For over a year and half, the team at Noodle Markets has been identifying problems and developing solutions — all in the name of simplifying the purchasing process for schools, districts and even vendors.
Noodle, the flagship organization of The Noodle Companies, launched as a resource to support parents and students in making better decisions about learning with the belief that “There is no one-size-fits-all solution in education; what matters is finding the right path for you, based on your interests, strengths and needs. Noodle seeks to empower you with the information and tools you need to find that path.”
With a ton of options available, even a good guidance counselor has historically been limited in the support they provided and is not overly helpful in filtering and sorting the world of choices for parents and kids. Despite these choices being highly influential and among the most important and the most expensive of a young person’s life. Noodle, attacked the postsecondary information gap, trying to better inform those decisions by being a smart search engine. The site also provides guidance for families looking for preschools, K-12 schools, tutors, and more.
Noodle Partners took on the challenge of supporting colleges and universities as they seek to improve learning and engagement, lower costs, and increase scale.
The Noodle Companies announced the launch of Noodle Markets, an online marketplace designed to “dramatically transform the way K-12 educational institutions buy products and services, level the playing field for vendors, improve processes, and spur innovation.” It is a market characterized by legions of products and thousands of poorly informed buyers, Noodle Markets is an attempt to bridge the EdTech purchasing information gap.
We are firm believers that Smart EdTech requires Smart Buying. In a rush to implement, schools & districts can make under-informed purchasing decisions – they pay too much, get too little, and then discover that things don’t work together. Following a smart buying process ensures that schools get the most out of their instructional content and devices.
Identifying the Challenge
The key to developing any solution, is locking down the problem you are trying to solve. We askedNicole Neal, CEO Noodle Markets and Karen Vaites, CMO of Noodle Markets what they see as the biggest challenges they are looking to support. The way they see it, there are a couple of current key concerns with what is going on with K-12 purchasing from both the viewpoint of the vendors and the schools and districts:
- From the point of the vendor, it is tough to get products in front of buyers and can feel nearly impossible without a large budget. Big organizations continue to grow virtually by scale, providing them with an advantage over smaller organizations, which is often where innovation is happening.
- Purchasers are busy. There are all kinds of innovation in the market, and K-12 purchases don’t always have the time or resources to make thoughtful decisions.
- Purchasing is hard. You have to break through the relationship gap. If you are a large organization you may be able to conquer because of long term planning and capacity, but again, smaller organizations are at a disadvantage.
- Purchasers stick to what they know, and scrutiny around purchasers makes them risk averse.
Using Technology to Drive the Solution
Neal and Vaites agree, that an online marketplace can revolutionize the way that vendors and school districts engage. It has the potential to streamline the product search process, helping schools and districts identify what is out there, how is it being used, what are other people are saying about it. It will add transparency to the process with simple tools that districts and vendors can use as they engage in processing and ultimately will support in the effort to get the right products in the hands of teachers and students in a manner that is more efficient than has ever before been possible.
The goal is to make the bid process easier for both districts and vendors. Noodle Markets has developed a series of workflow tools that support the process from the creation and evaluation of bids to ways to make the bid process, in general, easier. Vendors will be able to upload, review, question and make addendums within one single space. Tools for the districts will allow them to create a bid within the system as well as develop an outline of desired responses.
Noodle Markets will be free for educators and free for vendors to build a profile. This will allow educators to engage regularly and will create marketplace that streamlines the management process. When a vendor wants to respond to a bid, they will pay a small fee to do that.
Neal and Vaites describe the marketplace as a sort of “Online ISTE,” where educators have the opportunity to walk the floor themselves.
An essential component to success will be the willingness of vendors to participate. We will see if vendors sign on for the service, but similarly to the post secondary gap, the Noodle team has taken on another challenge in eliminating an information gap.
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