Category Archives: Digital

The Chinese are coming to a school near you

 

Last week we visited China with a small team to learn more about their education system. The timing was good with today’s announcement of the results of the latest PISA survey,  with the Chinese regions once again performing very well.

china

Amongst others we visited a variety of successful private and state-owned enterprises as well as a government department of education and – best of all – a primary school. It was an inspiring experience and we were greeted warmly and had open discussions everywhere we went.

The primary school felt very similar to those in our home countries, although the class sizes were twice as big at 50 rather than 25 students.  We sometimes have the impression of Chinese children doing heavy duty rote learning, but I was struck by the emphasis on meaning, aspiration and happiness in the school we visited.  Teachers were experimenting with project-based learning and digital, not dissimilar to recent innovations in Finland.

The companies we visited were all proud to present what they were working on, very open to answer questions and to curious to learn about us too.  Finnish education was well respected.  The tech companies looked and felt very similar to those in Silicon Valley but somehow seemed even more keenly commercial.

The government clearly has a big voice in education, with central government setting overall policy through the five year plan and the local authority we visited was actively working to understand and improve school performance across the region, driven by quite a rich set of data.

It made me wonder:

“is China going to lead the next wave of breakthrough innovations in education and learning?”

The scale of the market, commitment of the key players and innovative potential of the ecosystem  create a compelling case.

Scale

With a population of over 1.3 bn inhabitants and about 200 m students in K-12 education this is a huge market.  Each year about 17 m new students join the system, with this number likely to get boosted by up to 6 m each year due to the recent move to a “two-child” policy.

Commitment

The government is highly committed to education and the 13th 5-year plan (2016-2020) focuses on improving quality and access, with a key role for digital. Significant new resourcing is being dedicated to the transformation. At the same time, private spending on education is huge, estimated to be of the order of 1/3 of average household disposable income, driven by the “six adults – one child” phenomenon resulting from the earlier “one child” policy. The commitment to education in China seems unrivalled on the global stage.

Innovative potential

The companies and organisations we met had high quality management and development capabilities at least comparable with what we have seen in the West. There seems to be a “learning culture”, with people keen to try new things and work hard at it. There is everything to win. The transformation need is clearly articulated and well-funded.  Authorities and companies are building large networks of users and rich databases.  Surely the insights that will come from this ecosystem about learning on all levels (individual, class, school, region, nation) will power innovation in education and learning?

China: coming to a school near you

All-in-all I think it’s highly likely that China will become a powerhouse of innovation in education in the coming years – and that our education systems will also benefit from Chinese innovations in education.  Also, given the growing global importance of China, how long will it be before Mandarin is a common second language in our curricula?  One way or another, the Chinese are coming to a school near you pretty soon.

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Education reform in Finland

kirsi

This week I caught up with Kirsi Harra-Vauhkonen, Managing Director of Sanoma Pro, market leader in Finland. The Finnish market is currently undergoing both a major curriculum change and digital transformation.  I asked Kirsi to explain more about what’s going on.

You’ve got an interesting background Kirsi, including positions at Nokia and Google. Tell us more.

Continuous learning is my passion, and I have been fortunate to be able to gain experience from many different positions. I have worked for example in recent years in telecommunications (Nokia), digital media (Google) and now in educational publishing. During my career, I have worked mostly in commercial and business development leadership roles. Mostly I have been leading change – be it new opportunities in the market, new ways of working or digital transformation.  I am driven by working with great people and teams.

Finnish education has a world class reputation. Why is that?

Finnish pupils have scored highly in the PISA surveys for many years. This is a result of the high quality public education system in Finland. Excellent teachers are one of the most important cornerstones of the system. All teachers have a university degree, and being a teacher is a highly respected profession. The fact that high quality education is available for everyone, is very important for Finland. High quality, versatile learning materials also play an important role in helping pupils and teachers to achieve excellent learning outcomes.

What role does Sanoma Pro play in Finnish education and why are our methods popular?

Sanoma Pro is a major publisher with a very good reputation and the most extensive offering in the Finnish educational market. We publish learning materials for all grades K-12 and also for vocational education. In addition we also have the Oppi & Ilo edutainment line for the consumers as well as tutoring services by Tutorhouse.

