The implementation of the new Common Core State Standards requires schools across the United States to adopt technology in classrooms, and technology companies including Apple, Microsoft, Google and Cisco are competing for a K-12 ed-tech sector expected to more than double in size to $13.4 billion by 2017, according to GSV Advisors.
These technology companies are implementing different business strategies to grab as much of the current $5.4 billion K-12 learning market as possible. Technology is going to play a big role in evaluating student success, encouraging use of more devices in the learning process, writes Preeti Upadhyaya of Silicon Valley Business Journal.
"The advent of Common Core is a change for schools, and change is great for startups," said Karen Lien, director and partner at Imagine K12, a Palo Alto-based startup incubator and investment firm focusing on K-12 education. "The chance for major tech companies and startups to get in is pretty exciting."
Cisco is eyeing opportunities in three major categories, including the core infrastructure in schools, collaboration technologies and the data center needs of large education institutions. Renee Patton, head of Cisco's U.S. public education sector team, said the company is working with schools to help them figure out how they're going to implement technology aligned with the Common Core.
"We help schools figure out how many classrooms will be tested at a time, and how many students will be connected to the web at any given time. We help schools figure out the gaps they currently have, and then we'll engage Cisco Capital or our grants team to help them with financing if that's necessary," Patton said.
According to Patton, schools should multipurpose devices and systems to leverage and maximize their returns on technology investments. The school district in Paradise Valley, Arizona is using Cisco's telepresence technology to provide an AP calculus class across 10 schools. There were not enough students at each individual school to warrant hiring an AP calculus teacher, but the ability to reach all the students at once with video technology allowed the district to offer the class.
Tech giant Apple, already well-position in schools, is also looking at maintaining its hold and developing new opportunities in the education market. During most recent earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the Mac maker's control of 94% of the education tablet market in the U.S. and said the company earned more than $1 billion in revenue for the first time in the education sector.
In a move followed nationwide, the Los Angeles Unified School District contracted with Apple to provide iPads for students and administration. The company provided 640,000 iPads to the school district over the summer, and though the rollout of the devices was recently delayed because administrators are facing some issues related to structure and finance, Apple has not been the brunt of criticism.
Google seems to be Apple's biggest competitor in the education sector. The company recently announced its education-focused app store, Google Play for Education. Rajen Sheth, director of product management at Google, said the deployment and manageability of device distribution in classrooms is one of the biggest hurdles to integrating tech into schools.
"Google devices are deployed very easily," Sheth said. "They basically go from the delivery truck to students with no IT intervention. You have to make it such that these devices are very easy to maintain."
With increasing technology budgets matching innovation and a willingness to improve education, there appears to be room for both established tech companies and startups in the lucrative learning market.