Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches ‘Marketplace’ for Developers, Educators

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The major publisher and content producer Houghton Mifflin Harcourt today unveiled the HMH Marketplace, a hub meant to allow teachers to search for academic materials produced by peer educators, or commercial providers.

The site launches at a time when numerous commercial and nonprofit organizations are moving aggressively to create organized online repositories of academic resources. Materials on those forums are either being offered for free or at a cost, at targeted audiences or across big swaths of the K-12 population.

The companies and other entities creating those forums presumably get the exposure of having users enter and navigate sites they’ve created. And in some cases, those organizations are able to raise money directly off users’ purchases, as is HMH’s plan.

The new online forum, HMH Marketplace, was launched with several thousand resources already loaded into the system, the company said.

At this time, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is not putting any of its own products on the hub, though it’s possible those will be added later, said Claudia Reuter, the senior vice president of HMH Labs, in an interview. The site will include resources that are free, but there will also be commercial resources at a price.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will collect 15 percent of every commercial  sale, Reuter said. Producers of the materials—not Houghton Mifflin Harcourt—determine the prices.

Efforts to establish online hubs for the buying and selling of K-12 content today are coming in many forms.

Last year, for instance, TES Global, which describes itself the largest online network for teachers in the world, announced that it was opening an online platform to allow U.S. educators to share content and get paid for it.  A number of other, similar commercial sites for sharing teacher resources, such as Teachers Pay Teachers, also exist.

Plans for an entirely different sort of online resource hub were finalized just last week in the New York City schools. The district is expected to sign a contract with Amazon to create an e-book marketplace for educators.

That deal, worth $30 million for the first three years, creates a hub that allows schools and educators to choose content, and recommend and rate materials, similar to how Amazon consumers do. New York City officials have argued that the marketplace will allow teachers more flexibility to pick-and-choose the materials they want, when they need them.

Users of the site, which will roll out in phases, will be able to choose from content that has been provided under contract to the city’s schools, as well as other content, as my colleague Michele Molnar reported.

Searching and Sorting by Need

Another online arena, Noodle Markets, takes a very different approach. It’s designed to act as a buying-and-selling platform in which districts can post RFPs for services, and vendors can register and respond.

The idea is to give vendors a platform to make their products known to districts, and give K-12 officials a tool for quickly identifying options that meet their needs.

Officials at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which says it serves more than 50 million students in 150 countries globally, believe that their site’s ability to draw educators and others seeking content will boost its image as a “trusted brand and global learning company,” Reuter said. But it will also created a new avenue, she argued, for commercial providers and others producing academic content who are “looking for new ways to reach learners.”

Visitors to the site are able to rate products, as they do on Amazon and other online marketplaces. They will be able to sort by product rating, academic subject, price, type of activity, and to look specifically for resources that are teacher-created, among other criteria.

The products available include  interactive content, games, mobile and web-based apps for classrooms, PDF documents and classroom posters and decorations.

Materials are submitted to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and screened, mostly to make sure they’re appropriate for the site. The marketplace allows teachers and developers to upload materials, or integrate them using an API process.

Image from the HMH Marketplace from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

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