Procurement Sparring: When Ed-Tech Vendors and Educators Disagree

Last month (see The Ed-Tech Procurement Dance) we took a look at some interesting research presented at this year’s ISTE ed tech conference. The annual ISTE conference, the largest ed-tech conference in the U.S., was held this summer in Philadelphia, with over 20,000 in attendance and more than 500+ companies exhibiting their wares.

The study, entitled “From the market to the classroom: How ed-tech products are procured by school districts interacting with vendors“ (Morrison, J. R., Ross, S. M., Cheung, A. C. K. (2019), Educational Technology Research and Development, 67(2) pp.389-421 doi:10.1007/s11423-019-09649-4) provided some keen insight into procurement practices in the ed-tech market. In this mixed methods research study, more than 335 participants, ranging from district stakeholders in 54 school districts to vendors from 47 ed-tech companies, were interviewed or surveyed. One of the most interesting findings involved some discordant perspectives of educational customers and education market suppliers. Here’s a quick snapshot of these warring opinions:

TupDistrict participants (68.8%) were satisfied or very satisfied with their own procurement processes.

TdownVendors (65.9%) were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied with procurement processes.

TdownIdentifying “an appropriate product from the many options available” was a recurring pain point for educators.

TdownVendors met with predictable struggles in obtaining educator awareness of their product. For example, one vendor mentioned the difficulty of “getting in front of the right people initially,” due to the company’s lack of brand recognition and recognized that districts “don’t have the time to evaluate all” the choices in front of them.

TupDistrict participants often relied on obtaining “rigorous and non-rigorous evaluation evidence” as a part of their decision-finalization processes.

TdownContrastingly, vendors believed that districts mostly relied on non-rigorous evaluation evidence.

TupDistricts reported mostly positive satisfaction with the communications between various internal stakeholders in their buying decisions.

TdownOpposingly, vendors appeared mostly dissatisfied with their ability to “gain acceptance or visibility within a district” and were much less satisfied with the level of “access to district decision makers regarding the procurement process”.

The procurement contradistinctions evidenced by this study show some uncomfortable dissonance. There is still much work to do in improving the procurement divide in the ed-tech market.—Len Scrogan