How to Avoid the K-12 Startup Summer Slump

Image licensed under CC by 2.0.
Image licensed under CC by 2.0.

This time of year most students and teachers are eyeing the calendar with glee.  School is almost out (or already out in some parts of the country). This is when administrators can catch up or do long range planning in the front office and teachers can take a moment to recharge. For an ed-tech company leader like myself, I’m eyeing the “summer slump” with dread.

Like most other ed-tech products, Listen Current is used by teachers and students, so when school is out, usage dramatically drops. Because we are still building our business, we look for ways to continue to engage administrators and teachers over the summer because we want to stay top of mind and build interest for the fall.

We try creative ways to keep administrators and teachers, who are planning for next year, involved. From a business perspective, we decided it was wise to open up our paid features to all users for the summer. This means teachers and administrators who now have time to really look at all that we offer at our premium level, such as interactive transcripts, tiered vocabulary, and an assignment platform, can do so quickly and easily. No need to jump through hoops: They can just sign up for a free account and the entire platform is free until mid-August.

Inspired by many schools’ summer reading lists, we created a Summer Listening List. Because we use podcasts to engage students, we have lots of great stories we can share. This list is something any parent, teacher or homeschooler can use to keep the learning going over the summer. Some schools, such as Waltham High School in Massachusetts, actually had a podcast as their summer listening activity last year.  You can read more about it here.

Other ed-tech companies are trying to keep users engaged as well. Scholastic has a Summer Reading Challenge.  ReadWorks also published a free Summer Reading List with Lexile levels. While these are all good programs to keep students reading, they also help these businesses stay in touch with their customers.

Summer can be the best time for administrators to look at new products. Instead of managing a school full of students, they are often in their office in front of a computer focusing on building a tool bag of excellent educational resources. That’s why we offer the Summer of Listening as a way to catch their eye.

Investors in ed-tech need to understand the school cycle. We have to remind them that from June to mid-August our metrics will look completely different than they do in the fall. And in the fall, with the right cultivation during the summer, they will hopefully see a spike in usage.

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