School technology leaders are faced with the buying decisions of products for an entire school or district. These types of edtech purchases are a sizeable investment and, unfortunately, funding can be wasted on products that are overpriced and underperform–diverting school budgets that could be better used to benefit students in other ways.
The first and most obvious factor in the search for the right technology is to decide which product will be most cost-effective. Durability of the technology is the next major influencer.
When evaluating a district’s edtech needs there are several factors to consider, including product warranties and life cycle of the product. Consumer brands typically do not offer warranties for school use, and this is where differentiation between consumer and commercial devices comes into play.
Premature Fatigue is Costly
The largest cost in any bulk purchase is often an item’s replacement that is frequently caused by premature fatigue, not the gear falling short of expectations.
For example, in the case of headphones and headsets for school use, industry professionals recommend choosing headphones made from ABS plastic for greater strength, durability and safety in case of breakage. Other added safety features include recessed wiring and slotted baffles to protect the inner speakers and the students. This type of headphone would have a longer warranty that typically outlasts one obtained from a retail source. Enhanced durability with lifetime protection against students chewing the headphone cord is another aspect to examine.
If replacements didn’t have to occur as often, there would be an overall lower cost of ownership. Eliminating the need for back-up inventory decreases the long-term investment, while also ensuring that the total cost of ownership will not exceed the district’s purchasing means.
Consumer vs. Commercial Warranty
Buyers, administrators and CTO’s should pay particular attention to the fine print specifying whether or not products are warranted for use in schools. This is crucial because it’s often overlooked that consumer-oriented products are not designed or warranted for the heavy-duty, constant use required by schools.
So what’s the difference between a “consumer” warranty and a “commercial” warranty?
Commercial grade items are designed to last longer, withstand the rigors of extended daily usage, generally made to more demanding specifications, and are tailored for learning environments. Material makeup is another element to consider–by scrutinizing the materials used to make the products, buyers can assess which components will be more durable and less likely to break or wear out over time.
Manufacturers build institutional-grade products to last and stand behind the production quality of them. Many manufacturers will ensure the quality of their product by offering a more robust warranty program for institutional-grade products than they will for consumer-based products.
Devices designed for consumer use usually have a standard, short-term warranty and can specify in the fine print that operation beyond personal use will void the warranty.
Whether you’re a school technology leader researching headsets, computer peripherals, tablets or software; or a principal looking to stretch a budget, you’d be well-served to investigate product warranty factors. Although a consumer edtech product’s price point may be more affordable initially, think about how that product will serve students and teachers long-term.