Negotiating Need to Knows

Negotiating Need to Knows

Resource Articles, Solutions

Negotiating Need to Knows

Know how to choose the right vendor to better serve your students and families

by: Darlene Wilgus | April 10, 2021 8:23 am

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KYC… Know Your Customer

Understand Virtual Learning Expectations

KYC… Know Your Customer… is the latest acronym for the business sector pertinent to all things digital: profiles, currency, etc. In essence, it refers to data mining as much information about you as possible to predict how and when you make decisions, especially financial ones.

As a career educator, I certainly have experienced my share of in house educational jargon, but I’d like to apply KYC (Know Your Customer) to the current educational landscape: digital learning. I believe knowing who your potential customers are is highly relevant for leaders that are the development process of a remote learning option. 

A percentage of your customers (AKA… students and families) are looking for digital learning options for the 21-22 school year that will meet their students’ needs. You can make a difference in their decision to stay with your school and district by selecting a virtual learning platform and digital tools that address their desire to be remote learners. Virtual town halls via zoom, surveys, etc. can be great resources for getting at what they are hoping you will provide.

How It Has Been

The yellow school bus has brought us our customers for decades. They came in all varieties, from the wide-eyed early learners to the awkward brace laden middle schooler. Then, there were the sophomores, hoping they passed their upcoming driving test so this would be their last uncool yellow bus ride. But what have we learned about our customers this past year?

For a given percent of our demographic, returning to the traditional business of five days a week, six and a-half hours a day is the normal they want to return to as quickly and as safely possible. Recess, social interaction, sports, PTO, clubs, and annual events such as homecoming, prom, and the status of being a Senior, are but a few of the elements that allow them a sense of this is how we do school.

How It Will Be

Due to our most recent school year experience, a portion of your students and family groups have seen a different modality of educational service and they do not wish to return to a traditional brick and mortar school setting. They have had opportunities to work their own schedule and focus in unique ways that are benefiting their students and are likely to seek more of the same. Extended health risks into fall aside, personalized learning options are here to stay.

The time for KYC… Knowing Your Customers… is now. How will your leadership team gather information about your students and families that will help you choose the right online options for fall? This knowledge will prepare you for KYV… Know Your Vendor.

KYV… Know Your Vendor

With your KYC data, the team is ready to select a vendor to meet those customer’s, your students and families, with a learning platform that meets their goal to continue as remote learners.

Need to Knows: Questions to Ask Your Vendors


  • What grade bands is your platform most effective with? Provide indicators and examples of results
  • In your 9-12 courses, how is original credit different from credit recovery?
  • Does your company develop their own courses or are they purchased from another provider?
  • How often are courses refreshed or totally revamped?
  • Who provides your world language courses? Are there middle school courses that are developmentally appropriate for younger students?   

Professional Learning

  • If we decide to utilize our local teachers and staff, what training services are available and how much time should we plan for the initial orientation?
  • How is PD conducted? (Webinar, in person, on demand, other)
  • What type of follow up, ongoing training, and support will staff receive throughout year one? Are there additional fees to that end?


  • Will the company provide customizable marketing materials, such as digitized images, graphics, script, etc.?
  • What are your recommendations for press releases and working with the district communications team? (Website highlights, etc.)


  • What is the turn time for support issues?
  • What will the tech interface be like with your school district’s IT team?
  • What is the provider’s stance toward academic integrity? Is there a support team that pulls copy/pasted responses, screenshots down from the web?
  • Generally, how quickly will our program lead receive a call or email back when there is a question or system problem?
  • Report metrics. What is recommended in terms of focus for the first 3,6 months etc.?


  • What is the course completion rate average for students over the past 3 years?
  • When onboarding students/families, what best practices protocols do you recommend?
  • Are there student help services outside of the 8-3 school schedule?
  • Are there student and learning coach supports built into the program? 
  • Do students and learning coaches have 24/7 access to a deep knowledge base of supports?
  • What is the company’s philosophy on summative assessments and finals?


  • How long has the provider been serving in our geographic area?
  • Can endorsed teachers be purchased with courses as needed? (ie. AP Calc B/C)
  • How does the rep most often communicate?
  • What type of online program/industry experience does the rep have?
  • Are there references from other districts available?
  • What can we expect in terms of support from the rep and company during the initial year?


  • What is the course/seat pricing structure?
  • How is it billed? By semester, annually?
  • Can multiple years be bundled for discounts?
  • Where are the price breaks for seats? Are seats reusable within a given year?
  • Can unused seats be banked/used the following year or in a summer school program?

The vendor needs to seek to know your specific needs and show you how they will partner with you to that end.

Up Next: April Showers Bring… Puddles or Flowers?

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