David Levin became CEO of McGraw-Hill Education three years ago, soon after the underperforming company was sold to a private equity group. One of his first acts as part of his recovery plan was to take his leadership team on a trip to India. “We went to classrooms to [observe] formal education and informal education in the streets, and we saw quite extraordinary things in the way a society at a very different point of its development was coping with poverty and learning.”
Levin recalls meeting a man, Suneel, who lived on the streets and had “taught himself to read, and amazingly, he’d also taught himself how to code, and then he’d gone on to create this incredible set of digital dictionaries, which would work on cell phones, designed to basically empower people like himself.” He says this encounter, along with others in India, made them better understand “the incredible human capacity” for learning, and how technology has the potential to create self-driven learning experiences. It helped him define their purpose as a company, “which wasn’t selling books, but it to unlock the potential of every learner. It helped us reconnect the soul and mission of McGraw back to itself, which had become somewhat disconnected. That can happen in a company [that’s been around since 1888].” The trip became a catalyst for taking the conventional textbook publisher from print to digital, a transformation that he had been tasked with by the new owners. At the time Levin started, only 23% of the company’s higher education revenue was from digital sales; today it stands nearly 70%.
“We are interested in students’ experience with the product: Did it help them? Are they excited about how it helped in their success?” [Photo: courtesy McGraw-Hill]
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