Macmillan Learning and Packback Team Up to Cultivate Curiosity in the Classroom Using AI

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New York, NY September 19, 2023 -- Macmillan Learning, a privately-held, family-owned education publishing and services company and Packback, an education technology company announced today a partnership that pairs Packback's AI-powered technology with the hundreds of course materials found within Macmillan Learning’s Achieve digital learning platform. Both companies are committed to helping instructors develop student critical thinking skills, which are more important than ever before in a world where generative AI is increasingly becoming mainstream.

Together, Macmillan Learning's digital learning solutions and Packback's AI-powered discussion platform provide a new way to foster critical thinking and enhance student engagement and collaboration. Instructor feedback suggests that the two products, when combined, led to improved student outcomes, students more engaged around the text and assessments.

“This collaboration reflects Macmillan Learning and Packback's dedication to improving the learning experience. Together the platforms will ignite the spark of curiosity that drives true academic growth and encourages students to take a more active role in their own learning journey,” said Susan Winslow, CEO of Macmillan Learning.

“Packback isn't just a platform; it's a catalyst for critical thinking and a force for academic achievement. Together with Macmillan Learning, we’ll help students to truly engage with the high quality, vetted course material and demonstrate mastery by producing their own work in their own voice. This  not only helps students build foundational, but also much-needed AI collaboration skills that will be a bridge to their success from the classroom to their careers," said Kelsey Behringer, CEO of Packback.

Achieve & Packback

Achieve is Macmillan Learning’s digital learning platform designed to support student success; the company’s IRB-approved and replicable research has demonstrated its efficacy in helping students learn and score better on exams. The educational technology offers powerful assessment tools and multimodal content to support students of all levels of preparation in an intuitive and user-friendly system. 

Achieve was designed with features that support active learning, metacognition and evidence-based teaching practices. Some of the features include Goal Setting and Reflection Surveys, which support students’ metacognition with a series of actionable surveys that help students set goals for themselves and reflect on their learning throughout the semester; adaptive quizzing to personalize the learning experience for each student, where questions get more challenging as the student progresses; and a wealth of interactive content including graphs, videos, simulations, and animations that help students learn in a more engaging way.

Packback Questions is an inquiry-driven discussion platform that encourages students to achieve higher levels of critical thinking to discover real-life applications of course material via discussion questions in and out of class. The platform supports active learning by providing each student a space to develop their ideas, interact with their peers, and practice writing.

Additionally, the tech uses AI to act as a “digital TA” to help manage the discussion communities and evaluate the quality of student contributions, ensuring that discussions remain focused, relevant, and productive. The AI helps to drive instant feedback, and proactive coaching that helps students make thoughtful, research-supported claims. The Packback platform uses a proprietary combination of AI models to provide feedback on the student’s grammar, assign students a “curiosity score”, advise when their posts may be violating academic guidelines before they even press submit, and more.

Both companies are committed to empowering educators with the best content and learning methods and have developed their technologies using learning science and with ongoing input from instructors and students. 

How the Partnership Works

Achieve encourages mastery of content through active practice with content and tasks aligned to course outcomes. Packback’s pedagogy stems from Self-Determination Theory, emphasizing autonomy and purpose to fuel intrinsic motivation.

With this new partnership, instructors can bundle Macmillan Learning’s content, assessment and other digital tools with Packback’s inquiry-driven discussion platform to further increase active learning and engagement while helping students achieve higher levels of critical thinking and metacognition. Combining the two technologies helps make the student experience more cohesive and rigorous: Achieve content becomes more relevant to students’ lives through high-quality prompts that tie the two together, giving students the opportunity to receive more efficient feedback on written responses. When aligned to Achieve courses, the prompts help students think more deeply about the content.

For example, students taking an Introduction to Psychology course using one of Macmillan Learning’s market-leading titles could be assigned course materials and assessments via the Achieve platform and then be asked to respond to a prompt either provided by Packback or to create one of their own. Prompts could include questions like: Why would NASA suggest the strategy “follow the water” when searching for life on other planets and What kind of conversation would cells have if they communicated like humans? The pairing is now available via the Macmillan Learning student store or Inclusive Access agreements. The companies will together host a series of webinars to highlight the impact of AI on pedagogy and course materials.

About Macmillan Learning
Macmillan Learning is a privately-held, family-owned company that inspires what’s possible for every learner. We envision a world in which every learner succeeds. Through our content, tools and services, we aim to make that a reality. To learn more, please visit or join our Macmillan Community

About Packback
Packback is an education technology company located in Chicago, Illinois. Packback's mission is to harness the power of AI to help educators implement high quality pedagogy at scale. Packback's AI-enabled platform helps students build and master foundational skills such as critical thinking, writing, and research. Packback's proprietary AI and machine learning technology provides inquiry-based online discussion and long-form writing support to over 8,000 instructors and over 1.5 million students, and is being used in thousands of K-12 and higher education courses.