Friday, November 3, 2017

The Cost of Freemiums

As our district rolls out 1:1 Chromebooks for students and staff, the use of web-based products will obviously increase. Many fantastic options are available but it's important to look carefully before you sign up.


This strategy is used to offer different pricing options. There is a free option with limited features and there are other tiers for premium pricing. The higher the tier, the more expensive it gets, the more features are available within the tool. It starts off free and gets you hooked but if you'd like to unlock the premium features, you will have to pay. From a marketing standpoint, this makes sense since their businesses are created to make money. However, it can be very difficult for classrooms with a high number of students and a limited budget.

Let's use Smore as an example. Smore is a web-based newsletter service that has become very popular with educators who rely on that form of communication to connect with parents regularly. The newsletters are easy to create and the design templates are very attractive. It uses the Freeium pricing strategy but before you sign up, take notice of what comes with the free option. There can only be 5 free newsletters and recently, Smore changed their free accounts to limit how many times a newsletter can be edited. If you'd like unlimited newsletters and unlimited editing, you have to pay. And it's not cheap - $80 a year for an educator. Yes, that is $100 less than the non-educator price, but it's still very expensive for a classroom purchase. And let's not forget how much educators already spend on other items for their classrooms.

(By the way, a free alternative for web-based newsletters would be to create a free Google Site using your PISD credentials. You'd still have clean, attractive designs with all the same information in the Smore, except you'd save $80 a year. Contact the Instructional Technology team and we can help you learn how to use Google Sites!)

Classroom purchases add up quickly so it's important to be aware of what you will and will not get with your free account.

District / Campus Licenses

School districts and sometimes individual campuses can purchase a license to give all staff and/or students access to a paid version of web-based products.

Let's use Nearpod as an example. PISD purchased Nearpod licenses for all staff. Nearpod allows teachers to create impactful, interactive lessons which students can view on their own Chromebook or other device. Teachers don't need to pay for an account. Signing in with PISD credentials will give them access to the premium features to embed in the Nearpod lessons they create. (There are free pre-created lessons but some pre-created lessons still come at a cost.)

Depending on the product and its cost, it could potentially be something purchased for staff.


As mentioned earlier, companies use the freeium strategy to make a profit. They also make a profit by selling the data you enter to sign up for an account such as your email address, age, sex/gender, or other identifying information. Companies can and do sell your data to others including marketing and advertising companies.

However, companies cannot profit off the data of children under the age of 13 because of a law called COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.) COPPA was created by the Federal Trade Commission in 1998 and protects the sensitive information and other data belonging to children under 13.

It is crucial to read the privacy policies and terms of use for a site before you sign up. If a site is prohibited for children under age 13, please don't allow them to sign up or create an account.

We hope you are enjoying the Chromebooks in a safe, effective way. Please contact Instructional Technology if you have questions about websites or web-based classroom tools.

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