Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches New Marketplace for Companies and...


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches New Marketplace for Companies and Teachers

By Blake Montgomery and Tony Wan     Mar 30, 2016

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Launches New Marketplace for Companies and Teachers

Shopaholics rejoice: The mall for teacher marketplaces just got bigger.

Education publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) is opening the doors to its own online marketplace where teachers, developers, companies and even students will be able to buy and sell educational materials.

Efforts to build the marketplace have been underway since last summer, when the company’s internal R&D and incubation division, HMH Labs, invited developers to create new applications using the company’s APIs. For the Boston-based publisher, which dates back to the 19th century, the HMH Marketplace represents an effort to expand its offering beyond core K-12 curriculum materials.

The company says its teachers have been asking for a way to find supplemental resources that complement its current products, says Claudia Reuter, Senior Vice President at HMH Labs. “We view the marketplace as a natural extension of what we already do,” she tells EdSurge.

Several thousand print and digital resources created by individuals, small companies and established players including Microsoft, are available. Anyone can sign up for free and search for materials by subject, grade level, seller and price. “A very high percentage [of them] are free,” according to Reuter. The most expensive material for sale is a $139 science textbook. Users can also give feedback on products via a commenting and five-star rating system.

HMH Marketplace is also open to anyone looking to set up shop. Sellers will keep 85 percent of all sales. For now the platform allows only for individual orders; support for school-wide or other volume purchasing may be considered in the future. (The platform uses Stripe to process payments.)

The company’s newest offering will add to the number of online marketplaces available to teachers; already, there are at least seven other companies that offer this type of service. One of the most popular in the U.S. is TeachersPayTeachers, which boasts a community of 3.5 million users, a few of whom have made over a million dollars from selling their materials. TES, a British company, is also a major player in this space.

While HMH Marketplace will compete with existing market players for attention, Reuter says the publisher’s reach and community should be a big draw for teachers and developers. “We have a high brand recognition among the educators in the U.S.,” she says, referring to the company’s latest financial earnings in which it claimed a 40 percent market share of core instructional materials used in U.S. schools.

Teachers already sell materials on multiple marketplaces to reach different communities. “I don’t think there are too many [marketplaces],” says Laura Randazzo, a teacher at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, CA. She adds: “Helping teachers get more exposure and cast a wider net is always a good thing.” Randazzo is one of the top-selling teachers on TeachersPayTeachers, and one of few sellers who got early access to the HMH Marketplace.

For companies like Muzzy Lane, which develops educational games, HMH’s marketplace offers an opportunity to reach a new market. “So far, we’ve been concentrated in the higher-ed space,” says Conall Ryan, the company CEO, “and we’re keen on becoming more entrenched in K-12 by connecting with more teachers through a partner.”

None of HMH’s own products will be featured in the marketplace—at least for now. The focus is on gathering feedback and “bringing edtech developers and teachers together” through a series of events accompanying the launch, according to Reuter.

For teachers like Randazzo, marketplaces offer much more than extra income on the side. She frequently interacts with buyers, getting feedback on improving her wares or learning about new ideas to bring to her own classroom. “Marketplaces have changed everything for me professionally,” she says. “Being plugged in to a community of dynamic educators, I’ve been open to new ideas and experimenting with new practices.”

“In this profession,” she adds, “we sometimes feel disconnected, like islands in our own classrooms. But these interactions have been invaluable.”

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