Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Getting the school year off to a good start

School is in, but not before thousands of hours of manual work

In US schools, digital learning products have become just as important as crayons and textbooks. That’s why delivering the right experience at the right time to each individual student is part of a modern publisher’s job.

A simple logic, right? Well, getting it done is a different story.

Before it can happen, data about districts, schools, classes, and students has to be accurate, up to date, and in the right place. With 55.6 million students starting school simultaneously, it’s no surprise that late summer has become the busiest time of year for educational publishers.

Last year, however, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – the global leader in educational and trade publishing with a forerunner’s mindset – decided to try something different.

HMH in numbers


Revenue in 2016


Market share


Students served all over the world


Of major sales are digital

One app for a monumental data flow, one year ahead of schedule

During summer, school districts gather massive amounts of data in extensive table charts and individually hand them over to each publisher. Variable systems, standards, and formats add to the hassle. So, as students buzz over new backpacks, publishers endure the painful process of updating their systems, prone to human error.

HMH partnered with Reaktor to tackle the colossal amount of hand-gathered data in a smarter way. Together, we built an application that automatically collects everything needed from companies providing rostering information, and moves it all to the right platforms in the right format.

The twofold goal was straightforward: Remove the burden of data entry and root out faulty and expired data, which is a significant cause of usability problems in the classroom.

Our new tool makes the entire data flow automatic, from creating new user accounts to adding classes in digital environments. Once a school district is inserted into the system, all updates on its data are automatically pushed to HMH’s platforms.

But, that’s not all… We were able to skip a whole grade due to advanced abilities.

School districts give out their data at the end of July and new digital solutions need to be in use by the month of August. We started developing the app in February 2016, and HMH was aiming to have it in full use by the back-to-school season of 2017.

They were in for a change of plans, when our team had the software up and running in two months.

Node.js JavaScript runtime was selected specifically for enabling quick development, and for its ability to handle I/O bound workloads. For the backend, we went functional and reactive with Bacon.js, and used Bluebird for speedy promise handling. The user interface deploys React with Calmm architecture, and concepts such as lenses, atoms and observables.




The first end-to-end automatic rostering of information was completed a year early. Now, after iterative improvement of usability and data revision procedures, HMH’s products run smoothly and disruption-free for students in 50 states.

Time and money are saved, human error is minimized, and kids are happily immersed in learning environments and e-books. And, after a great first chapter, HMH and Reaktor are continuing their joint quest to make the world a better place for learners of all ages.

We share our client’s passion for education on other fronts, too – for extra credit, check out Reaktor Code School for Kids.



Course enrollments through the application


Students registered


Schools registered

8 weeks

First version in use

Interested? Contact Mikko.

Mikko Kiesila
+1 (917) 2090974