Our learning materials are used in almost every school and class, and our digital learning environment has more than 100 000 active teacher and pupil users. Our solutions are developed through very intensive collaboration with our customers, and our authors are the best professionals in their own subjects.

Our solutions are popular because they are high quality, they fit the curriculum perfectly, they are easy to use, and they have a good mix of print and digital elements that match the ways and needs of the classroom.

And they provide excellent benefits by enabling learning impact: they help pupils to achieve good learning outcomes, they engage and motivate pupils to learn, and they save time for teachers in their professional work.

 

There’s curriculum reform coming this year and next. What’s happening and how are we supporting the change?

The reform is a combination of driving change in the pedagogy and in the learning goals and related learning contents. First of all the reform is encouraging strong engagement of pupils and thus changing the role of the teacher to become more like a coach for the active pupil learners. Another theme is to update the learning objectives to equip children with such skills and knowledge that better meet their needs of the future. Also the need for more theme-based learning is emphasized as well as the aim to bring digital into the everyday work at schools.

We have integrated these themes in our methods, in addition to the new learning contents, and provide a lot of supporting tips and tools to help the teachers to adapt to the new ways of teaching.

 

What are the most important digital initiatives we are working on?

We are very excited about our new digital learning solutions. It’s now possible to use fully digital learning materials for teaching and learning in all of the primary subjects in the new curriculum. In addition, for the teachers who prefer a hybrid solution, we are launching the gamified, curriculum-fit exercise environment Bingel. Bingel supports seamlessly the Sanoma Pro learning methods and makes exercising engaging and inspiring for pupils.

In upper secondary we have Kompassi, the digital testing and assessment tool that provides teachers an easy way to create and assess tests, saving a considerable amount of their time and providing students with the opportunity to get familiar with the digital testing. The first national digital matriculation tests in Finland will take place this Autumn.

What are you most proud about with Sanoma Pro?

I am very proud of our extremely professional and talented team. Going through a phase of digital transformation in the market simultaneously with the very intensive curriculum change is not an easy task, but the team has shown great effort and we have been able to bring all the print and digital products to the market, while also innovating new concepts.

Our new learning solutions bring a lot of new opportunities and support for the teachers to renew their way of teaching, and to engage and inspire the pupils. I am very proud of this achievement, and having delivered this as a team!

 

Exciting times

Thanks for talking us through this Kirsi.  These are exciting times in Finnish education and it’s great to hear more about our commitment to working together with our customers in bringing new innovations to the marketGood luck to all our people in Finland!

Sexiest Job at Sanoma (re-visited): Edtech Developer

edtechdeveloper

Sexiest Job at Sanoma: Data Scientist’ including an interview with Sanoma’s Queen of the Quants, Ulla Kruhse-Lehtonen, was one of my first blogposts and also the best read posting so far. I guess a lot of people are searching for “Sanoma” or “data scientist” :-).

Data scientists definitely have some of the sexiest jobs at Sanoma. However, and I might be a little biased, I think that the sexiest jobs these days are those of the edtech developers, led by Sanoma Learning’s Minister of Education Technology, Arnoud Klerkx.

Our team believes that edtech has the potential to bring many benefits to education

Supercharging the teacher as the killer app in education

We believe the teacher is the killer app in education and that edtech can supercharge her as a professional. For example by automating processes such as preparing lessons, checking homework, and giving insights into the learning of individual pupils. Edtech can help to channel the time and energy of the teacher to her relationship with her pupils.

Helping to motivate pupils to achieve their potential

With edtech we can personalize learning pathways for pupils, and engage them in new ways such as gamification and social thereby helping to develop the talents of each child.

Giving insights to other stakeholders

We can give better insights to parents into how their children are progressing and help headmasters to better evaluate school performance. Taxpayers will get new insights that will support them in assessing value. This should help us to create a better learning experience in the future.

Edtech is booming

Encouraged by these opportunities, edtech markets are starting to take off. IBIS Capital estimates that today there are more than 3000 e-learning companies in Europe alone. Last year, industry analysts estimate that more than $ 2 bn was invested in edtech venturing. And deals such as LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com for $ 1.5 bn have hit the headlines. Learn Capital estimates total market capitalization as a percentage of global annual spend at 2% for education companies compared with about 81% for media & entertainment and 80% for healthcare. They believe we are at the beginning of a huge wave of investment in edtech. Now is a good time to be a part of the industry.

