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How Barkley & Associates, Inc. modernized their assessment solution

Learnosity - Case Study -

Helping nurse practitioner students achieve certification

Barkley & Associates, Inc. is a nurse practitioner (NP) continuing education company dedicated to providing the best NP continuing education, including certification review and clinical update courses. In business for over 20 years, the company offers diagnostic readiness tests (DRTs) in seven different specialties that university faculty administer under supervision to their nurse practitioner students during the beginning and end of the students’ last semester. These exams assess the students’ likelihood of success on national certification exams. Barkley & Associates, Inc.’s recent transition to a more flexible, modern assessment solution delivered a richer experience for students and faculty.

“Our DRTs and extensive score reports allow NP students to both identify content areas that need improvement and learn and remediate through our practice questions and rationales. This allows every student the best shot at becoming certified on their first national exam attempt,” says Dr. Thomas W. Barkley, Jr., President of Barkley & Associates, Inc. “Our product also helps faculty improve their programs, specifically by identifying students who might be most at risk of not passing the national board exam on the first try.”


- Implement LTI connection to deliver assessments inside LMSs

- Secure and protect intellectual property

- Improve functionality of score report

- Regularly update national averages

The Challenge

Smoothly and swiftly transitioning to a future-proof assessment solution

Online-based testing platforms had improved in user interface and capabilities since Barkley & Associates, Inc. first introduced online DRTs many years ago—and they’d come to the realization that drastic changes would need to be made to their assessment solution.

It was now imperative to update national averages statistics within their platform on a rolling basis and continually evaluate the efficacy of their tests.

It had also become critical to implement a Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) connection to deliver assessments inside the students’ university learning management systems (LMSs) to provide an option of a streamlined experience for the customers (both faculty and individual users) and to protect Barkley & Associates, Inc.’s valuable intellectual property. Not only did Barkley & Associates, Inc. need a score report that was more easily obtainable for students and provided greater transparency for faculty, but they also wanted to add more capabilities to their quizzes: instant feedback, more accessibility, and timers with very specific settings.

A total revamp of their assessment solution was needed to meet new expectations and achieve assessment excellence.

While Barkley & Associates, Inc. had unparalleled content for nurse practitioner students and had a clear vision of what they needed, they lacked the in-house technical expertise to create an entirely new assessment platform from scratch. In their journey to create an end-to-end solution, Barkley & Associates, Inc. found a gold-standard, LTI-ready assessment engine in Learnosity.

Now that Barkley & Associates, Inc. had identified Learnosity as the proper assessment engine, they needed a partner to handle the project’s development. To find the right one, they leveraged Learnosity’s Partner Ecosystem.

“We did some significant national searching and found the best person we could find: Brad Hunt from Smooth Fusion,” says Dr. Barkley. “He had a clear understanding of what we needed, and he really listened to us. Smooth Fusion did a very nice job in clarifying and refining what work needed to be done to reach our eventual goal.”

We’re now able to come up with new, innovative ideas on how we can make our services more refined for our clients, while also helping secure our exams.

Bianca Burks

Onboarding Specialist at Barkley & Associates

Bianca Burks, Onboarding Specialist at Barkley & Associates

The Solution

Building a custom solution to meet unique specifications

Working closely with Smooth Fusion and powered by the AWS-backed Learnosity Assessment Engine, Barkley & Associates, Inc. made massive progress in a matter of weeks. 

“Smooth Fusion helped us put together leading-edge assessment capabilities for our faculty to integrate within their LMSs and other third-party products,” says Bianca Burks, Onboarding Specialist for Barkley & Associates, Inc. “Smooth Fusion helped us realize the maximum potential from Learnosity and also suggested more features that might be beneficial for students and faculty.”

Smooth Fusion not only built an assessment solution to Barkley & Associates, Inc.’s exact specifications, but they also built in the capacity for the new platform to evolve with the market’s needs.

“Learnosity was a blank canvas that allowed us the freedom to realize our creative vision while also providing room to implement additional features as time went on, like programming timed quiz review sessions based on the number of incorrect responses,” says Bianca. “We’re now able to come up with new, innovative ideas on how we can make our services more refined for our clients, while also helping secure our exams.”

  • The starting screen for a DRT
  • An example of a DRT question
  • Exam review

Focusing on the important stuff

Barkley & Associates, Inc. modernized their DRTs by vastly improving their user experience, and Smooth Fusion was able to accelerate this process by using Learnosity to reduce friction and lighten both their work and cognitive load.

With Learnosity doing some of the heavy lifting, Smooth Fusion had the freedom to focus on the most important aspects of the project.

“The part that’s unique each time is figuring out the business requirements,” says Brad. “How do the users fit together? Is there any kind of hierarchy? How do you enroll students in a course? That’s the hard stuff.”

Ultimately, Smooth Fusion delivered a thoroughly modern assessment solution by incorporating the following elements:

– Creating a seamless and impactful experience from the main website to the testing platform 

– Offering distractor rationales to students for incorrectly answered questions

– Building test timers to custom specifications

– Providing robust, automatically calculated, and regularly updated analytics for national averages

From the test questions to the extensive rationales, there were many elements of the assessment engine where we needed to have access for ongoing currency checks. Smooth Fusion made it very easy for us to make whatever edits we needed by tapping into the potential of Learnosity.

Dr. Thomas W. Barkley, Jr.

President of Barkley & Associates

Dr Thomas W Barkley Junior

The Outcome

A customized and continuously evolving assessment solution

By building a custom solution to their specification, new markets have opened for Barkley & Associates, Inc. 

Within 30 days, an MVP was up and running. Since launch, their assessment solution has already delivered over 120,000 sessions. With each iteration, additional features like cross-platform and LTI integration were added. Customers and students enjoyed a more seamless experience once the new main website was integrated with their testing platform. Assessments were delivered inside university LMSs after an LTI connection was implemented. The need for human re-entry of thousands of proprietary questions was prevented by importing content via API.

  • Score report analysis
  • A chart depicting question performance by subject compared to national average

“The faculty really love the ability to integrate our DRTs within their platform,” says Dr. Barkley. “It also allows for us to be sure that our tests aren’t going to be compromised and that the students are taking the assessment with academic integrity.” 

The company didn’t need an in-house developer to pull off an end-to-end assessment solution—they just needed technically proficient partners who could understand their business requirements and make their goals a reality.

“There were many moving parts in this project,” said Dr. Barkley. “Is it keyed correctly? Is it current according to the national guidelines? From the test questions to the extensive rationales, there were many elements of the assessment engine where we needed to have access for ongoing currency checks. Smooth Fusion made it very easy for us to make whatever edits we needed by tapping into the potential of Learnosity.”

About Smooth Fusion

Smooth Fusion has been designing and developing enterprise-level websites and software since 2001. They help organizations create digital solutions that are functional, usable, secure and integrate with key technologies and business systems to deliver a more cohesive experience across all digital channels.

About Barkley & Associates, Inc.

Barkley & Associates, Inc. is a national and international nurse practitioner (NP) continuing education company dedicated to providing the nation’s best NP continuing education and certification review/clinical update courses. Whether seeking new advances in clinical practice guidelines, obtaining the latest updates in advanced pharmacology, or preparing for initial national certification, their courses are ideal.