Top of the class in Apps

Working with one of America’s leading education providers to create a cutting-edge close reading app: Collections Common Core Enrichment App.

HMH Close Reads by Marino Software

The challenge

The talented minds at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt came up with an ingenious app to help students practice close reading. They then came to us to help them bring it to life. This was a mammoth task that would require talent, expertise and skillful communication. We jumped at the chance.

The solution

Together we planned and developed the iOS app, and then ported to Android. Both were supported by our Ruby On Rails server side. At every stage, an excellent working relationship with the inhouse teams came first and foremost.

The impact

Our work with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on The Collections Common Core Enrichment App has helped cement HMH’s position as a global leader in education services. This was a huge project that has gone on to have a huge impact on the world of education. At the moment, approximately 500,000 U.S. schoolkids are using the system and we’re excited to see what the future holds for them.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is a global leader in learning - using digital innovation and research to make education more engaging.

The company approached us to help them bring the Collections Common Core Enrichment App to life. This ingenious App provides students in Grades 6-12 with content to practice close reading. By developing their skills in analysing complex texts, citing evidence,communicating carefully and writing with confidence,  students would be better equipped for college, career and life. Each grade needed guided and independent practice in close reading for six genres: Argument, Fiction, Poetry, Drama, Informative Text, Media, Compare Texts.

As always, for this project we dove straight in to a close partnership with the client. Our engineers worked closely with a number of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt teams across different functions to ensure the best result possible.

First things first, the super-team customised the Teacher Resource Centre for Close Reading. Next we took on the website, updating the style to match Collections designs, removing the pre-existing titles and replacing them with Collections titles. We developed a tool for ingesting Collections content from iOS sqlite database. Together we refactored pre-existing content structure into Collections content structure and added Content Validation to the ingestion of content. We also maintained a strong focus on security and added backup and sync support for Collections student data.

HMH Close Reads App
"At every stage of the process Marino provided dedicated support for content editors and stakeholders and addressed any issues in the build identified by HMH and QA and provide new builds."

Working closely with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we formulated a test data generation tool to facilitate local testing in place of a working app. Then we designed and built content view pages for Admin users to allow quick, easy access to all imported content and student results. The super-team took a moment at this point to do a series of one-armed push-ups. After all, this is a montage. 

Next steps involved updating reports views to show Collections format data instead of the pre-existing format data and merging in the new End-Of-Year functionality. Other tasks included rewriting standards report queries and generators, persistence of activities within the Objective-C code and relevant integration of the erights service calls as well as local persistence of activity results for non-district users where results can be displayed on a user’s dashboard and activities can be resumed from progress made.

From a user point of view, we refactored the textview/reading pane to accommodate inline images, sidebar views and video and implemented a number of question types. These included fill-in-the-blanks, tap to select type options. We also implemented the Compare Texts genre - this has two text passages which toggle at various times either automatically or at the user’s discretion. At every stage of the process we were there for our teammates - providing dedicated support for content editors and stakeholders, and addressing any issues in the build identified by HMH and QA and provide new builds. 

The iOS app was developed first with a port to Android then being carried out, and also a Ruby on Rails based server side. We’re proud to have been a part of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on this project which we really believe is making a huge difference to student education. And with approximately 500,000 U.S. school kids using the system currently, it feels like everyone’s hard work paid off.

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