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At-Home Learning Market Experiences Rapid Growth, But Brands Will Need To Evolve Message For Long-Term Success

April 24, 2020 Carolyn Harding


Today, across the U.S., more than half the states have issued orders that will temporarily close schools, leaving more than 70 million students to transition from their normal classroom settings into full-time, at-home learning environments. This new reality for K-12 school districts, universities, students, teachers and parents has forced a crash course for online and at-home learning plans and technology. The silver lining? With students unable to attend class in person, parents and teachers alike are seeking educational materials, online resources, apps and more, resulting in a major spike in the at-home learning market.

Books, Flashcards And Similar At-Home Learning Materials Become Necessities  

As many parents find themselves home with restless children, it’s no surprise that at-home learning materials are now considered essential items in the eyes of many. In addition to the introduction of virtual classrooms online, sales of reading and writing workbooks, flashcards, activity books and other educational materials have skyrocketed.

Along with a rise in flashcard sales, Scholastic reported a significant spike for its workbooks, increasing by 70% during the week ending in March 14, compared to the same period last year. According to NPD BookScan, which reports on publishing industry trends, sales of juvenile nonfiction books in the categories of education, reference and language rose by nearly 40% during the same week. Additionally, nearly half of Amazon’s top 100 print best-sellers are currently educational books and activity books for children.

In the past two weeks, Workman Publishing Company has ordered nearly 1 million copies of its Paint By Sticker activity book series along with reprints of roughly 3 million copies of its popular educational workbooks in order to fill orders from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Costco, Target, Walmart and an array of independent bookstores. “This demand is at a level that we’ve never seen before,” said Dan Reynolds, Workman Publishing’s Chief Executive.

Sales at Modern Kid Press – known for publishing workbooks which teach the basics like math, reading and handwriting – experienced a 500% jump in March of this year, compared with 2019. Meanwhile, The Genius of Play (a resource for parents sharing facts, useful tips and expert advice on how toys and play can help kids) launched new content for families trying to adjust to the new normal. The company reported a major uptick in traffic to its website as a result of their latest resources, jumping 64% between March 23 and April 6.

Major Brands Step Up To Create Educational Materials

Shutterstock_1284992692 Hispanic pre-teen boy sitting at dining table working with his home school tutor

In an effort to help during the transition to at-home learning, several big-name brands have created their own educational resources and made them available for free to parents, teachers and students. “Parents are not only suddenly having to wear a teacher’s hat,” said Lauren Tarshis, Senior Vice President and Editor in Chief of Scholastic Classroom magazines. “You’re [parents are] managing enormous stresses and working remotely yourself.”

  • National Geographic launched NatGeo@Home, an online hub which combines family-friendly educational content to make a one-stop shop for parents and teachers. Aimed at K-12 students, the content is organized by grade and tagged as either “read,” “watch” or “play,” depending on whether it’s an article, video or activity.
  • Apple launched the Apple Education Learning Series, a collection of videos allowing schools and teachers to make the most of the new remote learning style through Apple devices.
  • Comcast recently made nearly 2,000 hours of educational programming available to all Xfinity subscribers.
  • Scholastic announced it would ease restrictions for use of its books, now allowing teachers and authors to read them aloud online for the remainder of the current school year. The publishing company also created a free website for teachers and parents called Scholastic Learn at Home, which includes reading, writing and reflection assignments for kids.
  • Google published Teach from Home, a temporary hub of remote learning resources to help teachers during the current pandemic.

The Long-Term Impacts On The Education Industry Are Still Unknown, But Strategic Messaging Will Be Key For Marketers

Shutterstock_1676759164 Coronavirus Outbreak. Lockdown and school closures. Schoolgirl watching online education class, happy talking with teacher on the internet at home. COVID-19 pandemic forces children online learning.

The current pandemic has forced nearly every industry to adapt, with education being at the forefront of many people’s minds. This new form of distance learning is not something America’s teachers or parents have necessarily trained for. Teachers have had to adapt to new ways of communicating with students, and parents are trying to find a balance between working from home and filling the role of “educator” for their children.

At-home learning brands sharing and selling their education materials and services to school districts, teachers and parents have had to adjust quickly. But it’s clear the competition for educator (whether teacher or parent) awareness and loyalty is heating up. While we don’t know what the long-term impacts of COVID-19 will look like in the education industry – schools could be revolutionized by this experience or revert back to normal with ease – we do know this pandemic has given several brands the opportunity to leverage their platform, capabilities and different media channels to connect with new audiences and make a meaningful contribution during these unprecedented times. However, it has proven to be somewhat easy for at-home learning brands to scale during March and April.

As we move into May, the summer and the new school year, the marketing of at-home learning products may matter more than ever. As time goes on, parents and teachers will gain experience and knowledge to identify which types of at-home learning styles and materials they want, rather than feeling the need to try every at-home learning option available, which has been the case so far. Quality will be more important than quantity and brand awareness will be key. At-home learning brands should prepare for the heightened competition by building subscriber lists and creating strong content geared toward educators. Continual engagement and value will allow at-home learning marketers to keep their brands at the forefront of the homeschool evolution.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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