markets for its eLearning systems outside of its traditional base of programs for law enforcement.

“I would like to think that we’ll grow to 25 people in the next 12 to 18 months,” he said in a phone interview. “But our goal is not to grow too huge. We’re happy for now with a high-volume, low-margin model.”

The slow-but-steady philosophy has worked well for this organization, which grew out of Holland College’s expertise in educating law enforcement officers at the Atlantic Police Academy. In 2003, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency awarded Holland College $6.5 million in funding under the very first Atlantic Innovation Fund tranche in order to develop an eLearning program for police officers.

Sweet was brought in for 12- to 18-month contract, and ended up staying for a decade, overseeing the development of the organization.

Working with other Canadian colleges, the Justice Knowledge Network gave birth to the Canadian Police Knowledge Network, which used the JKN technology to develop a line of eLearning material for the training of police officers for departments across Canada.

The Justice Knowledge Network was soon branching into complementary segments, such as training materials for prison guards and private security firms.  Then it did a safety course for a non-profit called Parachute Canada.

Recently, JKN did something completely new. It was approached by a network of real estate professionals from western Canada, inquiring about how to get some eLearning programs made, said Sweet. They were so impressed with the JKN operation that they contracted the P.E.I. organization to make the training programs for them.

“We now have about 120 courses in our catalogue,” said Sweet.

Sweet said the company is looking to expand into new market segments, and has chosen the name JKN to honour its heritage in police training programs but not to become typecast as solely a provider of law enforcement instruction.

As it looks forward to an independent future, the company realizes that its market is changing and it is adapting to the development of programs delivered to mobile devices and the use of gaming in training materials.  Springboard Atlantic, the organization that aids commercialization at Atlantic Canadian universities and colleges, recently introduced JKN to a Charlottetown company called Telos International, which is helping to develop games for training programs.

Sweet also said that the new company could alter its philosophy and strategy toward a higher growth model if it ever needs to bring in investors or if it gets a takeover offer.