Educational technology is the future of K-12 learning.
It allows students to take greater ownership of their education, and provides teachers with deeper insights into the learning process.
It allows for streamlined management of faculty, better data orchestration and compliance; and more efficient payroll and HR management in schools.
Whether you’re looking to replace your student information system, choose a new SIS, streamline human resources, or something else entirely, there’s a long list of things you should consider when searching for an EdTech partner.
The first thing you should consider when evaluating a prospective EdTech partner — before discussions of price and features even enter the equation — involves the vendor’s history in the education sector.
What do your colleagues think about the company? Are there any success stories you can see with K-12 school districts similar to your own? What about online reviews?
There are plenty of marketplaces and communities that host reviews of both vendors and the technology they offer. Find the partner you’re thinking of working with on one of those sites. Look at both the positive and the negative reviews.
You want to understand this vendor’s weaknesses just as well as its strengths, as this will better inform your final decision.
No EdTech solution exists in a vacuum. A student information system, for instance, is of little use if it cannot integrate with your learning management system. A financial management tool loses a lot of its value if it doesn’t perform seamlessly with your HR & Payroll platform.
It is therefore crucial that you evaluate each new piece of technology not as a standalone solution, but in terms of how it slots into your school district’s overall ecosystem and technology stack. Put together a list of all the software your school district uses, both in the office and in the classroom, and present it to any vendor you intend to evaluate.
It’s important to remember that the license price of an EdTech solution is only part of its total cost of ownership.
You must also consider the cost of deployment and integration. Day-to-day overhead and lifecycle management. Training and onboarding. In some cases, even the infrastructure on which the solution is hosted, and the network used to access it.
In most cases, the license will comprise the bulk of your TCO. But those other costs can add up fast. You need to adjust your budget accordingly.
It’s also important to pay attention to the specifics of your contract and the vendor’s pricing structure. Some EdTech providers use metered or usage-based pricing rather than static licenses. Working with those providers means your costs will fluctuate based on your needs — something you must account for in your budget.
What regulatory standards, privacy legislation, and certifications must your school district adhere to? It’s important that you seek out an EdTech provider that is either subject to the same regulations or else has a deep understanding of them. Depending on where you’re based, you might be able to refer to your region’s Board of Education for a list of approved vendors and solutions.
Data silos are not only costly, they also tend to have an adverse effect on learning outcomes. Your district needs to take whatever measures it can to break down those silos. Integration is part of this — but how the technology you’re evaluating contends with its own data is even more important.
While not every EdTech solution needs built-in analytics, orchestration is a non-negotiable feature of everything from student information systems to learning management solutions. It’s not enough for software to integrate with your existing infrastructure. It must also be easy for you to direct the flow of all data generated by that solution, ensuring it’s properly organized and categorized.
What is it you’re trying to achieve with this deployment?
Is your goal to streamline the staff entitlement process? Are you looking for a platform with automated absence management? Do you need a forward-facing student information system that empowers students and their parents with access to payment, records, and feedback forms?
More importantly, does the vendor you’re evaluating understand both your objective and the reasoning behind that objective? Are they willing to work closely with you in pursuit of those goals? Do they have some idea of the necessary features and standards?
How invested is the vendor in your success? Are they willing to go above and beyond for the sake of their clients, or is each license they sell simply another paycheck to them?
Ultimately, the above can be boiled down to a single question. Will the vendor support your school district both during and after deployment? In this context, support takes two forms:
We’ve saved the most important part for last. It doesn’t matter how well a solution performs on paper. It doesn’t matter how seamlessly the solution can integrate with your existing tools. What matters is whether or not it’s easy to use.
Evaluating an EdTech partner is an extensive, deeply-involved process. It needs to be. Because the only thing worse than not having the right tools for a particular use case is having the wrong ones.
With that in mind, the last piece of advice we’ll give is that ultimately, no EdTech is truly one size fits all. Even the most flexible solution will likely need to be tweaked and adjusted to operate successfully in certain districts. And even the best vendor’s solution might not provide you with everything you need.