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Back to School: Opportunities in K-12 IT

The demand for technology to support remote learning exploded in 2020; now educators seek high-level expertise and solutions to improve learning outcomes. By Jennifer Oladipo
Reader ROI: 
THE K-12 TECH FOCUS is shifting from enabling remote learning to improving learning outcomes for in-person and hybrid school.
SCHOOLS SYSTEMS are looking to consolidate the “technology sprawl” that resulted from pandemic spending.
CHANNEL PROS serving or entering the market must understand educators’ needs and focus on pedagogy over technology.

ED TECH has never been an easy vertical to crack. The COVID era opened up opportunities in K-12 that were unimaginable two years ago, but the demands for expertise are higher than ever.

“It’s the most dramatic change in education in the last generation,” says Erez Pikar, CEO of Trox, an ed-tech provider based in Phoenix. "We see at least a three-year acceleration in what we call ‘digital education.’ A lot of the things that have changed over the last 18 months are here to stay, even if they need to be fine-tuned.”

Channel pros looking to make gains in education will need to reexamine the past 18 months, and rethink how they’ll do business in the future.

COVID, Class of 2021

As soon as the pandemic hit, schools tried to beat back the flames of infections and closures with a fire hose of technology. They bought devices for students, teachers, and administrators who no longer had access to classrooms and offices. Meanwhile, billions of federal pandemic aid dollars poured into school districts, catalyzing tech adoption.

“Especially in K-12, the tech they were using was so outdated—if they had any—that the first thing they were thinking about was just how to get online,” says Matthew Leger, research manager with IDC Worldwide Education Digital Transformation Strategies.

At the same time, schools leaned more heavily on vendors for technical help. Their own IT staffs weren’t physically accessible or sufficient to handle the massive increase in hardware and software, so they needed more assistance with planning, budgeting, and implementation. Moreover, they wanted devices and AV to work right out of the box, bundled with warranties and financing, says Pikar.

Leger says large vendors such as Dell and Cisco responded by providing more training, integration, and device-as-a-service offerings. They began handling everything from deployment to data management to classroom support. Many called on partners if they couldn’t fill gaps quickly enough on their own.

The Year Ahead

That demand for high-level service is here to stay. School systems are now looking for fewer providers who can handle and bundle more. “One of the things that separate out the winners and the losers is, how much can you do for your customers?” says Pikar. He also expects ed-tech budgets to keep growing.

That said, needs have shifted. With many schools getting back to in-person or hybrid learning this fall, the technology focus is moving from enabling remote instruction to improving outcomes no matter where students are. Leger expects to see more districts offering parallel, fully remote programs as permanent alternatives.

Serving schools will also require navigating factors such as local politics, infection rates, and varying levels of digital savvy among educators. As a result, channel pros will likely have to take a hyper-local approach to offerings, tailored to each district. And because COVID conditions can change so rapidly, smart providers should be developing an adaptable and responsive business strategy.

About the Author

Jennifer Oladipo's picture

JENNIFER OLADIPO is an award-winning business journalist. She’s written for national and international publications focused on science and technology sectors and has held communications positions in multiple organizations, including a Fortune 200 technology company.

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