The Center for Digital Education has just completed a survey of the educational IT market, and the preview they offer for the coming year is extremely encouraging. The word “pivotal” is apropos, especially for K-12, but also for the higher education segment. Driving the up-tick: the accelerated move to the Common Core Curriculum (46 states plus DC are committed) and on-line assessment (2/3 of all assessments will be administered on-line). But just as our own survey found, school district network infrastructure across the country is not yet ready to handle the looming increase in mobile traffic. To accommodate the exploding need for bandwidth, 52% of school districts are already planning network upgrades this year. There is a similar drive to improve network security, as well as provide better network analytics and reporting.
Many school districts are rapidly moving to all-digital content. One of the interesting survey findings is how districts are funding this move. Text book providers typically give away digital content in the form of PDFs when a school buys text books from them. So as a first step, some schools are temporarily switching to PDF digital content. The money they save by foregoing hardcopy text book purchases can go toward mobile devices and upgrades to their network infrastructure. In fact, you can expect that a major portion of the annual $7B K-12 and $7.8B higher ed text book spending will migrate over to school IT budgets. Note to IT vendors: you would do well to learn how to work with the school’s curriculum departments.
More good news is that federal grants, which typically account for 8-10% of educational spending, are up this year. And state budgets are looking better: California now has a surplus that they plan on using for education. North Carolina has allocated $30M for new tablets for middle schools.
The issue with security is that 78-80% of students are now bringing their own mobile devices to schools, whether or not their school has a BYOD policy. The percentage of faculty and staff using their own mobile devices in school is 83%. Products like Enterasys’s Mobile IAM solve this challenge.
So the conclusion of the Center for Digital Education is that after a long period of economic challenge, 2013 looks like the year that education leaps forward, enabled by dramatic changes in IT infrastructure and software.