Each year, the Center for Digital Education conducts a Digital School Districts survey, asking school districts to tell us about their progress toward digital transformation as well as their procurement needs and issues.
The most recent 2017-18 survey responses revealed the important role of the vendor in successful IT operations for K-12. Intrigued by the number of open text responses that referenced vendor relationships, we examined these remarks to identify factors that make for successful vendors as well as forecast vendor roles in K-12 school districts for 2018.
Issues of Concern
School districts repeatedly raised questions dealing with a) student devices and b) wireless access for students at home.
Student devices: When asked to identify the biggest technology-related issue with which districts could use vendor assistance, most respondents identified interactive devices for students.
School districts are working to fully implement 21st-century classrooms and 1:1 initiatives within the next few years, and would like to receive more funding to not only procure devices but also continue to keep technology current through refresh cycles. Some of the devices that respondents are interested in procuring include interactive whiteboards, computers and mobile devices to meet the digital needs of their students. Vendors who can speak to learning mandates and lean budgets are needed to help school districts identify the best solutions available.
Wireless access: Almost every respondent mentioned eliminating digital inequities among students as a priority for the next year. Many districts are aiming to address the root cause of this problem: a lack of reliable Internet access for students at home.
This gap in service has created high demand for providers who can offer low-cost Wi-Fi options for eligible families or hot spots for student devices. As school districts begin to re-evaluate their strategic plans and compose budget proposals, vendors can be a step ahead by ensuring that their services and products are in line with what districts are looking for in 2018.
What Makes for a Successful Vendor?
K-12 IT directors who answered our survey indicated that a successful vendor is one that can first and foremost provide low-cost options to support their district’s needs. Whether it be Internet service, security software or interactive devices, school districts are looking for vendors willing to work with limited budgets.
Districts are also looking for vendors that offer reliable networks, up-to-date security protocols, live personnel for assistance with service issues and interoperability with current district systems.
As mentioned above, respondents are anxious to provide wireless access for their students. Frequent references were made to wireless vendors in open text responses throughout the survey. The vendors most favorably mentioned were:
These vendors were singled out for low-cost services, and for working with the district to provide Internet connectivity to students from low-income households.
Over the next few months we will share more data and insights from our Digital School Districts survey.