5 things you need to know about device buyback programs

While most school district officials are aware that they can sell their digital learning device fleets at the end of their lifecycles, many don’t do it because they don’t understand the device buyback process.

This is a key finding from a recent study conducted by Project Tomorrow, best known for its annual K-12 Speak Up education research.

The survey showed that while just 7 percent of district administrators and 14 percent of technology leaders were unfamiliar with buyback services, only a little more than half said they were somewhat or very likely to participate in a buyback program over the next two years.

This is surprising because buyback programs are bound to play a more significant role in technology budgeting over the coming years. After a windfall of more than $190 billion in COVID-19 relief funds that have been earmarked for K-12 schools since last year, districts will have to figure out how to sustain their new technology programs. Selling back used devices to raise funds for the next fleet of devices will be key to this effort.

In the meantime, the study unearthed several myths and mysteries surrounding the buyback process that need to be dispelled. Here are a few:

Myth: Districts should hold onto devices as long as possible.

Fact: According to the Project Tomorrow study, only 36 percent of school districts say they refresh their devices every 3-4 years. Many keep them much longer. However, in order for sustainable budgeting to work, it’s important for districts to adopt a regular cadence for refreshing devices when they are still valuable. The ideal time to refresh devices is around year three for iPad and year four for Macs, when devices are just starting to lose their teaching and learning effectiveness, but residual value is high.

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