The History of Alchemy

Carrie O'Donnell - CEO

I am excited and proud to tell you the story of our new brand, Alchemy, which is laser focused on unlocking the superpower of educators. Alchemy, formerly known as O’Donnell Learn, is the educator arm of Nectar.Inc, which is also the parent company of ISG (InSource Services Group), our student success arm.

Four years ago, as CEO of O’Donnell Learn, I was struck by research showing that there are less than 20,000 learning designers to support more than 2 million higher education faculty. At the time, O’Donnell Learn was a leading learning design company, with a team of over 150 learning design professionals, multimedia specialists, researchers and project managers that focused on higher ed and workforce learning.

Our team has a long tradition of helping the market reimagine the way that learning happens and we had already pivoted several times to reflect the shifting needs of educators and other players in the adult learning markets. We turned our research lens on this problem, conducting focus groups and surveys with academic leaders, faculty and academic champions (instructional designers, technologists, etc.).

We learned that the biggest problem for institutions is the need–with limited resources –to empower faculty, to support their needs as they strive to improve the learning experience. Faculty today have to wear too many hats: teacher, student support advocate, designer, media producer and ed tech specialist. It is no wonder that 50% of them feel burnt out and 55% believe that they don’t have enough time to create an effective experience for their students. Check out our recent report Burnt Out & Overburdened: The Faculty Experience 2022.

Since then, we have been very busy building a suite of solutions to solve this huge problem:


  • In 2020, we developed the Purposeful Learning Framework and a set of open tools and resources, including the Purposeful Learning Check, to help faculty consistently deliver humanized, inclusive and engaged learning.
  • In 2020, we began to build a technology solution, Curie, to help faculty save time while they continuously iterate and improve their teaching.
  • In 2021, we merged with ISG to complement our educator focus by helping institutions provide care and support to increase student success.
  • In 2022, we launched Faculty Concierge, underpinned by Curie, to help institutions elevate the teaching and learning experience by providing faculty with a team of specialists, available 24/7. With Faculty Concierge, we provide faculty with the support they need when they need it to help them enhance their course experiences.
  • In 2023, we applied our technology and our specialized support process to our learning design services work, enabling us to provide scale, and a platform for ensuring that our institutional partners’ approaches and resources are reinforced in everything we do.

With all of this change, we felt we needed a name and brand to reflect the evolving company and solution offerings. Enter Alchemy! I love this name because it evokes the combination of science with a little bit of magic that underpins great teaching and learning.  

I am so proud that we are providing institutions with a strategy and solution set for mitigating faculty burnout and saving faculty time as they continually improve and iterate the learning experience.


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April 10, 2024

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February 29, 2024

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