In the wake of COVID-19, notebooks, desktops, and tablets have taken a front-and-center position as the critical interface for remote learning. Without these core devices – in addition to broadband connectivity for all students – remote learning would be a non-starter.  While technology has always played a key role in K-12 Education, a global pandemic and the resulting social distancing requirements expedited the importance of these devices and services almost immediately.

According to NPD’s B2B Reseller Tracking Service, this January to May K-12 educators began accelerated efforts to purchase both notebooks and tablets earlier and in larger quantities than in years past to help prepare for a potential Fall COVID-19 resurgence. With infection rates fairly modest at the time, the education vertical was preparing for the worst-case-scenario of operating 100% remote should the virus surge in the Fall. Unfortunately, this summer as states began to re-open, the virus flared, stunting many economies as they were just beginning to recover. Compounding an already tight K-12 budget, shortfalls of state and local tax revenues due to COVID-19 would make the budget unattainable, as it has been reported that state and local resources support 92% of the total education spend.

Through the CARES Act the federal government provided a timely lifeline of $13.2 billion to K-12 education. States that were able took advantage of the funding to accelerate their purchase and deployment of notebooks and tablets to help close the 1:1 device gap. Data from the NPD’s B2B Reseller Tracking Service shows that K-12 educators purchased nearly 600,000 additional notebooks from January through June compared to the same timeframe last year. Specifically, K-12 increased overall spending on notebooks by 56%, while spending on desktops fell by nearly 30%.

Breaking down the notebook spend even further, Chromebooks made up the majority of the purchase mix representing 86% of total volume and steadily growing, while Winbooks experienced flat growth and represented less than 15% of total notebooks purchased. This purchasing trend is likely due to the lower ASP of Chromebooks, averaging $200 compared to $600 for Winbooks, which allows educators to purchase higher volumes to deploy more devices. From a Tablet perspective, K-12 increased purchases by +179%, nearly 58,000 units over the same time period last year. We expect if schools receive additional funding through the currently proposed relief package we will continue to see growth in purchases of notebooks and tablets in an effort to prepare students for remote learning in the coming weeks/months.

Post-COVID, technology has become more integrated into daily K-12 curriculum than ever before, accelerated mainly through necessity. While COVID-19 has been catastrophic from a loss of life and economic impact, these difficult circumstances have also provided some key learnings relative to technology and how educators can better integrate it throughout K-12 core curriculum ongoing, as the world comes to grips with an education system that will need to balance face-to-face engagement with expanded digital solutions. The goal shouldn’t be to leverage technology as a stop-gap and then go back to traditional face-to-face educating, but – now with new experience and understanding – to integrate technology in a way that will not only improve the quality and cost effectiveness of educating our children, but will also better prepare future generations.