EdTech Industry Predictions for 2017

You can take this to the bank - here’s what schools are buying

By LeiLani Cauthen

Schools are still buying a lot of computing devices, and this year should be a banner year for Chromebooks, but the major tone of the market is that whole device thing is oh-so-two-years-ago. All schools are face-planted into the issue of digital learning objects and the awe-inspiring complexity of it. That is the biggest friction point of all.

Such a shame that so many schools and districts bought the whole “all-free-materials” pitch and have tried to do it, exhausting their teachers to no end and causing some to leave during the biggest teacher shortage there has ever been! This, instead of budgeting for the new way and demanding funds to get professionally designed and curated digital curriculum with built-in machine learning algorithms.

Seriously, they used to buy books (obviously professionally written and edited by the smartest minds), so the idea of not buying professional materials is sort of… “interesting.” There are huge exceptions to this like Beyond Textbooks in Arizona and some other approaches. Schools will always have to make some lesson plans, and teachers should have the freedom to do what they need to do.

What’s on deck for 2017 is digital curriculum, and lots of it. Companies in this space are already crushing it. Their numbers in most cases are already up over last year. Schools will be buying a lot of courseware and “collections” websites access for whole schools or districts. This is a high priority in every city the Learning Counsel has visited so far.

The mobility and networking companies are also doing great and will continue to.

This year is the big “run-for-the-gold” year for Single Sign-On (SSO) vendors capping all those curriculum website access purchases. Classlink is on a roll in this race. Soon it will be lessons in market dominance and sell-out for billions.

The Learning Management Systems and Student Information Systems companies will go through a major consolidation this year. Some will fail. The market is all-in for Google’s G-Suite for Education and Microsoft Office365 for Education, and education as an industry is not, for the most part, up to understanding a systems view just yet.

Truth is, the market has splattered into a million tiny bits of lesson plans that teachers are building and putting into those repositories that frankly will not compete with the full digital courseware world. Once we are taking full advantage of, and have implemented digital courseware for all that it is worth, the majority of the market will turn to sophisticated systems and postures of digital delivery that are surpassingly automated hubs, less human-centric and more student-experience oriented. Again, this is a maturity, and also competitive and cost-structure issue.

This whole year the mid-tier executives will be weighing their gains in going with an LMS or stay in an “Un-LMS” state while offering caps for SSO or analytics and online communications structures. LMSs are expected to resurge in late 2018. Now is the time for LMSs to get out proposals, do the bake-offs and market hard.

Tons of individual learning objects will, again, be being bought, and made, and companies who are marketing hard on these will be big gainers in 2017. The shopping behavior right now for this stuff is awesome, and we expect to see a lot of what were tiny companies getting mighty, very quickly. The trick they need to pull from their hat, though, will be brilliant marketing, not sales: content marketing, showing up to meet-and-greet and expertly pitch, forming alliances with others of similar ilk in a camaraderie of products, all those are brilliant moves for this tier of companies. Unfortunately for some reps this means those companies will do better with fewer reps and more marketing spend on reaching folks. The good news is new communities like KnowStory are available that put education companies and schools together without the usual complexity of the sales process

Virtual Reality headsets are getting their moment for early adopters, but will have a long way to go. Already I am hearing stories of Pink Eye transference, so they would be smart to give-away antimicrobial sprays with every headset.

Innovations in rolling furniture, kid-proof bean-bags, and quiet spaces are taking off and we can expect schools to spend big here with furniture companies, including moveable power hubs and more.

The interactive whiteboard companies (IWB) are not going to have a great year, but if they were smart they invested in digital courseware already because that is where the traction is (Think Promethean with their “Classflow” product). IWBs with an edge will also see a resurgence in late 2018 as the market turns its attention to becoming competitive in the Age of Experience and seeks a super thrilling carnival ride of expo learning as the reason to show up when you could do a lot of learning at home in your jammies. At that point the physical school will need to be as Disney-esque as possible. Take a clue from the whiz-bang monkey bars and maker spaces of Kindergarten and extrapolate up to the upper grades and you’re sniffing in the right direction.

There’s the future.

Buy LeiLani Cauthen's book "The Consumerization Of Learning" on Amazon.com here.

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