New Vendors Looking to Erase BlackBoard's Hold on the K-12 Market

by David Krebs | 06/14/2013

To say that the education software market is in a state of flux would be an understatement. The fragmented field of Goliaths such as BlackBoard and Desire2Learn are nervously holding tight to their reigns of market share as startups like  Instructure and Haiku sling their innovative software to schools left and right. The education market is ripe for change, and nowhere is this reflected more clearly than in the amount of new entrants and venture funding pervading this market.

The past few weeks have seen both Instructure and Silverback Learning Solutions receive venture funding to advance their educational software solutions. While Silverback – a newer entrant in the ed tech market – received a modest $2.5 million, this funding announcement is symbolic of an unsatisfied market. Silverback has a focus in the K-12 market and aims to combine educational resources, data, and accountability into a platform developed with ease of use and implementation in mind. It seems that many of the dominant players in this market offer solutions targeted at higher education, with expensive, robust tools that are not congruent with the needs and capabilities of the K-12 market.

The K-12 market in particular has been slow to adopt the technology that higher ed institutions have invested so heavily in. Extensive analytics, robust classroom management features and complex platforms simply have not found a home in the K-12 market. For one, many K-12 schools are public and therefore face budget constraints with little room for a massive technology upgrade or the training to leverage it. Further, priorities tend to point to achieving state standards and compliance with educational mandates, thus influencing the types of technology adopted.

Instead of more complex management tools, the prevailing trend seems to be changing the dynamic of the classroom. The main focus is on student to student and teacher to student collaboration as well as personalized learning. Any technology vendor looking to enter this space must also offer a solution that is feasible, intuitive, and easy to integrate with existing systems.

While there are software solutions such as Haiku and Schoology that strive to cater to these realities, they are not on the same level as the BlackBoards and Desire2Learns of the market. It is safe to say that the K-12 market is still relatively immature, but eager for an upgrade.

As a result, it will be interesting to see what revenue backed giants like BlackBoard decide to do moving forward. Will they create more K-12 centered solutions or opt to acquire the startups that have been inundating the market as of late. The only certainty is that the market won’t tolerate new entrants forever. Which vendor has the class to outperform the rest is still yet to be tested.