Ranjit Singh, former ICT teacher and CEO of Genee World, looks at the revenue opportunities in selling AV to schools and explores the idea that training is even more important than implementation.
Historically, resellers in the AV industry would sell a whiteboard to a school, manage the installation and then move on to the next job. This is neither effective nor efficient, and has minimal opportunities for recurring revenue.
With the influx of edtech resources and tools available to schools, resellers have had to change tactics, leading to a shift in focus. Rather than buying tech for the sake of having the latest resources, schools are investing in technology that will have the greatest impact on teaching and learning.
It is therefore vital for dealers and resellers to provide training opportunities to ensure teachers get the most out of their technology. This will also make them more likely to reinvest in the future.
Value for money
Technology is big business across many sectors, including education. With a constant push for young people to be equipped with digital skills using a range of different devices and platforms, schools are naturally looking to ensure that they have the latest and greatest technology that will both improve teaching and learning and provide students with the best chance of developing the skills they need for the 21st Century.
The increase in edtech investment covers a range of different technologies, including hardware, in the form of tablets, interactive whiteboards and flat panel displays, touch tables, laptops and other interactive devices, and software, such as classroom management systems, assessment tools and mobile teaching applications (apps).
Each school will have unique requirements depending on the type of school involved and the needs of their individual students – no two investments are ever the same.
While the opportunities for selling technology into schools are many and various, there is one important stumbling block: funding. At the end of last year, Schools Week reported that secondary schools could be facing an additional £20,000 worth of expenditure on ICT purchasing and maintenance, due to changes in the economy and rising prices. Coming at the same time as an estimated £3 billion cut to schools’ funding, this underlines the paramount importance of value for money; schools must be confident that their investments are well-used, will provide longevity and, of course, will have a real impact on the experiences and opportunities of their students.
At the outset, the right installation is essential and will be specific to each school and its infrastructure. If you are part of a large reselling company, you may have your own installation team. It’s important that this team is properly accredited to ensure they know what the school is likely to need, not just what is assumed to be required. For smaller resellers, the company that produces the products you sell into schools may well be able to provide an installation team for you.
But this is only one half of the equation. One of the main concerns teachers have is that they don’t receive adequate training on new technologies and aren’t informed of their full capabilities and how to use them effectively – simply coming in to install the new technology is no longer good enough. If a teacher isn’t comfortable with a new device or piece of software, they are less likely to use it and will stick to their usual teaching methods instead. Then, when it comes to renewing or updating the equipment, the school simply won’t bother.
Training isn’t just a value-add service for education, it is a necessity. Teacher workload means that staff members don’t have a lot of time to spend trying out new pieces of equipment to see how they work, so it is essential they spend a set amount of time with an expert who can give them the confidence they need to use the technology effectively. This additional level of support will also reassure school business managers that the investment has been worthwhile, thereby increasing the chance of future business.
Two types of training should be offered to schools: an initial session that explains the ins-and-outs of how the technology works on a general level and how it can be applied in a teaching and learning environment. This will give teaching staff the hands-on experience they need to gain a real understanding of the product and an opportunity to ask questions about its functions, any issues they foresee and any concerns they might have.
Following this, there should be ongoing support throughout the year, online or over the phone, especially for technical issues. This should also be bolstered by refresher sessions if, for instance, the school takes on a number of new staff members or if there is a significant update to the technology that the school should be aware of. Including this training as part of a package, along with the product and installation costs, will give schools the confidence to buy from a particular reseller, as they will have the assurance that the technology won’t be left to gather dust.
Understanding the distinct needs of schools is essential in this process, not just from a product and infrastructure perspective, but also from a pedagogical one: you need to have a good grasp of how teachers may want to use this technology, whether in lessons with their students or during administration, marking and planning. If the company you work for is focused on the education sector, it may well have expert teachers who can help to plan and develop training tailored to the level and requirements of each school.
There are certain aspects that schools will need you to focus on that other institutions may not, notably safeguarding, especially when it comes to online resources and web-enabled technology. While schools are giving more freedom to students (who are often very tech-proficient themselves), they have an obligation to protect students from harm online, whether that’s through cyberbullying, online grooming and radicalisation or distressing material. Being able to answer safeguarding queries from teachers is essential, especially when it comes to devices that students will be using independently, like tablets, laptops and touch screens.
When it comes to selling hardware, it’s important you understand the programmes the school uses. Being able to show teachers how their software works on the new platform will facilitate a seamless transition to the technology, while also giving them scope to achieve far more from the solution.
The inverse is also true; if you’re providing a software solution, think about the hardware devices the school and its teachers will be using and consider how the programme will integrate with them. Some teachers use desktops and laptops and others tablets, so you will need to provide training on all these formats.
Some schools we work with request multiple training sessions per year, due to the natural churn of staff members. Having the ability to provide this is a fantastic pitch for additional business.
Training is the ultimate value-add for schools, where time and money are equally precious. Being able to incorporate effective training that really addresses the needs of teachers will make you a prime candidate for their business, both initially and in the long-term.
For more information about selling into schools, visit: