When the COVID-19 pandemic struck this spring, classrooms closed, and instruction went virtual for millions of schoolchildren. The spotlight then fell on educational technology, dramatically highlighting its potential and illuminating its limitations.

In April, HP, Inc., launched a print-on-demand publishing program through the HP Piazza platform that has delivered blended learning resources to underserved students across the United States. By converting digital content to printed booklets, grade school children now have equal access to materials focused on STEM and environmental topics, says Michelle Weir, HP publishing innovation manager, shepherded the innovative program.

“When we started this, it was designed to solve a very critical need at a certain point in time – how do we help students in the April/May/June timeframe through the end of school year?” she recalls. “But our go-forward opportunity is to broaden the reach with additional content from additional publishers and to enable print-to-order or print-on-demand in the school districts.


“Print becomes even more critical here,” she tells CCC. “School districts are now telling us they’re looking for content that goes both ways – online as well as in print.”

Among the publishing partners for HP Piazza Café’s “Turn to Learn” initiative is Britannica Group, publishers of the flagship encyclopedia, Merriam-Webster, and many educational titles for schoolchildren.

“Reshaping education globally as a sustainable path to prosperity was a challenge pre-COVID. I think the COVID situation has really exposed the underlying challenges that we have,” says Karthik Krishnan, the organization’s global chief executive officer.

“Part of the reason Britannica stepped into this situation is to really help address the learning gap and the remote learning challenges to ensure that students don’t lose their edge, and that teachers aren’t overwhelmed by the sudden switch to remote learning.”

Author: Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally hosts CCC's Velocity of Content podcast series, which debuted in 2006 and is the longest continuously running podcast covering the publishing industry. As CCC's Senior Director, Marketing, he is responsible for organizing and hosting programs that address the business needs of all stakeholders in publishing and research. His reporting has appeared in the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, The Independent (London), WBUR-FM, NPR, and WGBH-TV.
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