Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Just as Pearson put Penguin in new hands and McGraw-Hill sold off the educational side of their business this past year, the third of the Big Three educational publishers has also experienced some recent business restructuring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) filed with the SEC this past August to offer public shares of their company, and a little over a year before, they filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In Education Week’s article on how the Big Three are adapting with technology previously discussed here, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Executive Vice President of Content Development and Publishing Operation Bethlam Forsa discusses how the company aims to restructure learning with their digital products. Forsa explains that they are moving away from books and approaching content in more “modular” ways. She says “the company is aiming to slice and dice standards-based digital curricula into the smallest teachable units and offer them across any type of technology or device.”

This approach is shown through their print products, such as their Every Day Counts math products that stress the importance of learning activities performed outside the classroom. The company has wisely taken note that tablets and apps allow this philosophy to be applied easier and more appearing to students than the CD-ROM they offer their Practice Counts math lessons on. HMH offers a variety of apps on multiple platforms, from iOS to Nook to Amazon Kids’ apps.

The company also offers a variety of eTextbooks that look more like apps than traditional books, shown below with their US Government eTextbook.

HMH's US Government eTextbook looks more like an app than a book.

HMH’s US Government eTextbook

As we’ve seen with Pearson and McGraw-Hill Education, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is working to provide students with a more personalized learning experience through their digital products. Education Week’s article offers the company’s new Fuse math products as an example of the adaptive new materials HMH is creating. Forsa notes that future products will be “even more interactive,” with built-in assessments and features that adapt to a particular student’s best learning style. If he or she responds better to videos or games, educational material will adapt to provide them.

In order to better track students’ usage and educational needs, HMH is taking a route that the other big educational publishers are taking: a focus on data anlysis. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt recently acquired Marlborough-based company Choice Solutions Inc. Linda Zecher, chief executive at HMH, explains that the partnership will “allow us to provide a truly comprehensive learning solution based on rigorous instruction and scientific analysis.”

Regardless of the company’s past struggles, it’s clear technology is a main part of their restructure. As the company works to modulate their content into smaller bits and pieces, their apps and app-like materials will help restructure the way teachers and students approach education.


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