McGraw-Hill Education Latest to Adopt Knovation Open Ed. Curated Content

Associate Editor

McGraw-Hill Education’s recent selection of Knovation’s curated open education content is a signal that publishers and ed-tech providers are jockeying to find ways to take advantage of open education resources.

The move follows news earlier this year that Amazon Education is working on Inspire, a platform on which schools will be able to upload, manage, share, and discover such resources, known as OER.

McGraw-Hill, one of the “big three” publishers that now refers to itself a “learning science” company, chose the 360,000-item Knovation Content Collection for its Engrade K-12 learning management and assessment platform after vetting “a lot” of possible OER providers, said Christine Willig, president of McGraw-Hill Education’s K-12 group.

The digital resources in the Knovation repository—including videos, games, podcasts and articles—have been selected, evaluated, tagged and aligned to academic standards. They will be included with the purchase of the Engrade platform, which unifies data, curriculum and tools for educators and students, and included in every sale of the product.

This partnership is the latest in what Knovation CEO Randy Wilhelm calls his company’s pivot from selling curated products directly to districts, to making half of its revenues from business partnerships in which the content is integrated into products developed by other companies.

“I’ve got to do a lot of these deals in the next 12 months to generate 50 percent revenues from these B2B [business-to-business] partnerships and my own app sales in schools,” he said in a phone interview. “We can have a bigger impact through this partnership approach than singularly going to schools.”

The McGraw-Hill Education partnership came on the heels of an announcement last June that the Northwest Evaluation Association would integrate the Knovation collection into the organization’s Skills Navigator application, which is an online classroom assessment system that measures student skills in math, reading and English language usage, and a decision late last year by Interactive Achievement (which was recently acquired by PowerSchool) that the company would also integrate it. (No public announcement was made of this partnership, as it coincided with the silent period preceding the sale, Wilhelm said.)

While some industry observers see OER as a challenger to the content and curriculum that schools pay for, others are more sanguine.

“I don’t see OER as a threat,” said Willig. “I see it as a great contributor to that array of learning resources that’s going to help kids move toward outcomes.”

The appeal of Knovation’s work, she said, is in the vetting and tagging that have gone into the open resources. In time, she said the company plans to marry the OER it is ingesting from Knovation into the adaptive technology and proprietary educational materials that McGraw-Hill has developed “to make them more robust and better.” With the adaptive technology, Willig said “we can help elevate the best and brightest OER” along with the best of its own resources to help educators and students.

Wilhelm said he is impressed to see McGraw-Hill “being bold in saying our revenue comes from our professionally curated and paid content, and we’re going to start paying Knovation to infuse its curated open content.” (Financial terms of the arrangement were not made public.)

From 2005 to 2008, Willig was president of Knovation. She recused herself from negotiations for this product.

By paying for a license to the collection, McGraw-Hill can decide what it wants to do with the curated content, how it will display and be delivered, Wilhelm said.

Earlier this month, Knovation announced that its content collection has been integrated with Google Classroom, a blended learning platform, and Canvas, a learning management system. In these integrations, the companies did not pay for licenses to the collection, so they cannot make decisions about how the content will display or be delivered, Wilhelm said.

About potential competition to Knovation from Amazon Education’s Inspire, Wilhelm said he welcomes the arrival. “They’re principally providing a backbone platform , and the platform needs to be filled,” he said. In offering a free platform to districts and states, the company has a formula that “has the potential to be rewarding,” said Wilhelm.

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