Many products exist in the K-12 space. On the teaching level, enthusiastic school administrators promote the use of a new product or curriculum. Later, this product or curriculum does not resonate with the teachers. Essentially, the product becomes “shelved” because teachers fall back on what they know. Teachers rely on what works for their classroom. Also, when it comes to educational products, teachers and school administrators confront thousands of choices. Overall, these products boast similar features and benefits. K-12 publishers and providers consider these points to make successful educational products when selling to school districts.
What Problems do Publishers and Providers Face?
A school district might purchase digital curriculum, courseware, online news and library subscriptions, apps, textbooks, and other digital learning materials. According to EdNews Daily, in 2020, the average school district spent 4.4 million dollars or $154.69 per student. Therefore, many products exist in the market for school districts to purchase. With the various products—with the competition, many products exist to manage school administration or the reading curriculum. For LMS systems, products like Canvas and Seesaw exist. Besides that, teachers can access their own apps for their classrooms like Padlet or Quizlet. These choices provide a variety to teachers. Some teachers desire different products for their classrooms or setups; they can access many options. Thus, publishers or providers face difficulties creating products that teachers and school districts will consistently use for a school or classroom.
Understand the Educational Funding When Selling to School Districts
When selling to school districts, some can purchase that “bells and whistles” product for their students, others cannot. Emergency funding provided for the pandemic will soon end, and districts face other challenges such as teacher and bus driver shortages. Even before the pandemic, school funding could be an issue as half of all school districts rely on property taxes. Fluctuating gas prices and other economic factors like inflation can affect school district purchasing. Therefore, publishing leaders should be aware of their product pricing and the various budget constraints that school districts encounter.
K-12 Teachers Face Ongoing Product and Curriculum Changes
Even with a great product, teachers feel secure with their current offerings and products. Integrating a new product will take time to incorporate or learn for their classroom. Other times, teachers experience the new trainings for a new product or curriculum. They are told—sometimes preached to—how it’s the next best thing! It’s implemented, and it does not work. The situation creates another barrier because teachers have revised their lessons and systems for a new product or curriculum that does not work. Therefore, instructors feel left out of the process when they are required to learn and employ a new product. It adds to their frustration.
Companies Misunderstand the K-12 Market When Selling to School Districts
Many great products exist for the K-12 market. Yet, which products are effective? Every year about two-thirds of edtech licenses go unused. As mentioned, many products resolve the same problem. Some companies assume the market for teachers and students. Publishers and providers do not examine the different stakeholders involved: teachers, students, and parents. They don’t review the different cultures involved. In the end, teachers will decide if they will use the product or not. Besides that, teachers trust word-of-mouth from their colleagues. The product gets a bad reputation like it is too difficult to use; therefore, it won’t be used. The students complain the reading software is boring, and the teacher feels the same way—it won’t be used. Administrators experience frustration reviewing the assessment results or just understanding them. It won’t be used. The student, the teacher, and the administrator buy-in fails.
Companies Might Not Have Right People Mix
New companies who have entered the edtech field might lack the personnel combination. The board of directors might lack educators like teachers who can provide insight into the classroom. They know how learning works. Thus, entrepreneurs miss this direct connection to education, to the teachers. In contrast, with other companies or start-ups, educators will lack the business acumen to run the business efficiently. These groups do not meet and connect. Lack of knowledge or connection among these groups affects how educational products are developed and packaged.
What will Make a Great Product When Selling to School Districts?
Make a Great Product When Selling to School Districts
Publishers and providers can create a product that will add value to the classroom to support teachers and learners. They can make sure it’s great! About 90% of start-ups will fail and shut down. These companies failed for many reasons. They introduced an unnecessary product or neglected to collaborate with educators to develop the offering. These companies designed poor user training for the product. Therefore, for the first step, move beyond the perceptions of K-12 and how teachers teach and how learners learn. Producing deep user design and market research—and most importantly—solving a problem helps builds a successful product. Yet, an opportunity remains for publishers to create a great product as many elementary teachers rely on lesson plans from Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers. Most importantly, publishers and publishing leaders create a product that does replicate other current educational products.
Research the User Clearly When Selling to School Districts
For user-center design, publishers not only use focus groups and surveys but also employ other research methods. Therefore, leaders direct their research teams to use formal and informal interviewing subjects one by one. Yet, researchers should be mindful of what’s reported versus the actual behavior. Students’ behavior can flux greatly; it can change by the teacher, environment, peers, and time of day. Additionally, educational companies can employ ethnographic field studies. Thus, meet with students, teachers, and other educational personnel in their environments. Observe their behaviors in relation to the product goal or the problem the product resolves. When selling to school districts, companies can employ dairy studies. With this method, the participants record their experiences by paper or camera using the product. Overall, providers and publishers should use various research methods to understand the K-12 users of their products.
Create Clear Connections to Educators
Publishers and providers create clear communications with teachers and educator communities. For some, teaching can be siloed. Therefore, educational companies should prioritize building connections from teachers to administrators to the student to parents. For example, companies might create workshops for teachers in the summer or support summer or other professional training that teachers might do. Being part of teaching groups or even learning communities can help educational companies to identify issues. It will help publishers and providers understand the labyrinth of state, local, and district-level educational administrators. Most importantly, it will help them to better understand and empathize with educators and learners. Strong connections will help companies when selling products to school districts.
When creating an educational or edtech product, K-12 companies must be aware of the various barriers. Product saturation—products doing the same thing present a problem. Too much push for the latest—greatest thing can turn educators away. Teachers will fall back on previously created work or lessons bought from Pinterest. Many edtech product licenses go unused for various reasons each year. It might be a lack of teacher buy-in, or the product was not a good fit. To make a great product, companies lean into user and market research. Educational companies can vary research to produce better data. Most importantly, when selling to school districts, companies should make connections with educators. A mix of educators and savvy business minds helps to support and produce great educational products.