November 24, 2014

Why Chromebooks Are Taking Over Education

Lenovo-Chromebook

Infographic: K-12 Chromebook Survey Results

If the Chromebook is not the ideal student classroom device, it is pretty close to it. Judging by its newly-claimed market leadership, this is the conclusion of K-12 school districts throughout the US. While Apple has not been completely left in the dust, its dominating role in education is officially over. IDC researcher Rajani Singh has revealed that 713,000 Chromebooks were sold to the US K-12 market in Q3, beating the Apple tally of 702,000 iPads. That is a meteoric rise for Chromebooks, which were launched in 2011.

To learn how to be successful with Chromebooks in K-12 education, attend our free webinar on February 10. Hear from Google’s Edward Doan and Romeo Community School District CIO Mark Nelson. Sign up now.

We surveyed K-12 school districts across the country to better understand why Chromebooks have been embraced so rapidly as the student classroom device of choice. Based on these findings shown in the accompanying infographic, the Chromebooks’ role in education will continue to surge. The winning combination of features, including ease-of-installation, simplified management, rapid boot-up time, long battery life, convenient form-factor, and adequate durability assure its success. We also asked about the drawbacks to using Chromebooks and found that most of the issues are minor and can be addressed.

According to the survey, 60% of school districts already use Chromebooks or have short term plans to add them. Another 26% of districts report that they are considering Chromebooks for use in the future. Only 14% of districts do not plan to purchase Chromebooks, because they are already committed to other devices, they cannot afford additional products, or they have decided to wait and see how the technology develops.

While the Chromebooks are finding use in all grades, the highest concentration is currently in grades 6-8 (77%), followed by grades 9-12 (71%). Our survey found that 20% of school districts use Chromebooks across every grade. When they are in use, teachers can say “lids down” and listen for the clicks to regain attention at the front of the room. In the lower grades, tablets have been more prevalent for younger students with limited keyboard dexterity. As new touchscreen versions are introduced, Chromebooks are gaining usage even in the lower grades. It should also be noted that Google has an aggressive Android tablet program for education that complements their Chromebook program.

The relative popularity of the various makes of Chromebooks among school districts, according to our survey, fairly accurately tracks the popularity of the brands across all markets worldwide. Samsung has the majority share, followed by Acer and HP, who are followed by Lenovo, Dell, and Toshiba. Dell is a relative Chromebook newcomer whose devices have been well-received in the education market. Note that our survey did not track units sold by each brand, but rather shows the proportion of districts using each brand. Since, according to IDC, Acer sold the most Chromebook units into education, they must be selling many more units per district than their competitors.

Good-Bye To Netbooks; Windows on Borrowed Time?

We asked districts about their expectations for different types of student devices in the future. The results should be especially concerning to Microsoft, if the company has continuing plans for the education market. Districts expecting to use less Windows devices in the future outnumbered those who expect to use more. The only product in worse shape than Windows is the Netbook, with most of the limited number of remaining users expecting to abandon them shortly.

District Policies for Student Devices

Districts were asked about several common student device policies. The survey found that most schools (71%) have a bring your own device (BYOD) program to complement the school-provided devices. Due to the low cost of devices like Chromebooks (generally between $200 and $399 per device), 67% of schools have been able to implement 1:1 computing programs.

Most school districts (77%) have found it unnecessary to offer insurance to families to cover lost or damaged devices. When students graduate, 87% of school districts require the devices be returned. Given how quickly technology becomes obsolescent these days, students are quite happy to turn their device back in.

Unexpected Benefits of Chromebooks

Many districts responded in the survey that the greatest benefit to using Chromebooks actually comes from the Google Apps for Education, which include collaborative tools like Drive, Docs, Sheets, and Classroom. Other devices such as iPads have proven to be highly individual, whereas the Chromebooks foster an important level of collaboration among classmates. The Chromebooks have indeed improved student engagement and motivation.

The limited Chrome operating system has meant there are no malware attacks. It also means battery drain is minimized. In practice, the batteries hold their charge for over six hours, the entire school day. Most schools keep loaner systems available for students who forget to charge the battery overnight.

Infrastructure and Durability

Chromebooks are critically dependent on quality Wi-Fi networking. While the Chrome operating system can perform limited operations offline, including editing docs, taking notes, writing emails, reading offline web pages, and running offline apps, the major functionality is available only when connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. When the devices are turned on, they must first phone home for authorization. This means the Wi-Fi network must be capable of automatically passing through this initial authorization request. Once authorized, the Chromebooks are connected to the cloud, so all data and documents are conveniently shareable and always backed up.

The Future

According to Google, their Google Apps for Education are now used by 40 million students and teachers around the world. The low pricing of Chromebooks at $200 to $399 can be quite a bit less than the iPad pricing, which according to Apple ranges from $250 to $830. IDC believes that the Chromebook third quarter results are especially indicative of success in the education market, as that is when schools acquire the major portion of their technology for the year. All of this together means the safe money is on Google Chromebooks to achieve dominance in the education market.

Here is the infographic with our survey results:

Infographic: K-12 Chromebook Survey Results

Infographic: K-12 Chromebook Survey Results. Click on image to view at full size.

About The Contributor:
Bob NilssonDirector of Vertical Solutions Marketing

Bob Nilsson is the director of vertical solutions marketing at Extreme Networks. In this role, Mr. Nilsson leads the Extreme Networks strategy and programs for vertical markets including Healthcare, Higher Education, K-12 Education, Federal Government, and Hospitality. He has over 30 years of experience in marketing IT systems to Global 1000 companies worldwide. Before joining Extreme Networks Bob was VP Marketing at Clear Methods. Prior to that Bob held senior marketing positions at Digital Equipment and HP. Bob holds an SB degree in EE from MIT and MBA from Columbia Business School.

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