Los Angeles buying students iPads a sign of things to come in education

If there’s one vertical market that is going to change more dramatically than education over the next decade due to continued adoption of mobile and Internet technology, I think most of us would be hard pressed to name it.

And so while today’s news that the city of Los Angeles is kicking off a pilot program in which they plan to buy 31 thousand iPads as a first step in eventually arming the entire population of 640 thousand students should come as no surprise, such moves are still welcome because they show less progressive school districts the direction they should be taking.

There’s no segment of book publishing that is more broken and riddled with excess cost than that of the education and textbook business. By committing so firmly to the future of education (and the future of books themselves), Los Angeles is showing that eventually – hopefully sooner rather than later – that this world of waste and overpriced textbooks will be hit hard as traditional textbooks-based teaching methods begin to go the way of the dinosaur.

While the transition to a digital teaching world will take time to unfold, pieces of this broader transition like apps-as-book have been underway for some time, led by companies such as Inkling. When I talked to Inkling CEO Matt McInnis in early 2012, he told me he thought that the textbook market would begin to see significant shifts towards digital and tablets in 2014 or so, and judging by what we’re seeing with Los Angeles and other school districts, his timing looks about right.

The change in education goes way beyond the move toward digital learning with tablets and apps, however. MOOCs may be the biggest overall shift, and I expect that while the vast majority of secondary education in states will largely be in-person, traditional classroom settings. already states like Washington offer fully accredited secondary education online free to residents of the state.  Many others are utilizing elements of MOOCs or Internet based education as a supplement to classroom based learning.

While some are skeptical about the percolating bubble in digital education funding, I tend to think it’s probably one that has a much bigger upside (and less risk) than many other verticals, in large part because it’s such a huge market and one that is largely (though not completely) immune to economic cycles.

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Michael Wolf

Chief Analyst NextMarket Insights

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