EMC Languages Is First Major Move for New Mountain Learning
As the technology era takes hold in education, traditional publishers have been repositioning themselves. One of the most recent companies to emerge from a repositioning/rebranding initiative is New Mountain Learning (St. Paul, MN) with offerings from world languages and language arts to computer literacy and career readiness in K-12 through postsecondary.
“We’re a niche player focusing on a few things,” New Mountain chairman and CEO Eric Cantor told EM. The company mission is focused on “helping teachers in their classrooms be more effective in areas where we can make a difference,” he said.
New Mountain Learning is a portfolio company of private equity firm The Wicks Group of Companies (New York) and comprises the handful of companies Wicks had acquired and wanted to combine under one umbrella. The companies are familiar names: EMC, Paradigm, Jist—focused on K-12 and college—and religion publishers Benziger and Standard Publishing.
Cantor came on board in late 2012 with the formation of NML. He described his job in the next 12 to 24 months as growing the company; successfully deploying the new learning environment EMC Languages and gaining ground in postsecondary offerings to community colleges.
The cornerstone of the prospective growth is EMC Languages. There may be ventures into adjacent curricula areas, perhaps expansion into health careers. “In two years, I hope we have position, adoptions and growth,” Cantor said. “I don’t believe we’ll be out of our lanes; we’ll be deeper.”
While the EMC division, in earlier incarnations, made use of technology to support student learning, NML has taken a much bigger step by investing in a 10-year exclusive partnership between EMC and the University of Minnesota College of Education and Human Development to use video-based technologies from the UMN Learning Technologies Media lab to build the EMC Languages learning environment.
EMC and LT Media are integrating EMC content into the Avenue and Flipgrid video platforms to create the learning environment. The objective, Cantor said, was to create more efficiency for teachers and spark engagement among students.
EMC Languages uses a three-layered approach: Discover is the first fundamental layer for learning the basics like grammar and vocabulary. The second layer Expand adds culture. The third layer, Perform, deepens the experience with comprehension and fluency.
Avenue allows teachers to make one-to-one assessments and assignments, students to do them and turn them in, and feedback to be shared. Video-based Flipgrid provides the discussion platform for more informal conversation.
In pilot mode this fall, EMC Languages is expected to be available in first quarter 2014 in French and Spanish, followed by German and Chinese later in 2014.
The decade-long partnership agreement is based on expectations for additional uses of the technology for other performance-based curriculum like ESL, literature or drama classes. Community college public-speaking requirements and job interview practice in career services are other potential opportunities.
Cantor takes the long view of the digital transformation in education. The teaching force remains a mix of early adopters, those who expect to use technology eventually and those who will have nothing to do with it. When NML releases new textbooks—even in digital format—districts still ask for six-year pricing models, Cantor said.
New Mountain Learning may be totally onboard with migration to digital, but there continues to be a need for print—mostly to supplement, but some for core.
“So, 20 years out, we should be totally digital,” Cantor said. ■
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