E-learning firm expanding into ESL
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 28, 2006

Pearson adds language portfolio

Jane Larson

SCOTTSDALE - Pearson Digital Learning will expand into the English-language-learner market with its acquisition of a Utah company.

Pearson Digital, a Scottsdale-based business unit of publishing giant Pearson PLC, plans to add Ellis Inc.'s English-training programs to its portfolio of e-learning software for kindergarten through 12th grade.

Operations for Ellis will remain in Salt Lake City, Pearson Digital President Bob Roliardi said. The 16-year-old Utah company has 40 employees and annual sales of $7 million. Terms of the deal concluded last week were not disclosed.

The acquisition combines Pearson Digital's national sales force with Ellis products aimed at an estimated 22 percent of U.S. students who are not native English speakers.

Pearson Digital plans to begin marketing the new software nationwide to its customer base of public and private schools.

"The market is growing, and it is very difficult to serve," Roliardi said of English-language learners. "There aren't enough teachers to deal with the diversity of children we have."

Ellis' products support more than 35 languages, he said, so schools can use the software to train students who speak a variety of languages.

Pearson Digital's top products include NovaNET, which helps high schools offer classes online, and SuccessMaker, which elementary schools use for individualized math and language lessons.

Used in Scottsdale
Its Arizona, customers include the Scottsdale Unified School District and districts in Mesa, Gilbert, Phoenix and Tucson. It also has customers in the other 49 states and six other nations.

The Ellis deal will take Pearson Digital into more nations, especially Mexico, where Ellis is delivering custom content for teachers, Roliardi said.

Pearson Digital moved its headquarters to Scottsdale from Sunnyvale, Calif., in 2001.

Silicon Valley pricey
The business wanted to escape the expense of Silicon Valley and the
difficulty of recruiting and retaining employees there, Roliardi said.

So, when Pearson Digital acquired a small Scottsdale company, "it provided
the impetus to move here," he said.

Pearson Digital has since grown from 30 Valley employees to 200. They
include curriculum content specialists, programmers and artists who develop
its new products, and a call center th