App Store Volume Purchase Program Explained

 Volume Purchase Program Icon

Volume Purchase Program Icon

Apple has recently updated the Terms and Conditions for iTunes and the App Store. In addition, the company has announced the App Store Volume Purchase Program. In the past Apple had no mechanism for downloading an app more than once, so schools would purchase an app one time and distribute it to all their iPod touches, iPads, and iPhones. This arrangement made app purchases for class sets of handhelds inexpensive but was not properly compensating app developers.

The new App Store Volume Purchase Program requires schools to follow Terms and Conditions that are different from the Terms and Conditions for individual consumers. Apple even reserves the right to audit purchases to make sure that schools are following all of the usage rules for educational institutions, including purchasing activation codes for each device onto which an app is installed.

In the Terms and Conditions and in the Volume Purchase Program Frequently Asked Questions, Apple describes the process of ordering vouchers which can be used to purchase activation codes. While schools with class sets would buy activation codes for each of their handhelds, only one code would be redeemed if all handhelds are synced to the same computer. The remaining activation codes would not be redeemed, but kept in case of an audit.

Jim Siegl made a useful flowchart that visually explains the process:

 Volume Purchase Program Flowchart

Volume Purchase Program Flowchart

Program Facilitator creates a quote for a one or more Volume Vouchers for a set dollar amount in $100 increments. This request is routed to the district Authorized Purchaser who approves the quote and places the order.The voucher is sent to the Program Facilitator via mail.The Authorized Purchaser receives the Voucher and send the voucher to the Program Facilitator via internal mail.Using a New Apple ID created for this purpose, the Program Facilitator searches for and purchases apps in

variable quantities, up to the dollar limit of the voucher amount and billed accordingly. The Program Facilitator will receive an email with a link to a dashboard, now populated with app-­‐specific codes. These codes can be distributed to users for redemption at the App Store.The Program Facilitator distributes the app specific codes to the individual that requested them.The requestor redeems the codes in one of three ways (assume 30 iPods)

a. One code is redeemed to a single iTunes account, iTunes is activated with that account on up to five 5 computers. The 29 remaining codes are kept on file in the event of an audit. b. 30 codes are distributed and redeemed against 30 school managed iTunes accounts.c. 30 codes are distributed and redeemed against 30 student managed iTunes accounts. App becomes property of the student.

As you can gather, the process is complicated. No more can teachers with class sets of Apple handhelds simply purchase an app in iTunes and sync. Now the teacher must work with the school district's Volume Purchase Program Facilitator to acquire a voucher and activation codes. Jim has written more about the intricacies of the Volume Purchase Program and step-by-step instructions on the IEAR wiki.

As part of the program, individual app developers have the option to offer up to 50% discounts on purchases of 20 or more of the same app. You won't see the discount in the App Store itself. You'll have to search for the title of app on the App Store Volume Purchase Program page. For example, when I search for SonicPics, I can see pricing for 1-19 units and for 20+ units.

 SonicPics VPP

SonicPics VPP

For a class set of 30, it would cost about $45 to purchase SonicPics for each handheld. In the world of desktop software, that's not bad. However, it's still very pricey compared to the $3 it would cost before the Volume Purchase Program went into effect. The best way to take advantage of the power of Apple's handhelds is to equip them with multiple apps, which will add up very quickly. Not only will the Volume Purchase Program be costly when buying many different apps, but it also requires schools to keep documentation in case Apple decides to do an audit.

I think the extra cost and steps to purchase apps for schools will greatly curtail educational app purchases. Some good news is that the Volume Purchase Program is only for paid apps. Free apps can be downloaded immediately without going through the process outlined in the flowchart. It's reassuring to know that 30% of apps in the App Store are free and you can search the App Store for only free apps by conducting a Power Search.

 Power Search for free apps

Power Search for free apps

With nearly 300,000 items in the App Store, there's a good chance you'll find a free alternative to a paid app. For instance, searching for Digital Storytelling gave me a great free alternative to SonicPics called Storyrobe.

 Storyrobe Result

Storyrobe Result

Often apps are offered for free for a limited time. You can find out about these deals by searching Twitter for #edapp and using sites like FreeAppAlert and AppShopper. When downloading free apps, educators should document that the app was free. This way if the app does become a paid app in the future, there is proof the app was properly acquired.

Judi Epcke, Scott Meech, and I discuss the Volume Purchase Program in Episode #3 of the IEAR podcast. The three of us were confused and frustrated by Apple's new process. Hopefully as more schools transition to using the App Store Volume Purchase Program, we'll know more about the benefits and limitations of the recently developed rules for purchasing apps.