Nutrition and Diet in the News: Read with a Wary Eye

Each month we are flooded with information about nutrition from the print and online media, from books, and on television and the internet. How are we to know when the information is accurate?

Special-interest groups, particularly in the food and drug industries, have significant influence promoting research about nutrition that is designed to promote their products rather than provide a fair and balanced perspective on food science. Even the USDA, which is responsible for creating Dietary Guidelines for Americans, can be influenced by groups motivated more by self-interest than the common good.1 For example, the original recommendations by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee2 to avoid red meat and limit other animal products were changed so now those guidelines are a nearly-incomprehensible babble about choosing lean proteins!

What can we do to ensure we are making good choices about the recommendations we choose to adopt?  There are a number of questions we can ask when reading an article or listening to a reporter that can help us make appropriate choices.

Follow the Money

First, follow the money.  Who has funded the study or project that is the center of the story?  If the American Egg Board is funding a study about eggs, you should not be surprised if the findings are that you should eat more eggs. But even if the study comes from a reputable university or research group, finding out where the majority of their funding comes from can tell you a lot about how the study was designed. Were the researchers trying to find out what the food or supplement does in the body, or were they trying to find a reason to promote it? A study designed to find out what a food does is more likely to avoid bias than one that tries to find out that a food provides a specific benefit.

Check the Message

Second, look at the message being sent. Is a particular product being promoted? If so, the information presented may be slanted to make you want to purchase the product. What questions are being asked about the problem?  Does it seem to be an important problem?  A recent women’s magazine promoted a fruit-only diet touted to help women lose 16 pounds in two weeks, just in time for swimsuit season. Does this amount of weight loss in this amount of time seem reasonable or safe, based on information provided in articles and on national health and wellness websites?  Does the article go on to explain why this weight loss would improve wellness, or is the focus only on outward appearance?

Examine the Evidence

Third, examine the evidence.  Read the original study, if you can. Frequently one small fact is presented from a study, without other, possibly conflicting, evidence being discussed. If it is a very small study, with only a few test subjects, are other studies also presented that corroborate the findings? Has more research been recommended? Have other studies been done with similar or different populations? Were results the same? Sometimes you can find a metanalysis that examines a number of similar studies, which can help you evaluate the information you are receiving. Do the conclusions make sense, based on more than one research study? If the recommendations in the article are followed, what consequences could result—both negative and positive?

Consider the Story’s Assumptions

Fourth, consider any assumptions suggested in the story. In the weight loss article mentioned previously, there may be an assumption that weight loss is always a positive thing, even if it is obtained through unsafe methods, or through eating an unbalanced diet. Is there specific evidence presented for all assumptions made by the author, or assumptions you find yourself making after reading the article?

Evaluate Unscientific or Incomplete Information

Fifth, evaluate information that could be unscientific or incomplete. Many recent authors have stated or implied that carbohydrates, the body’s primary fuel, are bad and should be avoided3,4. No clear differentiation is made between whole-food carbohydrates and refined carbohydrates.  Would you consider a stalk of broccoli, a carrot, or an apple “bad?”  Do they have the equivalent nutritional value to a sugar cookie or a potato chip? Should all carbohydrates be considered to be alike?

One more caution: While observational studies of large populations are unable to show a direct relationship between a food or substance and a result, they can certainly show a correlation. For that reason, they should also be considered as supplemental evidence, along with clinical trials that can show causation. When it has repeatedly been demonstrated that people who eat more plant foods have, in general, better health outcomes, it would be foolish to ignore that evidence while waiting for long-term clinical trials to support it. It takes 20 or more years to see improvements in longevity. But how much harm will come to you if you begin eating an extra serving of green salad?

Next month:  Epigenetics and Plant-Based Eating

1Herman, J (2010). Saving U.S. dietary Advice from Conflicts of Interest. Food and Drug Law Journal. 65(2):285-31
3 4

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Cost of Plant Based Food



written by Amy Howton an associate professor from Kennesaw University.

Last month we looked at why it could be a good idea to move closer to a plant-based diet. The

rumors are that it is much more expensive to eat a nutritious plant-based diet than the SAD—the Standard

American Diet.

