7 Digital Business Strategies for Educational Publishers

The dominance of digital publishing is inevitable – make the most of it.

GUEST COLUMN | by Dovi Weiss, Yotam Kramer and Noam Green

CREDIT Time to KnowEducational publishers have invested heavily in digitizing their content, but many are disappointed with the market’s response. That is because widespread digitization has led to a glut of inexpensive or free material, which has reduced demand, while many governments have made life even harder by regulating the price of educational publications. Yet anybody with an ear to the ground in the educational publishing industry has heard some impressive success stories based on digitization. We have summarized the strategies that are working for various educational publishers across the world.

Direct Business to Consumer Sales. The web site and portal are now ways to reach the consumer directly. Publishers can connect with parents who want more of a hand in choosing the best supplementary books for their children. To this massive consumer group, publishers can offer their books precisely as they want, and can emphasize special features, data-tagging, and sales campaigns to every relevant market in the world.

Create Once, Distribute Everywhere. Apps have changed the way many industries distribute content, and this is exactly what is happening in the educational publishing market, albeit slowly. By meeting the content and technology standards (e.g. device agnosticism) of the App store, publishers can reach a fundamentally larger and more diverse market. Conversely, the slow advance of educational App stores is an opportunity for publishers to seize by becoming App stores themselves – if they are willing to take the risk.

Tailored Content. Adjusting content and services to fit the needs of a certain target audience can be a profitable differentiation factor. Publishers might want to include material that is of interest to regional consumers, or “borderless content”, in their selection. Other specialties might involve niche subjects, superior customer service, flexible currency choice, and web site language.

New Business Models. There is no longer a need to stick to a transactional model for book sales. One of the many new business models is Content as a Service, in which users pay a subscription fee and can download a limited number of books, sections, updates, and so on. In this manner, publishers can look forward to a more predictable revenue stream and compete more effectively with the secondhand book market.

Repackaging. Because digital content is modular, it is a simple matter to repackage books into single chapters, lessons, or sections. Publishers can then sell reorganized material with a price and content selection which might be more attractive to certain consumers than the price and contents of the entire book.

Enhance Print with Digital. The lack of consumer demand in paying for digital publications results partly from cheap, easily available material. But surprisingly, digital content is an effective way to boost hardcopy sales. Many people still prefer an actual book, so that publishers can use digital promotions to create interest in the full printed versions. As long as a digital copy is being made anyways (which is usually the case for educational books), boosting print sales in this way is highly practical.

Cut Costs, Improve Profits. Various publishing technologies can improve a businesses’ profit level. Authoring, production, programming, device formatting, and material design can all be made simpler and less expensive by applying the right technology mix, and can be included in the production process at any time.

According to recent market forecasts, traditional printing industry revenue will recede over the next few years, but digital printing revenue will grow. Educational publishers need to adapt to this reality and figure out how they fit into the digital world. Those that can make the change will find a new, exciting, and profitable marketplace.

Dovi Weiss, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist at Time To Know. Yotam Kramer is Director of Marketing and Noam Green is Product Marketing at Time To Know. E-mail: info@timetoknow.com  For more about educational publishing strategies, download the full white paper

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Cool Tool | Fishtree

CREDIT FishtreeFishtree is a
place where teachers find resources for their lesson plans in seconds. Resources from textbooks, Open Education Resources, teacher lesson plans and even news from recently published, trusted sources, all easily accessible. With Fishtree, you’re able to make a lesson, and then adapt the lesson for individual students, in a way that is easy to manage in the classroom. Each student is given personalized resources to attend to their individual needs or challenges with varying degrees of difficulty. Teachers control the entire process and are given the real time data on each student, without being overwhelmed by individual learning paths or multiple assessments. Whether you have students who are struggling in certain areas or, students who are more curious and want to get deeper on a topic, you can now reach out to every student in the classroom, quickly and easily — before it’s too late.

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Cool Tool | Allowance Manager

CREDIT Allowance ManagerThis online and mobile tool empowers kids grades K-12 to save and spend their allowance money wisely. Created by a family for families, it enables parents and kids to track their allowance deposits and spending and provides children with a firsthand experience with money. It makes it easy for parents to impart money-handling skills in an enjoyable and engaging way for kids by giving their child allowance through automatic deposits to a prepaid debit card called the AllowanceCard.  The platform helps establish and maintain trust between children and parents as kids do not need to ask for allowance and parents do not forget to give it to them. The Allowance Manager app offers a quick and simple way for parents to oversee and manage how kids spend their money through the app’s text and email notifications of transactions. The app can be viewed from any web-connected device including iOS, Android, Blackberry, Fire Phone and Windows Mobile.

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Rising to the Challenge

How are we leveraging the benefits of technology in the classroom while avoiding the pitfalls?

