Thursday, September 20, 2012

Volume Purchasing Saves Schools Money on Apps

When my district started buying iPads last year, I found myself looking for a way to buy apps for teachers and students.  We currently have over 100 teachers and staff with iPads and 100 student iPads in use in learning labs with charging carts.  When we began purchasing iPads with grant funds I enrolled the district in the Volume Purchase Program (VPP) through Apple.  With the VPP you redeem vouchers (like a $100, $500 or $1000 iTunes gift card) and then you can buy multiple copies of apps or books, most of the time at 50% off if you buy 10 or more.   Side note: I have to say, redeeming a $1000 iTunes card is pretty fun!  Once you buy the apps you are able to download a spreadsheet with redeem codes that you can distribute to students or teachers.  I normally copy and past the redeem code into an email and send it to the teacher.  The redeem codes are entered by individual user in the app store and the app immediately downloads to the device.  For the iPad carts I only have to redeem one code on the laptop that syncs the iPads.  I keep track of who receives each redeem code on the spreadsheet I download from the VPPI made this video about how to use a redeem code for people unfamiliar with the app store on their iOS device.

The VPP has allowed us to buy specific apps at large discounts (for example: writing or note taking apps) that we want to make available to all iPad users while still letting individuals buy and manage their own apps.

Things to consider

  • Who will manage the VPP and be responsible for buying and distributing apps?  Depending on staff, budgets and other factors, you may want to designate different individuals to manage different app buying groups.  One person would be the program manager and they could then designate different program facilitators.  This way the special ed department, the school site, or the department could have their own program facilitator who could buy vouchers and provide redeem codes to their group.  
  • One if the issues around buying apps this way is that when the user redeems the code on their device, the app is then tied to their apple ID.  For example, if you give a redeem code to a teacher and they are logged in to their iPad with their own Apple ID, that app essentially becomes theirs.  If the teacher leaves the school, the app goes with them.  
  • There is some discussion that apps purchased with school funds should stay property of the school.  In this case you would need to have a way to manage the devices that would allow you to deploy apps out to each device, or you would need to log in to each device with a school Apple ID, redeem the code, download the app and then log out.  You can see it gets pretty complicated.  I think of the apps as being consumables.  The app doesn't get "used up" but if it was used for the intended purpose (in a class or for the year) then I think we got our money out of it.  To actually track each app from year to year would take a bigger management team than we currently have.

How to enroll in the Volume Purchase Program (from Apple)

  1. The first step of getting enrolled in the VPP is to sign up to be a Program Manager  The Program Manager is the main contact point at the school/district for volume app purchases.  Once you are enrolled (3-4 days), you will be able to make use of a new Program Facilitator management portal.  This tool will allow you to set up and edit Program Facilitators for your institution. 
  2. The Program Facilitator is a new account type for individuals in your institution.  The Program Facilitator(s) may redeem Volume Vouchers through the App Store Volume Purchase Program.  Program Facilitators may search for apps, and may order apps in variable quantities, up to the current dollar amount credited to their account via redeemed Volume Vouchers. These individuals will be able to redeem Volume Vouchers and receive codes to download applications, so be sure you only designate individuals who have the authority to do so according to any policies your institution may have in place. 
  3. Each Program Facilitator is required to create a new, unique account for the App Store Volume Purchase Program.  This is a unique type of account specifically for this program.  These accounts will NOT be able to access the iTunes Store to download applications, music, or any other content.  It is recommend that, for these new Program Facilitator accounts, you create new, generic email addresses for use only with this program (e.g.  This will ensure that even if a specific Program Facilitator transitions away from their current position, your institution will be able to transfer that account to a new Program Facilitator with minimal delay or hassle.
  4. After purchasing apps in the App Store Volume Purchase Program, the Program Facilitator will receive an email with a link to the Program Facilitator's dashboard, now populated with app-specific codes, one code per license. These codes may then be distributed to end-users for redemption at the App store. Codes may be distributed via email or other means, at the Program Facilitator's discretion.  
  5. The App Store Volume Purchase Program includes an optional, separate agreement that will allow your institution to use one or more iTunes accounts to sync multiple iOS devices.  If you elect this optional agreement, it is recommended that these master iTunes syncing accounts be generic accounts set up by your institution, as opposed to an instructor's personal iTunes account.  This will ensure that control of your apps remains with your institution's IT department or similar team, as opposed to with an individual.

Helpful links:

Volume Purchase Program:

You can also attend Apple Volume Purchase Program Webinars every Tuesdays, 12-1 PM (Pacific)

Register here