But let’s look at the realities. The diet recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture

(USDA) on its Choose My Plate website says:

Go lean with protein:

  • The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (eye of round, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
  • The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
  • Choose lean ground beef. To be considered “lean,” the product has to be at least 92% lean/8% fat.
  • Buy skinless chicken parts, or take off the skin before cooking.
  • Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choices.
  • Choose lean turkey, roast beef, ham, or low-fat luncheon meats for sandwiches instead of  luncheon/deli meats with more fat, such as regular bologna or salami.

The costs for these choices at Publix Supermarket on March 14, 2016, in metro Atlanta, GA,

included $6.69 per pound for chicken breast, $6.99 per pound for sirloin steak, and $9.99 for

roast beef. A pound usually serves 2 – 4 adults.

Contrast these prices with the 12.5 ounce can of Black Beans at metro Atlanta’s Kroger. The

can also serves 4 adults, and costs 85 cents. If a splurge is warranted, a pound of organic tofu

sells for $1.50 at Publix, and serves 4 – 6 adults. None of these choices contains cholesterol

or saturated fat.

Fresh fruits and vegetables in season can also be cost-effective. Food purchased locally in-

season is less expensive, and less costly for the environment, because it is not shipped long

distances; it is more nutritious due to being picked when ripe rather than when green, then

ripened in transit.  On March 15, 2016, in metro-Atlanta, a ¼-pound serving of fresh

strawberries cost 50 cents, and a similar portion of zucchini or yellow squash cost 43 cents.

Enough salad blend to serve four could be purchased at Publix for 35 cents on a BOGO offer.

Even high-end asparagus sold for only $1.99 per pound at Kroger, enough for 4 – 6 people.

Of course, it takes a little more time and effort to track down those bargains, but the extra

nutrients are worth it.  Most grocery stores will post their weekly specials on line, saving

time and money. Instead of making a special trip, plan a shopping excursion on the way

home from work or other errands to further protect your pocketbook.

Then look for an exciting new recipe or an old favorite using the items available this week.

Prices sourced from:

istingid=0 accessed Mar 14, 15,2016. accessed March 14, 15, 2016

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Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet

written by Amy Howton an associate professor from Kennesaw University

There is a lot of information about plant-based lifestyles in the media today. As far back as the turn of the 20th Century, preliminary research showed the risk of chronic lifestyle diseases was higher when more animal products were consumed. Why did this not reach the mainstream?

The USDA was originally formed to promote the meat and dairy industries’ products, and recommendations used to reflect this.1 Additionally, we in the U.S. tend to dismiss evidence we don’t like, and we are also conditioned only to consider clinical trials as producing true information. It is very difficult to obtain usable insights from clinical trials when it comes to food, because a person must be sequestered and all food intake monitored in order to get verifiable results. Because people will eventually leave the lab and eat on their own, and because it may take decades for the chronic disease to fully develop, there are too many confounding variables to make the trial useful. In addition, because fresh produce cannot be patented, it is difficult to obtain funding to study it. We must rely on epidemiological, or observational, research.

Even with these restrictions, some major recommendations were released between 2010 and 2013. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 finally recognized that vegetarian diets can provide all necessary nutrients required by our bodies while reducing risks of chronic diseases. By 2013, the Mayo Clinic and the largest HMO in the U.S., Kaiser Permanente, had published their recommendations that people should eat a plant-based diet. While Kaiser “encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods,”2 the Mayo Clinic allows “less than 20 grams a day”3 of meat—less than one ounce—in an optimal diet.

One of the reasons for adopting a plant-based lifestyle is that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables is associated with normal weight and weight maintenance.4 Since obesity is linked with almost all chronic lifestyle diseases, this could drastically reduce disease risk in developing countries where animal products and processed foods are eaten in the largest quantities.

