Parents of America, are you ready for your children's education to be fair and balanced? News Corp. (NWS) announced Monday that it will collaborate with AT&T (T) to bring digital education services and products to U.S. schools.
News Corp.? Yes, News Corp. At first blush, it may seem the company has no business in the education market. However, companies from many different sectors are rushing to get in on the digital-education boom, some with a better pedagogical pedigree than others, and some with better focus and energy than others.
And when you look more closely at News Corp.'s plans, it's evident that theirs is no half-hearted effort.
Turning Up the Volume
This new education division of News Corp. will be called Amplify, and will be organized around three key areas of business:
Amplify Insight focuses on educational analytics and assessment through Wireless Generation, an Amplify subsidiary that's been making mobile, digital assessment, and instructional tools for teachers for more than a decade.
Amplify Learning will create a new digital curriculum that aligns to state standards and is driven by technologies that adapt to students' needs. Core subjects will include English language arts, science, and math.
Amplify Access will develop new distribution and delivery mechanisms to bring the new digital curriculum into the classroom or the home.
It's the final bullet -- Amplify Access -- that really tells the tale of News Corp.'s determination to make a go of it in the education market. And that's where the company's collaboration with AT&T comes in.
Children, Please Open Your Tablets
Amplify will offer what it's calling a "breakthrough, 4G, mobile tablet-based platform" to access the new curriculum. 4G is the next-generation wireless communications standard, and is set to offer faster service than the current 3G. This will allow more to be done via wireless streaming, like kids diving into a full-blown school curriculum.
Throughout the 2012-2013 school year, Amplify and AT&T will launch a pilot program to introduce these new curriculum and tablet-computing products. In the pilot phase, AT&T will provide the 4G tablets and technical services.
"It is our aim," Amplify CEO Joel Klein says, "to amplify the power of digital innovation to transform teaching and learning and to help schools deliver fundamentally better experiences and results. Amplify will introduce new products in a thoughtful way, so that technology can finally live up to its promise to advance learning and augment teaching for students, teachers, and parents everywhere."
You Take the High Road, We'll Make Money
Aside from Klein's high-road rhetoric, Amplify will also get News Corp. and AT&T into the booming education market, which one industry trade group estimates to be worth $7.5 billion in the U.S. alone.
But while it's certainly booming, it's also a market that's already full of big players.
In January, Apple (AAPL) announced its collaboration with publishers McGraw-Hill (MHP) and Pearson (PSO), creating a service that allows textbook makers to create fully interactive titles for Apple's ubiquitous iPad. These three companies represent a lot of experience, a lot of money, and a lot of determined people already hard at work in the digital education and delivery sector.
So while News Corp.'s efforts are clearly serious, it remains to be seen whether the company has arrived after the school bell has already rung.
John Grgurich is a regular contributor to the Motley Fool, and owns no shares in any of the companies mentioned in this column. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and McGraw-Hill. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple.