Guest Column | October 17, 2013

4 Things You Need To Know About The Education Vertical

By Brian Sutter, Director of Marketing, Wasp Barcode Technologies

Due to several factors, the education sector is ever changing. No one is more familiar with those changes than teachers and parents of students. From an industry perspective, however, individuals not directly connected to the education vertical may be missing out on important trends occurring in this space. Below are four things you need to know about the education vertical.

1. The Move Toward Paperless Education

According to a recent article, the United States spends more than $7 billion annually on traditional textbooks. Unfortunately, many of those textbooks are seven to ten years old and contain outdated material. Using electronic readers allows textbooks to constantly be revised to reflect current events. In addition, they use more visual and audio effects that help students learn the most up-to-date information in an engaging way. The ability to combine traditional learning with supplemental methods — such as visual, hands-on, or audio learning — appeals to more students.

The transition to e-books isn’t only happening in schools in the United States. South Korea has announced its plans to move to all-digital school texts by the year 2015.  Although there are still some factors that need to be addressed before full adoption — such as expensive hardware and non-standardized file formats — we are moving closer to a digital classroom.

2. Tracking Valuable Inventory

A recent article in Metro Philadelphia reports that an audit of 11 schools found an inventory shortfall of almost $200,000. This isn’t a minor shrinkage problem — it’s a gaping hole filled with missing and stolen computers, pencils, and microscopes. Think about how that $200,000 could be used to pay for improved systems and equipment.

With student numbers up, effective inventory management helps to keep track of essential equipment and supplies. In order to manage inventory in schools successfully, there has to be a commitment from school officials to implement best practices, and trained personnel need to be equipped with modern devices, such as barcode readers and mobile computers. An automated inventory tracking system set up with the right tools can help administrators conduct regular inventory counts and consistent cycle counting in order to keep track of items at a school.

3. The Importance Of Government Funding

Public schools are funded primarily by state and local government — approximately 40 percent to 50 percent of the total — mostly through local property taxes.  Although the federal government’s contribution may seem small in comparison (9 to 10 percent), it’s a significant amount for some districts — money that, if lost, would have far-reaching, negative consequences. The federal government requires any item purchased with grant money to be tracked, maintained, and disposed of appropriately. Schools have a responsibility to keep track of how that money is being used. Many schools are using outdated methods for tracking purchased items — such as Excel, which is labor intensive and prone to mistakes. An asset management solution gives schools the necessary tools for recording each step of the tracking process and ensures detailed documentation for compliance auditing. 

Many school districts have been required to return misspent or improperly accounted for grant money.  As an example, in Maryland, an audit conducted by the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Education found misuse of federal stimulus and Title 1 funding by Baltimore City and Prince George’s County schools. If the findings in both jurisdictions hold, the state may have to pay back $540,013 to the federal government. The result of forced repayment is taking money allocated for future expenses to pay for items and services already purchased or used.

4. Digital Grading

An emerging trend in classrooms across the country is the use of online resources to reduce the time spent grading papers. Teachers are now opting against the traditional way of editing papers and assignments, and instead are turning toward an electronic means of grading. What was once conducted through stacks of paper and red pen can now be accomplished with use of an app.

Through the use of the virtual portal, students can submit their work to their personal binders and allow teachers to assess their assignments through the use of recorded voice, drawing tools, and electronic highlighting. Not only do these apps allow teachers to grade and teach without paper, but it also allows teachers to provide more specific feedback to students’ writing assignments. This mode of grading is quicker than hand writing notes on a printed page. These apps also allow teachers to insert spreadsheets, rubric handouts, and samples into any student’s binder, or share personal links for private communication.

The education industry is responsible for shaping the minds of our students and young people. For that reason, we all are responsible to stay informed about the industry and consider the efforts that are possible to improve systems, to address the educational concerns of parents, teachers, and students.


Brian Sutter is the director of marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media. Sutter joined Wasp as the marketing manager in 2006, with a focus on web presence, product promotions, and brand awareness.