McGraw-Hill moves beyond electronic textbooks, but obstacles remain

McGraw-Hill Cos.’ McGraw Hill Education unit is venturing further into digital learning with the release of a new internet-based elementary-school reading program, reports the Wall Street Journal. At least, it will try to do this. The unit, whose textbooks and other learning materials provide about 40 percent of the parent company’s revenue, is launching its LEAD21 literacy curriculum in partnership with Intel Corp., offering the materials on the chip maker’s “Classmate” personal computer, built specifically for elementary-school students. The Wi-Fi enabled devices are waterproof and vaguely resemble toys. But with schools strapped for cash and teachers still hesitant about digital devices after some e-readers came up short for educational purposes, the companies could face an uphill battle. “You want all the bells and whistles, but the schools tend to be not all that sophisticated,” said Peter Appert, a Piper Jaffray analyst who covers McGraw-Hill. While digital textbooks are generally cheaper than their hard-copy counterparts, the up-front costs of supplying devices for an entire school or district can be prohibitive…

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