With the popularity of high-meat “Paleo” diets, anthropologists are now examining fossilized human waste to see what humans actually ate in the Paleolithic era—and discovering a very high dietary fiber content. The findings are that Paleo humans consumed about 100 grams of dietary fiber from plants every day, whereas 21st Century U.S. humans consume less than 20. One of the mechanisms that controls hunger is related to the total fiber we eat, and a cycle of short-chain fatty acids made by our gut bacteria which then cause a release of hormones that make us less hungry. It is now theorized that we are not getting the signals to stop eating because our bodies don’t get the amount of dietary fiber needed for the body to send “stop eating” signals.5,6

So what to do? To begin testing the waters, just add more fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal, barley, etc.) to your diet. They can be cooked or raw. If you added one of these nutritious plant-based items each meal, you would be well on your way to dietary improvements. Eat your new additions first, then your old favorites. Each week, you can add one more serving somewhere in your day. Take it slowly to let your body adjust and enjoy. 

Next month: Is it more expensive to live a plant-based lifestyle?

2 Tuso, P. J. (2013). Nutritional Update for Phpysicians: Plant-based Diets. Permanente Journal, 61-66.

3Jennifer Nelson, M. R. (2013, April 24). Nutrition and Healthy Eating. Retrieved from

4Champagne CM, B.S. Dietary intakes associated with successful weight loss and maintenance during the weight loss maintenance trial. Journal     of the American Dietetic Association, 2001. 1826-1835.

5K M Tuohy, C Gougoulias, Q Shen, G Walton, F Fava, P Ramnani. Studying the human gut microbiota in the trans-omics era–focus on metagenomics and metabonomics. Curr Pharm Des. 2009;15(13):1415-27.                                                                                                          6Frost, G E Walton, J R Swann, A Psichas, A Costabile, L P Johnson, M Sponheimer, G R Gibson, T G Barraclough. Impacts of plant-based foods in ancestral hominin diets on the metabolism and function of gut microbiota in vitro. MBio. 2014 May 20;5(3):e00853-14.

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Statistics that put the Diversity into University

“There is no one-size-fits-all path to (or through) college. We need to support students

accordingly.” –Susan Desmond-Hellmann

Susan Desmon-Hellmann took to twitter to share this powerful statement and infographic below,

and with 47 retweets and 50 likes we think it hit home to many others as well. Although the

statistics don’t show how students learn best, they show how students’ circumstances and

demographics could influence their academic journey. Thinking of America as a pie of 100

college students, 75 take their courses via classroom only, 11 online only, and 14 combine the


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When you look at each slice of the pie, it gets harder to recognize the “typical” college student.

The actuality is, spending time pinpointing the typical college student detracts from time spent

catering to them.

Here are two ways we are helping students and faculty members achieve a more personal

approach to higher education:

1. Course Content:

In each Bearface online course you will not only hear the health and wellness buzzwords, but

will learn ways to practice them beyond the textbook/lecture model. The online learning

environment allows students to learn about themselves through self reflection and assessment.

This experiential approach eliminates the memorization test-taking model and uses real-time

analytics and reporting to collect student’s progress during the course. Taking online courses

gives the student freedom to complete tasks and assessments when it fits best into their

schedule, as the infographic above shows that many students work part-time or full-time and

balance family lives during their studies.

2. Custom Publishing Solutions:

With our partner, SkyPack, we can help you create your own custom textbook and solution for

your course. With their easy and affordable way to replace textbooks, students can access the

course via electronic devices, such as tablets and smart phones. The SkyPack motto is a fun

one; “We help professors feel like rock stars, students afford more burritos, and universities

earn bragging rights.” Imagine it, professors – having the freedom to customize course content

to match learning objectives, student demographics, and your own unique teaching style. We

can, and the outcome for both you and student is mind-bogglingly better.


The stats prove the “one size fits all” mentality cannot be applied to higher education, so let’s

open up the conversation in ways we can support student’s individual paths through university.


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Bearface is Growing


The world of academic publishing and education is radically changing. It is easy to see how technology and shifting enrollment patterns are challenging even the biggest and historically most successful institutions. Our society is also changing. The real challenge is addressing the needs of our new generation of students.

In the past three years since Bearface Instructional Technologies began, we have partnered with more like-minded leading institutions who also recognize that the term “traditional” college student no longer exists.

We use instructional technologies, web technologies, and data analytics to provide a truly personal learning experience for the student while giving colleges and universities the tools to measure, evaluate, adapt, and demonstrate success in real-time.

Take a look at Bearface and see why we are growing.