The business of progress

Overall this is a truly exciting space to work in. Imagine you are a talented young developer today. Would it rock your boat to create technology that will help schoolkids to develop their talents and fulfil their potential? To play a role in helping to shape the next generation and have the chance of contributing to building a more fulfilled, happier, healthier and more prosperous society?

This is what excites me about the edtech space and why I think the edtech developers at Sanoma Learning have some of the sexiest jobs these days. Looking forward >>.

Pearson to focus fully on education

Pearson_WebBar_Top_Blue_RGBIn recent days Pearson, the world’s largest education company, has been in the news due to plans to sell the Financial Times and talks to sell its 50% stake in the Economist Group. It’s been estimated that these divestments will yield $ 1.5 bn net proceeds. Pearson will focus fully on education in the future.

Pearson expects growing and sustained demand for education, particularly driven by an emerging middle class in international markets and the digital transformation. The opportunity is to enable greater access, better affordability and improved achievement. They are working on transforming their business by building positions in fast-growing economies, shifting to digital and services, and promising to deliver measurably improved learning outcomes. With annual global spending on education estimated to be about $ 4.5 tn, Pearson sees space to grow current revenues of about $ 7.75 bn.

What could this mean for Pearson?

1. More focused strategy

You’re a global education company or you’re a global journalism company — both great things to be, but it’s hard to ride both horses equally well,” John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, said after the sale of the FT was announced.JohnFallonWe’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.” The leadership and management of Pearson can now focus fully on the growth and transformation strategy of their education businesses: emerging markets (growth), digital and services (growth and transformation) and outcomes (transformation).

2. Focused leadership of execution

Pearson already has some attractive positions in emerging markets and has taken a leadership role in the industry on outcomes, but is arguably not (yet) a frontrunner on the digital transformation. All three of these pillars will require leadership and heavy investment in the coming years and will therefore likely benefit from an increasingly focused strategy. With a rich pool of talent and an excellent reputation the company should be better placed to focus on the transformation of the education business.

3. Faster growth

Given a stronger balance sheet, Pearson should be more favourably positioned to make further investments in organic growth and to acquire other companies in digital and services, and international markets. This should in principle lead to better growth prospects for the company and a higher valuation.

What could this mean for education markets?

Good for customers?

My view is that a successful Pearson should be good news for customers. Looking at the big picture, if Pearson is successful in enabling greater access, better affordability and improved achievement in education in countries across the globe, this must be a good thing for our people and planet. And their success will likely encourage new entrants and more innovation in the industry which should yield further benefits for customers too.

Good for employees?

I would imagine that this will be good news for employees with the skills and ambitions to support Pearson’s growth and transformation agenda and vice versa.

What about the competition?

If you’re a growing digital education or service business in an emerging market, are making a measurable impact on outcomes and looking for an exit, this is probably good news :-). However, if you are predominantly a print publisher in one of the markets where Pearson is currently strong, it’s likely you will have to raise the bar to stay competitive. It’s not easy to see a direct impact on a company like Sanoma Learning which is arguably further on the digital transformation and operates in different markets, although there could be increased competition for international opportunities in digital down the line.

Will these divestments secure Pearson’s leadership position in the industry?

At this time, the company’s position seems secure: they are global market leader, they have a good growth and transformation strategy brought into sharper focus, an improved balance sheet and competent leadership. However, with a large “legacy” business, complex operating model, new competition from agile startups and a less friendly regulatory environment, it’s not a home run. Keep an eye on McGraw-Hill Education – they’ve been making smart and agile steps in recent times too as they reposition themselves as a “learning science” company.

It will be fascinating to experience the dynamics in this industry in the coming years as the giants transform themselves, new giants such as Google and Microsoft build their positions and (edtech) ventures such as Udemy, Edmodo, Altschool and NetDragon disrupt the market.  I’m interested to hear your views on this. Looking forward >>.

