The wind of change is blowing through our industry. Like it or not, the COVID-19 pandemic and political pressures are combining to accelerate the Uberization of education. Technology adoption, once done at a leisurely pace, is now being done at break-neck speed. Digital learning as the primary form of instructional delivery is now a reality. Education and education technology are becoming one in the same. And the only constant is change.
Many would argue that the changes in education brought about by the pandemic were inevitable. Others might counter that although change was inevitable, the pandemic forced changes that are neither inevitable nor in the best interests of our learners. Both sides would be right because the issue is very nuanced. But perhaps more important than this hypothetical argument is the reality that the pandemic did strike and here we are. And although I love language and speaking in other tongues, the one language I never learned to speak is hypothetical.
As EdTech professionals, we really only have two choices: Stand fast against the gale or help our learners by delivering the very best education solutions in the history of the world. At 60 years of age and 168 pounds soaking wet, I’m not sure how I would fare standing in the face of a wind blowing with such ferocity. On the other hand, delivering the very best education solutions in the history of the world sounds like a boatload of fun.
In order for companies like yours to feed the frenzy of change, you may have to do one thing differently: everything. Like the old saying goes, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.” And because today’s education sales climate negates the possibility of getting what you’ve always gotten, you can no longer do what you’ve always done. We are operating in unprecedented times. Learning Counsel research now indicates that the K-12 EdTech spend in 2020 will be close to 8 percent of the total $715 Billion in available annual funding, up from 5 percent last year.
Put in real terms, the EdTech spend in 2020 is expected to be around $57 Billion. That’s an increase of 40 percent, or an additional $21 Billion from last year’s record spend. With nearly 7,000 EdTech companies out there vying for the prize, that is an average of $3 Million more for each company. “But, Charles,” you say. “I’m not average.” That’s quite all right, Sparky. Feel free to take as much as you want.
The tools you’ll need for your toolbox
The first thing you’ll need is a better understanding of the way money is being generated and distributed during this era of COVID-19 madness. To get an insider’s understanding of where the money is, how it got there and how to get your share, you’ll want to watch this amazing discussion.
Next, you’ll need to get your mind right. This is neither a sprint nor a marathon. It is a 6-month marathon run at a sprinter’s pace. Prepare yourself and your team. Unprecedented spending on the part of districts has already begun. District decision-makers are pulling the trigger on deals, often without even a hint of the usual slow-paced song and dance of previous sales cycles. Superintendents have no time to waste. They need to get their entire student population in a position to learn virtually within a matter of weeks or even days. Got a solution? Good. Where do I sign?
After you get your mind right, you’ll want to re-tool your sales department to operate virtually. Like your customers, you are being forced to change your entire method of operations. You are now in the business of distance-selling. Forget about getting on an airplane for face-to-face meetings. Forget about large, in-person conferences. Both you and your customer now live in a virtual world. Believe it or not, though, it is the only way you can accomplish what you need to. Business is going to come fast and furiously. During the hours it would have taken you to visit your prospect, you will have written three or four more deals. Big deals – in many cases, much larger than in ordinary times. And the 39 minutes it would have taken you to run through the airport? Boom. Another deal. So, revel in the fact that you work from home and no longer have that 22-minute commute. Because now, that’s time to write yet another deal.
We have never seen a time like this in the EdTech business. But, with big opportunity comes big responsibility. Make sure you are putting the right tech in the right hands. In many instances, it will be up to you to make sure that your opportunity is the best opportunity for your buyer. The well-being of our children is in your hands. Just because you can make a sale, doesn’t mean you should make a sale. Put yourself on the buyer’s side of the table. Ask yourself, “If my child went to school in this district and it was my decision, would I recommend my product? Is it the very best decision the district can make?” If the answer is yes, then full speed ahead. If the answer is no, then tell your prospect so and recommend a better solution.”
In this time of enormous need and quick sales, our children are depending on your integrity. Help our districts make good decisions. Be their unpaid advisor. The fact is, there is more than enough to go around. Perhaps for the first time in our business, it isn’t about competition. It is about collaboration. Things are happening. And they are happening fast. The wind of change is blowing through our industry. Like it or not, education is transforming. The changes can be good or bad. You and I and others like us cannot stop the wind, but we can direct it. Funnel it. Make sure its power transforms our industry in new and wonderful ways. As our children benefit, we will have the wind at our backs and sail successfully into the future.
About the author
Charles Sosnik is an education journalist and editor and serves as Editor in Chief at the Learning Counsel. An EP3 Education Fellow, he uses his deep roots in the education community to add context to the education narrative. Charles is a frequent writer and columnist for some of the most influential media in education, including the Learning Counsel, EdNews Daily, EdTech Digest and edCircuit. Unabashedly Southern, Charles likes to say he is an editor by trade and Southern by the Grace of God.