Innovative online textbook and assessment systems for undergraduate wellness students and graduate-level medical students.

  • 21st Century Wellness: The Science of the Whole Individual
  • FitQuest : A Personal Journey
  • Coaching Health Lifestyle: An Integrative Approach for Health Professionals
  • The Science of Well-being: An Interactive Approach for High Schools (A/P)

Kale Student Well-being: a learning and assessment platform in which college students can learn to problem solve and adapt in all dimensions of their life.

Mobile BearTracks: an app for tracking physical activity, diet, sleep, and stress. Data flows from the user’s phone to our BearTracks learning management system.

BearSmart: an artificial intelligence prototype that uses IBM Watson technology to read and provide feedback on students written reflections and essays.

Click below to learn more about what is available for your review:

Learn More Here 

Take a look at us, and see why we are growing. Participate in what we are developing. Change the world with us.

Learn Well, Live Well

What Other Reviewers Are Saying:

“…ideal for colleges and universities that are searching for ways to make better use of students’ time with more opportunity for them to engage in activities and promote future participation…”

“…will help us in our new endeavor to quantify what our students are learning in our activity classes…”

“…offers a comprehensive online format to assist students in all aspects of goal setting, physical assessment, journaling and culminating lifetime skills…”

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Say “I Do” to these Four Time Management Hacks

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It’s the time of year where chocolates, flowers, I do’s, and cards are exchanged between loved ones. Whether you love the idea of Valentine’s Day or hate it – use it! Use it for yourself in a way that inspires personal growth.

As pioneers in the health and education field, we often hear students say, “There is just not enough time in the day to get everything done!” We get it. Tasks accumulate, time shrinks, and anxiety levels rise. Although we can’t “buy” more time like purchasing a bag of apples at the grocery store, we can learn tricks to manage it better. So when we strap down and focus less on clock time and more on “real time” (when stuff actually happens) something magical can happen — a more productive day.

This February, vow to say “I do” to these 4 time management hacks and become a better master of your own time:

1. Work intensely in short bursts.

Any gym trainer will tell you that short bursts of exercise are better than exercising nonstop. That well-known phrase “interval training” is also the motto when it comes to tackling your work or school day. So erase the idea that the more time we spend at work or the library, the more we will get done. In fact, the opposite is true. Try focusing on one at task a time and giving that task the full attention it deserves in short periods of time. You’ll be amazed at how much progress you can make when you are completely focused on one thing.

2. Organize in your own way.

Just like one size doesn’t fit all, one working style won’t work for everyone. Some people prefer to organize on their smartphone, while others prefer an old fashioned calendar. Take the time to experiment and find which method works best for you. Lifehack shares six awesome productivity tools that help students stay organized and prepared to face any academic challenge. The overall key is to find the best method that keeps you organized and diligently stick to it.

3. Schedule time for interruptions.

We are all familiar with office hours when the professor blocks off a chunk of time to dedicate to students’ questions, comments, or concerns. Office hours are in a sense a time for planned interruptions for the professor. As a student, it can be very beneficial to plan for time to be pulled away from what you’re doing. If you schedule time for distractions, you will be less likely to be distracted when buckling down on a task. Let’s all be like our college professors and adopt the “office hour” strategy!

4. Take 30 minutes to plan your day.

Rushing into your day without a proper plan is like eating too much ice cream straight from the container, instead of taking the time to scoop a reasonable amount. Before the day has the opportunity to stray away from you, take the first 30 minutes to “scoop your ice cream” and prioritize your agenda. As crazy as it sounds, the most important time of your day is the time you schedule to schedule time.

Being a master of your time is all about planning, protecting, and leveraging your days. Adopting habits like the ones detailed above can go a long way in saving the day and surging your own productivity.

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Innovative Ways College Campuses Help Students Cope with Stress

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The stressed-out college student has become an unfortunate commonality on higher education

campuses. Because of the recent unwavering statistics though, this concept can no longer be

taken lightly. In fact, anxiety has actually surpassed depression as the most common mental

health diagnosis among college students. According to a recent study of more than 100,000

students nationwide, more than half of students visiting health clinics cite anxiety as their

primary health concern.

