Schools and districts that want to try online procurement in a centralized location are being invited by Noodle Markets to test the company’s platform in a free “beta” phase of its development.
The marketplace beta gives decisionmakers an avenue to research 33,000 products and services in a number of categories, and to test a select number of platform features, according to an announcement from the company. District and school-level leaders nationwide are invited to register for the platform.
Last December, Noodle Markets launched the first part of its ambitious plan to become a one-stop, Amazon-like source for K-12 schools and districts searching for educational tools.
Then, the New York-based company officially announced NoodleMarkets.com, a free online marketplace to address what it calls a vexing problem for vendors in a crowded market: making their products known to educators.
Vendors have been registering on the site since then, opening the buyer-and-seller platform for business. Eventually, Noodle Markets says it will also be a place where schools can post requests for proposals, and where vendors can respond to them.
Now, the company said that the K-12 community will be able to search for products and services in more than 200 categories, and access a procurement toolkit that will include templates for requests for proposal, requests for information, and similar tools for solicitation. Beta testers will be able to create product lists, tagging products and services that they might want to consider later, and to create a “bidder’s list” for future reference.
Bart Epstein, CEO of the Jefferson Education Accelerator, which is not affiliated with Noodle Markets, said yesterday that the timing of the beta is good. “Increasing attention is being paid to the question of what works, and under what circumstances,” he said.
The upside, Epstein said, is that it could streamline “the nitty gritty of the ed-tech procurement process,” which is widely considered to be cumbersome.
The downside of introducing a new way of procurement? “The biggest risk is lack of accountability” in purchasing, he said. “It is really very easy for a school to simply renew what they already have, which takes very little work, and it doesn’t upset people who are used to using a particular product.”
That risks allowing “a sub-optimal product” to remain in place, he said, and it takes “a lot of work to figure out which product is likely the best fit for a school.”
He said his hope is that Noodle Markets will be simple enough to use that “people who are very busy in districts, and may not have a lot of time to invest in learning a new system, will find it worth their while to use these types of systems, because they will eventually lead to better [purchasing] decisions.”