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442 Reviews
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Cengage Learning CEO Michael Hansen
Michael Hansen
208 Ratings
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    Current Employee - Content Developer in Boston, MA
    Current Employee - Content Developer in Boston, MA

    I have been working at Cengage Learning as a contractor (more than 8 years)


    The people who produce the products, print or digital, are top notch, smart, hard-working and savvy about the various markets their products address. I don't think I have ever worked with a better bunch of people. Had I met them socially, I would want to hang out with them just for the pleasure of it. But the important thing is, they know a lot about the educational market and seem to care deeply about the students whose needs they address.


    I think on the management end, there is a huge disconnect between their vision of the digital products they want to see produced at top speed and the content they contain, funneled largely from the existing textbooks,( although you would never know it from the company's PR, which talks about "content" "authoritative content," and "the learning path.")

     I believe the company should slow down in terms of its desire to be a technology company NOW and really work out how they want to bring digital products to market and how good those products need to be in terms of content, design format and usability. Right now I'm seeing my content become overly complex and garbled in its digital form.

    The whole "this is software and we can bring out various iterations FAST, which can then be improved," doesn't hold water when an instructor watches a student fumbling to figure out how to get to the screen he or she needs in order to answer questions or complete an exercise. The instructor won't care what iteration the product is. He or she just won't buy it again if its hard to use and not meeting clear learning goals. Even worse, the word of mouth on the product will be bad. I actually think this is happening with MindTap already and it's too bad, because this product has legs and has the potential to be fabulous.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Slow down on the schedules for producing digital products. Hire more gifted software engineers and let them work closely with the the gifted people in editorial (and while you are at it, hire a few more of them as well; they are seriously over-burdened) and the equally gifted content creators, whether they are contracted writers or authors, in order to produce digital versions of educational content that are something brand new but also beautiful and easy to use, while fulfilling the purpose of the material, whether it's straight text, interactive text with videos, photos, equations, or exercises, or whatever. Each element of the product should have a learning goal and when it's completed some person or some group should be checking that the goals were met by the product's design and functionalities. In other words, the bar for the QA level should be really high rather than haphazard, and spot checks need to become a thing of the past.

     Right now, the newness is the only factor I see being fulfilled. At this stage of the game, you can't rely on spot checks to see how well the product functions. Instead,hire knowledgable teams to go through every single screen and make sure that the content looks good, is easy to navigate, and fulfills clear learning objectives that are obvious to the user because the product is so well thought out and designed. There are indications that this is STARTING TO BE management's attitude toward developing digital products. I can only hope that attitude is maintained and doesn't disappear should yet another new management team come to the fore.

     Oh yeah, before I forget, stop changing direction every few months. It's totally demoralizing to everyone who actually creates and produces the company's products.

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