Besides counseling centers hosting individual and group therapy sessions, there have been

some fun and innovative ways college campuses are helping students cope with stress. Here

are some of our favorites:

1. University of Southern California – Marching band library performance:

The night before final exams, the USC Trojan Marching Band plays USC fight songs outside the

only 24 hour campus library. USA Today shares student and band member, Katherine

Desmond’s experience:

“The Primal Scream is a really fun way to let off steam, to represent our school, and motivate

the students studying away in the library. It’s nice to have a study break every once in awhile!”

2. University of Central Florida – A new app for treating anxiety:

The counseling center at the University of Central Florida is actively finding new ways to reach

more students who suffer from anxiety but don’t seek professional help for one reason or

another. The center uses an app that will help students cope stress by using their cell phone.

The TAO (Therapist Assisted Online) app is an online treatment program with educational

modules and short videoconferences with therapists.

TAO is being used by several well-known college universities such as Clemson, William and

Mary, and Texas A&M to name a few.

3. University of Central Florida – “Paws-a-tively Stress Free” event:

UCF noticed their centers are busiest during midterm and final exam periods, so they decided to

host special events during this high-stress time for college students. Their most popular event

involves pet therapy, more creatively called “Paws-atively Stress Free.” During the last event, a

certified therapy dog alleviated over 75 anxious students during the two-hour time span.

4. University of Georgia – Library de-stress stations:

At the end of each semester, University of Georgia creates de-stress tables in their libraries to

facilitate relaxation during study breaks. The tables have several options, such as coloring

books, puzzles, and free coffee to ensure the average overwhelmed student can relieve some

anxiety and socialize with fellow students who are experiencing the same feelings.

Let us know what you think about these fun and innovative ways college campuses are helping students cope with stress by commenting below or sharing on social media!

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TED Talks Education in Three Unique Ways

TED Talks Education in Three Unique Ways

TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, powerful talks, has many influential thinkers leading conversations in the education realm. Because of this, we’ve collected our favorite TED Talks that shed light on education in three very distinct and thought-provoking ways, which provide serious food for thought in the land of higher education.

1. What we’re learning from online educationDaphene Koller, a Stanford professor and a 3rd generation Ph.D who is passionate about education, gives an insightful 20-minute presentation that makes a case for online education. In her talk, she addresses what can be learned via the web and how to apply that to traditional institutions. Through her start-up, Coursera, Koller makes the college experience available to anyone across the globe for free and shows the value not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn and collaborate through online learning.

2. Bring on the learning revolutionIn this poignant 18-minute video, Ken Roberson, a creativity expert, challenges the way we educate our learners. He makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning – creating conditions where people’s natural talents can flourish so more individuals will start enjoying what they do instead of enduring it. He divulges that life is not linear; it’s organic and our teaching methods should reflect as such.

3. What adults can learn from kidsAndora Svitak, a short story writer and blogger since the age of 7, travels around the United States and speaks to adults and children as an advocate for literacy. Now 12 and still a child herself, she challenges the boundaries of learning, saying the world needs more “childish” thinking: bold ideas, wild creativity, and optimism. She goes further, stating that adults should start learning from children as much as they teach because learning should be reciprocal, even in a classroom setting.

Maybe we agree with all three of these unique points of view, or maybe we agree with bits and pieces from each. But isn’t that what education is all about – to learn about different views and methods and to talk about them openly?

So the real question is, have these bite-sized videos broadened your mind in relation to the field of education, specifically higher education?

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Mindful Ways to Combat Winter Blues

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The winter blues. A seasonal slump. Whatever you’d like to call it, the feeling is real. So real there is a medical term for it called Seasonal Affective Disorder, otherwise known as “SAD.” Although not all those who feel a case of the winter blues are suffering from SAD, which is a serious emotional disturbance, there is something to be said for this time of year in which  “cocooning” and “hermitting” are typical seasonal reactions, especially when student finals fall into the wintery mix.

With one in four people feeling biological negative effects from the winter season and over 11 million Americans diagnosed with SAD, it’s time to seriously address manageable ways to overcome the sluggish onsets.

