Our guest post this week is written by Bob Dronski, creator of EdgeMates, and an IT resource at his local school. Bob has just given me the equivalent of an entire course on bulk purchasing for educational apps, and I still have more to learn. Thanks Bob for taking the time to enlighten us about the Volume Purchase Program!
We developers know how to upload our apps to the app store, but how do schools actually buy them in quantity and at a discount? I have the joy of experiencing both sides of the process, as I’m also the IT guy for an elementary school who was an early adopter of iPads. Here’s more than you ever wanted to know about the Apple Volume Purchase program (VPP for short.)
When a developer creates an app, they have an option of whether to participate in Apple’s Volume Purchase Program. If they check the box, that means their app is available to schools for bulk purchasing at a 50% discount.
There are several hoops a school has to go through. First, they apply and get approved by Apple. Once that happens, the bureaucratic fun begins!
The big kahuna is the Program Manager, who is in charge of purchasing “Volume Vouchers” for the school. These are elegant little cards that are physically sent to the school. (You read that right. Nothing is offered electronically.)
This is the only way a school can fund their account. They cannot use gift cards, nor any existing credits in any other AppleID accounts. As a matter of fact, even existing AppleID’s from a teacher’s personal account cannot be used. Everyone involved must create their own new AppleIDs and use them exclusively with the Volume Purchase Program.
The Program Manager then creates Program Facilitators. The Program Facilitators are the people who actually get to order the apps, and they each have an AppleID. If there is only one person who is both the Program Manager (purchaser) and Program Facilitator (app downloader), a separate AppleID is required for each role.
Here’s where it really gets interesting. If you have multiple Program Facilitators, the Program Manager must give a separate volume voucher to each Program Facilitator. You cannot split the value of a card between Program Facilitators. For example, if you have a $100 card, you can’t use it by giving $50 worth of credit to two different Program Facilitators.
Facilitators then go to the Education Store to order apps. They can order any quantity of apps, but need to purchase at least 20 to receive the 50% discount. Upon purchase, the deliverable is a CSV file containing redemption codes. These redemption codes look just like promo codes, but the file also includes a little more bookkeeping type information for each entry.
So what happens with the codes? That depends on how the school wants to treat them, or more accurately, who should actually own the apps. There are two schools of thought on this (no pun intended). Some schools create their own accounts and redeem the apps that way. The apps are the property of the school, and can be synced and transferred between as many devices as the school has licenses. Other schools look at apps as consumables, like any other office supply. They have teachers and students redeem the codes with their own AppleIDs. That way the teachers and students own the apps themselves. It becomes a matter of what keeps more bookkeeping sense.
Who would have believed so much happens when we developers click the “Discount for Educational Institutions” checkbox?
Note from the Editor: While working with Bob on this post, I discovered many more questions about how schools sync and license apps to multiple devices. Feel free to add comments about topics you’d like to clarify or see addressed.