By Mark Piesing
Earlier this month at the Frankfurt Book Fair, leaders from the world of educational technology talked business models and wrestled with how to reconcile the hype around digital in schools with the more disappointing reality of low budgets and troublesome teachers — and particularly the all important question of how to actually make some money out it.
For Martin Fielko, International Business Manager, Cornelsen Schulverlage, “50% digital is unimaginable. So our strategy is to penetrate the market — and get the teachers used to digital — by giving away the digital book for free when we sell a book. At the moment we sell content and give services like training and technical support away for free, in the future we may follow the freemium model of giving the content away for free and then charging for services.”
Similarly, according to Neeraj Jain, Managing Director of Scholastic India, digital is only slowly growing even though “India is the market that everyone is looking at” as about 35% of its population is under 14 and there are 1.4m schools – 1.1m in the public sector.
“While there is a lot of talk about digital, there are many challenges with it as in India the market is still focused on print,” Jain says. “We have concentrated on providing content specifically for the Indian market rather than content brought in by a multinational publisher because it seemed suitable.
However, Todd Brekkus, President of myON, a division of Capstone, sees the the cloud as key to the wider adoption of digital in schools and that his platform is proof of that potential. myON is a personalized literary platform for schools. And its hard not to agree as myON has 6.2 million students online (mostly in the USA), two million students will have been online within four or five days and the average student spend on average 22 mins on the platform each day. Some students will even have looked at 25 books in a week.
“The consumption of reading has massively increased,” he says. “It is always on and the experience can be easily personalized. Parents can collaborate and teachers too. Students can connect with each other. With the cloud the options become pretty limitless.”
Its success has even led to them moving to become a distributor of content on a revenue sharing basis, he adds.
“When people ask me to give them examples of countries that are really driving digital education my response is always that it is patchy,” says David Langridge, Worldwide Education Senior Partner Development Director, Microsoft Education. “You have got some schools that are really driving it, but to say that it is widespread is really overstating it.
“We are a productivity and platform company so our goal is drive use of Microsoft technology in schools – having said that we give Office away for free to schools and they get 80-90% off commercial rates for our other products
“In the end our goal is really to improve education as we are teaching the same way for over 100 years and we are getting the same results while tech companies like Microsoft can’t find graduates with the right skills to fill our vacancies.”