If the gloom caused by Mother Nature affects you negatively, try some of these mindful and scientifically-proven ways to combat the winter blues, most of which can be done in a higher ed setting:

  1. Brighten up your environment. Due to shorter days in the wintertime, it is natural for your body to crave more sunlight. If you can, try to schedule a vacation during this time of year and head to a warm climate where the sun is shining for longer periods throughout the day. An after Christmas vacation or spring break getaway are perfectly aligned times for college students (and professors) to escape the cold and head somewhere warmer. If taking a vacation isn’t in the cards, make an effort to sit next to an artificial light box for at least 30 minutes a day. It might sound funny, but light therapy does work!
  2. Exercise. Studies continually show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as an antidepressant.  It’s a holistic method of sorts that improves your thoughts and in turn improves your mood and general well-being. A collection of resources gathered from Harvard University postulates that a brisk 30 minute walk three to five times a day can have a significant impact on your symptoms of depression. Try walking a longer way to class or better yet, reduce your short-distanced driving and run your errands by foot.
  3. Eat Healthfully. Serotonin is a chemical produced naturally by your body to help you feel happy and energetic. Luckily, there are certain foods that can assist to increase natural serotonin levels in your body. Eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds are a few of those special foods. When choosing foods to eat, it’s also important to keep mindful that carbohydrates and sugar might give you a temporary boost of energy, but can ultimately lead to crashes and feelings of depression and anxiety.
  4. Listen to music. Music ignites emotions. A University of Missouri study proves that listening to cheery and upbeat tunes can improve an individual’s mood in both the short and long term. Remember when we said, walk the longer route to class? Make the route more enjoyable by plugging in those headphones and listening to your favorite happy tracks.
  5. Lend a hand. Helping others by volunteering at a hospital or local soup kitchen can improve your mental health and invoke a sense of satisfaction.  There are so many volunteer opportunities out there- take the time to find one that hits home to you. Make an effort to attend the next student organization club fair, sign up for volunteer-based group, and make some new friends along the way.

If your mood is as cold and dark as your surroundings, remember that there are steps you can take to combat dull and listless feelings. Being in tune with your body during this vulnerable season is the first step towards transformation. We hope these simple and mindful lifestyle changes help you to combat those dreaded winter blues.

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Perceivant Acquires Bearface Instructional Technologies

Perceivant, Bearface Poised to Disrupt Digital Education

Indianapolis, IN August 19, 2015 Perceivant, a dynamic cloud-based data analytics solution for education and healthcare, has acquired Bearface Instructional Technologies, LLC, an education technology company that provides personalized web-based learning, assessment and data analytics for higher education. Bearface launched its first products early this year and serves more than 7,000 students at eight colleges and universities.

“Our acquisition of Bearface advances Perceivant’s mission to be the leading analytics provider in education, particularly health education. Bearface’s content delivery application gives Perceivant a strategic point of entry into the higher education market,” said Brian Rowe, CEO of Perceivant.

This merger represents the convergence of big data and higher education. Powered by Perceivant’s analytics, Bearface enables educators to easily collect, analyze and report changes in students’ behavior, attitudes and problem-solving skills, and to leverage analytics to demonstrate course efficacy, as well as measure engagement and retention.

“We are investing in web-based instructional technologies that enable students to solve problems and adapt, not just memorize facts,” said Chris Johnson, CEO of Bearface. “Brian Rowe and his development team bring technical expertise and experience that enables Bearface to deliver a revolutionary learning platform for higher education.”

About Perceivant:
Perceivant’ Data Dojo is the fastest cloud-based data analytics solution on the market. Data Dojo can process terabytes of structured and unstructured data in real time and deliver to decision makers in a readable, actionable format. With Data Dojo, queries take seconds, not minutes. A user-friendly interface enables non-technical users to perform complex data analysis and make decisions driven by insight. For more information, visit

About Bearface:
Bearface Instructional Technologies, LLC provides web-based learning materials and assessment tools via a content delivery application that is revolutionizing how students learn and teachers teach. Bearface provides universities and educators with robust, user-friendly data analytics to demonstrate they are graduating students with the learned behaviors critical to professional and personal success. For more information, visit


Media Contact:

Courtney Klepsch

Bootstrap Incubation, LLC

858.367.5992 |

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