How to Fix Edtech Procurement

How to Fix Edtech Procurement

The way schools buy edtech is broken. These companies are helping to fix it.

By Matt Bowman     Jun 24, 2013

How to Fix Edtech Procurement

Last week, we published the EdSurge “Try Education Technology Before You Buy,” guide, with a set of rules that called the “Clear & Simple Trial Guide.” The idea is to shine a spotlight on vendors who agree to let entire schools try their full paid product for two months, free of charge and with no obligation to buy. If the product is good, the school will be more likely to pay for the rest of the year.

At press time, we’d identified three vendors ready to adopt the terms, all of which have gotten a lot of attention and positive reviews: MasteryConnect, OnTRAC and Gobstopper. Since the announcement, many other companies have knocked on our door, and we hope to announce some of them soon.

Why are we doing this? The short answer is that the process by which most schools make edtech purchasing decisions hurts kids. Admins have to pick and pay for products before conducting a sustained evaluation of the product in the classroom. That’s like buying a car without a test drive -- except that cars are cheaper and once you know how to use one, you can drive them all.

Sure, vendors have sample exercises on the web. But deciding to invest money and people’s time after one administrator completes a carefully selected “showcase exercise” is like falling for the Pepsi Challenge: There’s no way to know if a product will yield sustained results in the classroom without trying a broad sample of its content over a long enough period for students to get over the novelty-induced honeymoon. It doesn’t take much to get a class engaged for a few days with a new product. But what happens for the other 178 days of the school year? Schools have to make big bets--a few grand and a lot of people’s time--to find out.

Over the past two years, I’ve worked in a school program to help choose products. I often asked vendors to give us even the benefit of a month-long trial. For all too many, the answer was simple: No chance. Thankfully, a few brave edtech companies are taking a different route. We’re hoping many more will join.

Of course, there are already a lot of great free products and “freemium” products that let you dabble with limited functionality. By contrast, products in the EdSurge Clear & Simple Trials are only available if you pay a license fee.

If you’re a school or teacher and wish a company were on this list, please let them (and us) know about it. And if you’re an edtech company with a paid product that you think schools will love, we hope you’ll consider adopting the Clear & Simple terms. If so, let us know and we’ll add you to the list.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

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