Re-designing education in Finland for the 21st Century

Finland has achieved remarkable success as a high-performing and inclusive education system. But what needs to be done to design a system that will serve the country well in the 21st Century?

Last Friday I joined a workshop in Helsinki organised by Esko Aho, former PM of Finland and his colleague Marco Steinberg, with special guest speaker Prof. Paul Reville, Director of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Education Redesign Lab, to contribute to the debate on designing a new solution.

Right question

I was enthusiastic about participating because this question is exactly right, and not only for Finland. Sanoma Learning is keen to take a leading role in co-developing and operating new learning solutions and systems. And it’s inspiring to learn from the experience of experts with a passion for education and learning – not only Prof. Reville and Dr. Steinberg – but also the other talented people who joined from amongst others Sitra, Tekes, the City of Helsinki and other companies and institutions.

Revving up the Engine

Prof. Paul Reville, Director of Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Education Redesign Lab I was especially interested to hear Prof. Reville’s vision on the key areas that should be addressed by a future proof solution (or in his words, Human Capital Development Engine for K-12):

  1. To individualise/personalise/customise education such that each pupil emerges from school ready for meaningful employment and 21st Century citizenship
  2. To develop each child holistically including their health and well-being, looking not only at academic performance but also supporting disadvantages such as poverty, mental and social disadvantage and so on.
  3. To significantly increase out-of-school learning opportunities (80% of a child’s time is out of school, making the school environment itself a relatively weak intervention) including such things as summer school, tutoring, sporting, music and art and so on, especially for the less advantaged.

But what are the answers to these challenges? And how to realise change in such a complex environment as education, with many stakeholders?

Advice to Government?

We workshopped on what our advice would be to the new government in Finland on creating the next generation education system. The most important themes that emerged from the discussion (probably not the formal standpoints of any of the organisations represented) were:

  1. To enable the personalisation of learning: developing the talents of every child
  2. To train teachers for 21st Century teaching and learning
  3. To create strategic ownership for the change

How to personalise?

Looking specifically at suggestions that arose from the discussion to government on how to enable personalisation, the main themes were:

  1. To digitalise and personalise the curriculum
  2. To further develop the role and skills of the teacher
  3. To change the organisational model, enabling formal and informal learning, both within and outside the school.

Doing it on purpose at Sanoma Learning

I learned a lot about the design of education systems and about Finland during the day and was inspired by the outcomes of the discussions. I also felt that our purpose at Sanoma Learning – “to enable teachers to develop the talents of every child” is consistent with the described future proof model (or at least the role we can play in it), and that the investments and changes we are making to support this purpose are in the right direction.

Looking forward >>

After the meeting, I have the impression that on the level of the education system, i) bringing strategic ownership to leading the change ii) enabling the skills, pedagogical, curriculum, technology, organisational and cultural change iii) finding a transformational approach for schools from the standardised to the personalised model (it will take years and will not “flip” overnight) and iv) investing in and implementing the change at the right pace, will be harder challenges than concepting the “engine” itself. It’s not going to be a quick-and-easy transformation journey, but if we get it right, we could make a huge positive impact on the learning of our next generation.

Thanks to the team for organising an inspiring day!

2014 Results Sanoma Learning – good progress as frontrunner on the digital transformation

sanoma-learningFollowing the announcement of Sanoma’s full-year results earlier today, I’m pleased to share with you that Sanoma Learning delivered a good performance in 2014. Thank you to our customers for your trust in us, and thank you to our people for your contribution in making this happen!

We engaged with about 10 million pupils and 1 million teachers across Northern Europe, helping pupils to develop their talents and teachers to excel as professionals. We looked ahead and invested heavily to strengthen our position as a leader in the digital transformation. We created some new opportunities in big emerging markets, like China.  And we built new teams to lead Sanoma Learning into the future.

Sales of digital and services grew by about 15%, to more than € 50m for the first time in our history, underpinning top-line organic sales growth of 1%. Our profitability was strong with a margin of 17.6%, excluding non-recurring items but including heavy investments in the future. Around half of our business now plays on digital or multi-channel format, making us maybe continental Europe’s biggest EdTech company in K-12 education today!

Good progress locally

Malmberg in The Netherlands launched five major initiatives in primary, secondary & vocational education and in testing & assessment, giving us a strong position in the market and leading to good sales growth.

