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Are Classroom Engagement Tools a Threat or an Opportunity for Enterprise Communication Providers?

School to parent communications are an essential part of the day-to-day running of a school. The requirement to notify guardians of school closures and events, absenteeism and student progress present a significant operational burden, one which is often best handled by a dedicated management platform.

In the US, most K-12 public schools use an enterprise grade communications platform with the penetration of solutions estimated to be above 90%. These platforms help centrally manage formal mass communications via multiple channels including voice, email, SMS text and web applications. These platforms are typically designed for one way information delivery, a sound horn for schools to reach a broad audience. Over time, platforms have become increasingly sophisticated with deep integration into Student Information Systems (SIS) and other school based management platforms; linking student events to automated messaging and alerts. Despite a heavy reliance on these platforms, the thrust of usage remains one to many, the institution to the individual, not a two-way conversation between peers.

The market for these platforms has seen significant consolidation in recent years, with leaders West (School Messenger) and Blackboard each making a number of acquisitions. Consolidation of the supply side, combined with a highly penetrated market, has spurred providers to seek new opportunities, diversifying product portfolios to drive revenue and increase customer retention. The development of bespoke mobile applications & websites, tools to enable and promote social media engagement and safeguarding tools to monitor communications are all areas of development, providing new growth opportunities.

While back office solutions matured, and diversified, tools targeting the classroom have rapidly grown the user-base amongst students, teachers and parents. Web-based solutions, like messaging application Remind (which claims use in 70% of US public schools) and behaviour management tool Class Dojo (which claims use in 90% of US K-8 schools), offer free-to-access platforms, generating classroom engagement through multi-way communications with a focus on informal user interaction linked to classroom events. Integrating features like reward systems, peer-to-peer messaging and a suite of Emoji’s, these platforms resonate with young audiences, well versed in social media conventions.

To-date, the classroom focused freemium alternatives have not displaced the requirement for a dedicated enterprise-grade communications platform. Instead, freemium platforms are typically being used as a complementary addition to products from suppliers like West and Blackboard. Classroom solutions typically manage informal interactions while enterprise platforms retain ownership of the more formal aspects of school to parent communications. While freemium tools have amassed large user-bases, most customers are accessing these solutions without charge. As such, these businesses are, in some cases, yet to prove the capacity for reliable revenue generation.

This is starting to change. In early 2017, Remind introduced school and district packages with advanced features including the ability to integrate Remind into the SIS, provide analytics on usage and on-boarding solutions for school staff. Through this strategy, the provider is replicating many of the more advanced features and functionality typically found in enterprise grade communication platforms.

The objective of monetising classroom communication solutions will increase the competition between freemium and enterprise platform providers. Freemium web-based solutions like Remind will seek to monetise from the ground up, mobilising support from existing student, teacher and parent user-bases by offering paid-for premium features.

Enterprise platform providers, which already have contracts in place with district communications leaders, are expected to increase focus on the provision of web-based applications and their role in the classroom, formalising a multi-way communications ecosystem by directly appealing to administrators.

The victors in this rapidly evolving segment remain to be seen. What is abundantly clear is that a growing reliance on web-based communication technologies in our lives as parents, professionals and class mates will undoubtedly impact the market landscape for education solutions moving forward.

The above information was taken from Futuresource’s recently released research covering key trends in and the outlook for and adoption of management platforms and tools in K-12 education. Covering the US & UK markets the report looks at developments across and range product categories servicing both the classroom and back office.

About the author

Ben Davis

About Us

Here at Futuresource Consulting we deliver specialist research and consulting services, providing market forecasts and intelligence reports. Since the 1980s we have supported a range of industry sectors, which has grown to include: CE, Broadcast, Entertainment Content, EdTech and many more.