It may be hard to believe, but we’re rapidly approaching the end of the school year, which means the B2B education buying season is in full swing with schools in the bidding and quoting process as they prepare to outfit classrooms and general campus infrastructure for next fall. While we often start to see buying trends emerge as early as Q1, June and July is when activity tends to peak. During this season, partners and vendors alike are looking for the answer to two key questions: what are schools adopting today and what does tomorrow look like?
To answer those questions, you have to consider a few perspectives; what are the schools trying to achieve in the classroom and what are they doing across the campus. Finally, one needs to consider what is necessary for the school administrator to achieve his/her objectives, which likely include: helping students achieve excellence in academics and standardized testing, strengthening community outreach (e.g., fundraising), creating an environment for instructional staff that fosters collaboration and continuous training, and to providing students with skillsets that match those in the professional world.
Although there are myriad classroom types, you can fundamentally group them into two types; general classrooms, where standard classes are taught (e.g., English, social studies), and newer STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) labs where students learn about more technical subjects such as programming, engineering, robotics, and media.
From a general classroom perspective, there’s an amalgamation of technologies that are being used to help students digest materials, become more sophisticated researchers, foster creativity, and instill presentation skills and confidence. Key technologies that remain the center of gravity in this type of classroom are Chromebooks and interactive whiteboards (IWBs) coupled with projectors, document cameras, and classroom responders. In fact, according to NPD’s U.S. B2B Tech Distributor and Reseller Tracking Service, Chromebooks have grown at a 7 percent compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in unit shipments from 2016 to 2018 while IWBs grew at a 32 percent growth rate during the same time period.
A key reason for the adoption of Chromebooks is the move towards online testing standards (e.g., Common Core), parent and pupil management, operating expense reductions (e.g., office supplies), access to open source courseware (e.g., Khan academy) to augment lectures, and more. Technologies such as these have allowed the general classroom to evolve, now offering student’s better tools than in previous generations.
In STEM and STEAM classrooms, key growth areas include: high performance workstations, drones, microcontrollers (e.g., Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Adafruit) and accompanying sensors, 3D printers, CAD/CAM (computer-aided design and manufacturing) and more. In fact, according to NPD’s U.S. B2B Tech Distributor and Reseller Tracking Service, high performance workstations have grown at a 15 percent CAGR from 2016 to 2018 in unit shipments. Part of the driving force here is that organizations are hiring more statisticians, actuaries, mathematicians, web/gaming developers, and CAD/CAM engineers, which has led schools to increasingly focus on having the equipment to teach the skills needed to fill these careers.
The classroom is changing for students of all ages – offering more advanced tools that enable them to learn at a much faster rate, but also prepare them with the skills most applicable to today’s more digital workforce. My guidance to channel partners during this key time for the industry is to examine the strategic plans of districts and schools (often available online) in their designated areas to help understand overarching goals, including planned technology acquisitions, school strategies, and more to engage school administrator’s early in the planning phase.