Nowa Era is executing a new strategy to address the legislative changes in Poland. Under these challenging circumstances we still delivered organic growth. Amongst others, the new exam preparation offering was a big success.

At Sanoma Pro, we built a new and digitally skilled team that has developed a multi-channel strategy to drive our transformation in preparation for the new curriculum in 2016 in Finland.

Van In in Belgium once again delivered top line sales growth, driven by a strong performance in primary education (supported by our winning gamified exercise platform, Bingel) and is now building a solution for differentiated learning in secondary education.

At Sanoma Utbildning we took big steps with our digital transformation strategy and are preparing ourselves for the next generation in Sweden.

Looking internationally, Young Digital Planet realised four deals bigger than € 1m in emerging markets, planting seeds the seeds for future growth.

Our focus for 2015

Digital is going to be very important for the future of education in all of our markets. We will invest strongly in new multi-channel offerings and our capabilities (such as the co-development program) to bring them to the market, so that we go a step further in helping teachers to excel as professionals and pupils to get the best possible learning outcomes.

We intend to make use of our reputation as leader in the world’s best performing education systems and a frontrunner on the digital transformation and will strive to establish a partnership with a local player in an emerging market to boost our opportunities for growth.

And last but not least, we intend to stay in robust financial and operational health, by winning in the market and taking care of the costs as we do it.

Respect!

I’m proud of our people at Sanoma Learning! I want to thank you again for your good and hard work and look forward to working together with you this year. Respect!

Inspiring kick-off Sanoma’s Learning Lab in Leiden

Today we kicked-off of the Learning Lab at the Da Vinci College in Leiden, The Netherlands. I was super-excited about this for both professional and personal reasons. I’m passionate about our goal to improve learning as we transform to a more personalized future. I like and respect the forward-looking Da Vinci College in my home-town – the “education city” of Leiden. And this is a great collaboration between Learning and Digital at Sanoma, the teams to which I have committed my professional life in recent years.

Inspiring introductions

annick2We started with some inspiring introductions from the school, Sanoma and facilitator MakerLab. One of the absolute highlights of the day for me was the introduction and welcome to Da Vinci College Kagerstraat by Rector Annick Dezitter. I’d met her before on a visit to the school when we had discussed the personalization of learning. In her introduction, she talked openly and passionately about the future and had a very engaging personal style. I imagine she is an inspiring Rector! She is originally from Belgium and the two Belgians in our Learning Lab team (Johan Merlevede, Chief Transformation Officer in Sanoma Learning’s Leadership Team – the overall sponsor of the Learning Lab, and Joris van Heukelom, Partner at MakerStreet) both proudly reminded me that they are Belgian too, after her speech :-). I very much appreciated her warm welcome and inspiring words.

Lassi Kurkijarvi, innovation hero, at the kick-offAnother highlight was from my former colleague and founder of Sanoma Lab, Lassi Kurkijarvi. He was my first hire at Sanoma Digital and is a mobile native with a can-do mentality and a big heart. I love working with that guy and have learned a lot from him about engaging people. I really liked to see how the style and content of his session had deepened and progressed from our very first accelerator a couple of years ago (it was already good then). I love to see people grow like that!

Selecting the ideas and team leaders

The ten idea owners who will lead the teams from HollandNext, each of the 30 participants pitched their ideas and 10 were chosen to lead teams to develop their concept in the next stage. Seven were selected by the crowd and three through wildcards. It was really fast-paced and exciting! It was great to hear the ideas and to get a sense of the person behind the idea during the pitch. I was very happy with the selection of people and ideas. The 10 team leaders include four teachers, three Sanoma employees and three external “open” applicants. A great mix of talent!

Working out

After lunch the real work began with the first workshop. The teams were formed and the first steps were taken. I’m curious where this will lead us. The spirit and energy were good.

Looking forward >>

We will be continuing with similar kick-offs in Gdansk, Antwerp, Helsinki and Stockholm in the coming days. We will then develop the concepts, five of which will eventually win a place to build a prototype of their idea at bootcamp in Amsterdam in December. I’m truly excited about this! Thanks to everyone who is joining us and respect to you! Looking forward >>