GUEST COLUMN | by Philip Dolan

CREDIT Saint Lawrence AcademyA Catholic, co-educational college preparatory school in Santa Clara, California, Saint Lawrence Academy is one of several dozen schools in the Diocese of San Jose. The Diocese leverages its Silicon Valley location to keep its parishes and schools on the cutting edge of technology. The benefits of adding technology as an educational tool are well known. One of the key benefits is that people can use technology to learn in the way that suits them best. For example, some students may learn better by watching video while others do better with reading articles or engaging in interactive experiences, such as by using various applications. The ability to deliver learning through multiple channels increases student motivation, engagement, and performance.

The pressure has never been greater to do more to prepare our students to successfully navigate our increasingly complex world with fewer resources available to carry out that mission.

The U.S. Department of Education reported that access to technology delivers multiple benefits to students, such as increased motivation and self-esteem, improved technical skills and ability to accomplish more complex tasks, greater collaboration with peers, and increased attention to audience needs from a design and delivery perspective. Technology also frees teachers to become facilitators instead of the sole focus for educating their students, especially as students become empowered to support and mentor each other.*

These benefits are not without some significant challenges: First, traditional desktop, laptop, and mobile devices are expensive and subject to damage, theft, or loss. Second, a single device infected with malware can impact the entire network. Third, it is important to prevent students from accessing inappropriate materials, such as adult content. Fourth, managing individual devices and environment can burden IT resources. All of this adds up to extra direct and indirect costs, this at a time when public and private educational budgets are being strained like never before. The pressure has never been greater to do more to prepare our students to successfully navigate our increasingly complex world with fewer and fewer resources available to carry out that mission.

Implementing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) can be a cost-effective way to resolve these challenges and free up the full range of benefits offered by technology… provided that the VDI can deliver acceptable levels of performance to users, that is. To be effective, technology must respond and adapt to the needs of its users, and not the other way around.

Saint Lawrence Academy implemented a VDI as part of our overall Technology program to allow our students to access applications from any device in any location, thus maximizing digital education opportunities for our middle and high school students. We hoped that putting all of our tech-related programs under one roof and adding accessible thin clients, tablets, projection systems, and more would create an educational hub for all of our students—whether they’re focusing on digital media, or if they just want to augment a lesson or project for a more traditional class.

In general, students welcomed these new capabilities; however, those enrolled in graphics-intensive courses, such as digital photography and yearbook, quickly ran into problems with lag caused by the VDI tasking the server CPU with processing and rendering graphics. This significant roadblock cast doubts on the feasibility of expanding our digital curriculum going forward. Then we learned about NVIDIA GRID technology, which promised to eliminate performance bottlenecks by allowing remote users to access GPU resources.

We implemented NVIDIA GRID K1 boards in a Dell PowerEdge 720 server running the Citrix virtualization platform just in time for the grand opening of the Tech Media Center in December of 2013. Our body of almost 300 students had no idea this was coming, but they immediately began commenting on how much performance and image quality had improved, especially when running Adobe Creative Cloud. The applications that once posed the greatest obstacles to the success of our VDI were now running perfectly.

This successful VDI implementation is allowing us to focus on leveraging technology for our current and future educational offerings. Students can access applications and data with full workstation performance using their familiar desktop, laptop, and mobile devices. Our IT department can protect the network against unauthorized access and malware, shield students from inappropriate content, and focus on enhancing services instead of constantly responding to support requests. We have achieved all of this and more while saving at least $50,000 compared to traditional workstation models.

In my experience, nothing beats a VDI for delivering on the promises of technology in education while eliminating almost all of the risks entailed by taking that path.

*U.S. Department of Education. “Effects of Technology on Classrooms and Students.” Retrieved 14 August 2014 from https://www2.ed.gov/pubs/EdReformStudies/EdTech/effectsstudents.html

Philip Dolan is the President of Saint Lawrence Academy and Saint Lawrence Elementary and Middle School in Santa Clara, Calif. He is responsible for the management of school operations, mission advancement, strategic planning, board development, and school fundraising. Find him on Twitter: @SLACeltics

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Cool Tool | Net Power & Light’s Spin

CREDIT net power & light SPINOriginally developed to help musicians jam with other musicians in different locations in real-time, Spin, from Net Power & Light, has just become available for businesses and educational institutions in the Apple store. An industry-first application for mobile, multi-participant video collaboration, Spin enables up to ten people, groups or classrooms to participate in a video call while simultaneously viewing documents, photos, and videos– all without having to “pass control” to another participant. NPL also enables educational institutions to create a powerful student experience by embedding Spin, with its advanced videoconferencing and collaboration tools, into their suite of applications and learning services. In the new version of Spin, teachers and students can share documents and connect to Dropbox to view PDF files together in retina-quality HD. Each person can flip through pages, so everyone can participate in the action. New comment and markup tools enable groups to take notes and work together while viewing PDF files, photos, videos, presentations and more. With NPL’s low-latency technology, users with different devices and connectivity speeds are managed intelligently, giving the best possible performance to each device. This all translates to a mobile video collaboration experience with human fidelity – bringing people together with people to solve problems.

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