Hekademia was born out of an idea that started at VirtualHighSchool.com (VHS) in January 2013. At the time, VHS had about 5100 students, 80 online teachers, and 65 online courses. With our experience building online courses and working with teachers and students in an asynchronous online environment, we had reached a point where we were ready to diversify our model.
In January 2013, Steve Baker, Principal of VHS, started a new initiative where all staff members were temporarily divided into small groups to work on “surveillance projects”. Each team was assigned to a different geographic location to explore in terms of expanding VHS’s business model. Our research pinpointed various areas to consider and barriers to overcome if we were to explore any of these options.
One of the 2013 surveillance teams included Hekademia’s Project Coordinator, Nicki Darbyson, who assisted in a study of secondary school education in the United States, particularly, in Arizona and the District of Columbia. Although nothing developed immediately out of these surveillance projects, this was the investigation that began the idea of Hekademia.
It wasn’t until one Friday morning in November of 2013 that this surveillance work would come into play again. Steve Baker sent out an email to a group of staff at VHS with the simple subject line, “Foray”. The email asked them to meet briefly to discuss the creation of a Foray Team to explore a new project. The new project was creating an organization to meet the needs of the U.S. education system.
From the very beginning, the team was purposely given few guidelines to follow. Steve explained that the team would decide on what this move into the U.S. would look like, how the organization would be structured, and that the team would drive the project. In addition, if we decided part way through that the project was no longer viable, the team would have to decide to stop further development.
Within a few days, we were on the phone with a variety of U.S. educational consultants discussing the U.S. education market and listening to advice on where to start. Within a month, we had determined that we would not open a school but would create a content design company that would provide course content to U.S. schools and school districts. We could use our experience from VHS to rewrite and redesign our courses to meet U.S. curriculum standards. We soon decided that our first deadline would be the ISTE conference in Atlanta in June 2014, with a goal of having a set of courses ready to showcase. From there, we would work toward the iNACOL Online Learning Symposium in November 2014, based on the advice from Dr. Barbour.
The next big question was what we would call ourselves. We considered a variety of names and eventually focused on the idea of an academy. Steve happened to look up the origins of the word academy one day and found out that it had come from the word hekademia, which was the ancient Greek word for academy. He purchased the URL, hekademia.com, immediately. Everyone agreed that the name was perfect!
We had found our name, determined what our product would be, and had a goal to attend ISTE where we would be prepared to showcase our work. The only thing we hadn’t articulated was what differentiated us from other content providers. We all agreed, and were proud of the fact that our roots are in education, and that we have over a decade of experience in online learning and course design, but what else made us different? Stay tuned for our upcoming blog on Adaptive Competency eLearning…