WebAssign Becomes a ‘Benefit Corporation’

As it celebrates its 15th year, N.C. educational technology
company embraces commitment to maximizing social good

RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 5, 2013 — WebAssign, the leading provider of powerful online instructional tools for faculty and students, announced this week it has become a benefit corporation, embracing its commitment to maximizing social good.

A relatively new form of incorporation recognized by nearly a dozen states in the U.S., a benefit corporation is a hybrid between a traditional stock corporation (being for profit) and a non-profit that has a social mission. Patagonia, Inc., is one of the country’s most well known companies to have recently become a benefit corporation.

According to Dr. John Risley, CEO and founder of WebAssign, the Raleigh, N.C.-based company has a stated benefit of education, with all company strategy and decisions dedicated to promoting, supporting, and improving education and learning. Corporation shareholders, Dr. Risley added, should be comforted with the knowledge that all decisions will be made with that mission in mind.

In a related announcement, WebAssign revealed that Dr. Risley is transferring ownership of the company to the employees, via an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

The announcements come at the same time that WebAssign – developed at North Carolina State University as an educational service for instructors and their students – is commemorating its 15th anniversary.

“The vision for WebAssign was to create a superior instructional service without the distractions of outside investors,” Dr. Risley said. “To accomplish this goal, I was pleased to learn that we could reincorporate the company as a benefit corporation, whereby the educational social benefit can be weighted along side the interests of the shareholders.”

“And because the folks who work at WebAssign have the most vested interest in the company,” he continued, “it was appropriate to set up an ESOP, where everyone who works here can share in our success.”

Overseeing the new benefit corporation will be a seven-person board of directors, of which Dr. Risley will be a member along with company President Alex Bloom, business leaders from the technology industry and faculty members.

WebAssign boasts 200 full-time employees, including programmers, content specialists, writers, editors, designers and instructors who collaborate to maintain the system, create new features based on user feedback and provide comprehensive customer support.

The company was piloted in 1997 in several large classes at N.C. State. In 1998, WebAssign first became commercially available as a hosted subscription service under Risley’s direction, then a physics education researcher and professor in the physics department at N.C. State. Within a year, WebAssign quickly became the standard in online homework and grading.

More than one million students use WebAssign each year at more than 2,300 educational institutions. Since the company’s launch, WebAssign has delivered more than one billion questions to students in the form of homework, tests and practice problems.

For more information on WebAssign, visit its web site at www.webassign.net, or call (800) 955-8275 or (919) 829-8181.

Media Contact:
Doug Thompson, Thompson Drake Public Relations
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