May 11, 2018 — The acquisition of New Mountain Learning (St. Paul, MN) by private equity firm CIP Capital (New York) in March was based on the digital initiatives the established school and higher education publisher already had taken and the potential to develop more.

“The focus we have had on digitization is why CIP bought us,” Mick Demakos, division president of NML’s EMC School, told EM. “CIP plans to significantly invest in us to grow our business and introduce new business. We want to completely digitize our offerings; 99% of our products have a major digital component. I’m not going to say we don’t sell books, we do, but …”

EMC’s main digital offering was the Passport online learning environment for building lessons, differentiating learning and immersing foreign-language students in different cultures. A few weeks before the acquisition, EMC on its own had acquired Zulama (Pittsburgh), which produces digital programs for computer literacy for grades 6-12. “We have been literacy in ELA and in world languages; the next market is computer literacy,” Demakos said.

Through its Paradigm line for the postsecondary education market, NML had offered some baseline skills and programs for certification, mostly pointed toward CTE. The point of acquiring Zulama was really the launching of a whole new product line, said Nikki Navta, Zulama’s CEO who joined EMC School with the acquisition.

Zulama content is flexible—there is content that can be incorporated into existing programs and courses, and there also are standalone courses, Navta told EM. Computer science is the hot new area. States are beginning to adopt standards for computer science courses, and states are beginning to use their existing adoption processes to acquire computer science materials, Navta said.

As they develop standards and courses, states also are including computer science courses as a choice to meet graduation requirements. Some states, like Florida, are recognizing computer science as eligible to meet foreign-language requirements. More common, Navta said, is for computer science to meet math requirements. That can be done in roughly half the states, Navta said.

Zulama’s Attraction

Zulama uses a cross-curricular approach, including art, to attract a variety of students, especially girls. The key to attracting students (even those who do not plan on a tech major) is teaching computer science through game design, Navta said. “The whole point is to get kids to take it up even if they are not going into tech,” she said. “And it is successful.”

With the Passport platform (which can be used easily for new lines) and Zulama’s computer science focus, EMC is ready to embrace the digital future.

“We’re a digital publisher but we sell a lot of books,” Demakos said. “We lead with the digital and we add on extra dollars if you want books. We are seeing a turn in the market—two of the largest school districts in the country are all digital. Sometimes, they get a set of books for the classroom.” Demakos even has a solution for one of the biggest headaches for tech offerings—bandwidth. “All of our products are optimized for low bandwidth first,” Demakos said. “Also, they can be used offline.” ■

Read the full article at Educational Marketer.

EMC School Takes Sharp Turn toward Digital

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