Category Archives: Edtech

Scaling up edtech in Europe

edtecheurope

Last week I visited the EdTechEurope conference in London. Congratulations to the team for putting together a rich program and high quality of production!

I love meeting the entrepreneurs and sensing their passion. It’s great to hear their vision and see the innovation. They trigger my curiosity. How could we put this to work for better learning impact for our customers? What could this mean for the educational ecosystem we serve? Could this company disrupt our business?

CEO Talks

 

I’m a member of the Advisory Board of EdTechEurope and spoke on the panel “CEO Talks on Digital Transformation” together with Rob Grimshaw (CEO at TES Global) and Karine Allouche Salanon (CEO at Pearson English Business Solutions). There was a lot of talk about the role of the teacher in this session which I liked since I believe the teacher is the killer app in education.

Scaling up?

I wonder if this conference tells us something about a wave of investment (and disruption) in edtech in Europe.

Is there more action?

This is the third time the meeting was held and each time participation has doubled, this time to 650 people. Is this simply because it’s a well-run and well-timed initiative? Or is the series tapping into an underlying trend of growing investment into edtech? At this rate, we’ll need to hire Wembley Stadium for EdTechEurope-2022!

Going global?

This year we had many more visitors from outside Europe. There was a particularly interesting session from SWSWedu – great to see Zaption and Cerego there, re-connecting after our recent trip to Silicon Valley! Also, the session on “Edtech Opportunities in Asia” was very worthwhile, especially for the useful advice from Prof Ping-Cheng Yeh on China. Are these signals of a growing global market for services and technology in education?

Who are the Champions?

It’s thrilling to see so much innovation taking place in edtech; IBIS Capital estimates that there are more than 3000 e-learning start-ups in Europe alone. Is this typical for a wave of disruptive innovation? Or an expression of the (sometimes hyper-) local nature of education? From an investment and partnering perspective however, it’s increasingly difficult to see the wood for the trees. Is there a risk that our industry is spreading talent and resources too thinly?

Looking forward >> Time for a Champions League?

Champions LeagueThese questions around scale trigger my interest in the idea of a “Champions League” of edtech companies, to lead the growth and transformation opportunity for education in Europe. These companies could act as magnets for talent, ideas and capital and help to bring scale to the industry. TES Global probably has such ambitions and is backed by the deep pockets of TPG. Pearson is the World’s biggest learning company and has extensive size and international reach. Sanoma Learning has a great reputation for excellence in education and digital transformation. Who are the other players who could help bring scale to the industry? Learn Capital (London)? Google?

I’m interested to hear your views on this.

Creating a learning company: lessons from the Bay Area

At the d.school Stanford

Earlier this month, our leadership team at Sanoma Learning visited the Bay Area. Our purpose was to learn more about their approach to disruptive innovation in education. The timing was especially good following the recent announcements around Lynda.com (sold to LinkedIn for $1.5 bn), Altschool ($ 100 m investment from Founders Fund, Zuckerberg) and all things Uber.

Hoover Tower Stanford

We started at the Graduate School of Education and d.school at Stanford. Then we spent a few days in smaller teams visiting about 20 edtech ventures and a handful of investors in the area. Finally we wrapped it up with a discussion about what we had learned and what it means for us.

A few things particularly stand out from the visit.

Culture: an “open adaptive learning platform”

Rapid adaptive learning seems to be at the core of the success of the Bay Area ecosystem. The architecture of the platform is good: curious scientists, practical engineers, passionate entrepreneurs and risk-friendly investors. The “intelligence” of the platform is the driven by the culture (open, passion for purpose, fast-paced) which results in a rapid exchange of insights. We found it easy to meet outstandingly good, high-level people, even on short notice. They were enthusiastic to share views and to look for opportunities, to move at a pace. The whole ecosystem gets smarter and better when this much talent gets together in that culture.

Opportunity: return on education

Based on our experience in Finland and other great education systems, we hold the view that the teacher is the killer app in education – and technology can help to super-charge the teacher. We believe a skilled and well-equipped teacher is the single biggest factor influencing learning outcomes, pupil engagement and the cost–effectiveness of education (all “returns” or as we call it “learning impact”). Investors seem to particularly like the return on investment theme (from the customer perspective).

Online education marketplace Udemy announced raising $65 m expansion funds, shortly after our visit :).

Online education marketplace Udemy announced raising $65 m expansion funds, shortly after our visit

Their thinking is that RoEs should be good for business: for example when completion of a course can lead to career progress, the company providing that course should be able to capture a slice of the benefits (particularly in vocational education). Although clearly influenced by the ventures we chose to visit, we experienced much more enthusiasm for professional learning than edutainment or B2C markets (monetization problem – poor RoE?), and for higher and further education above K-12 (more direct link to career progress in further education and go-to-market approach is very hard for disruptors in K-12). One way or another, proving and improving “returns” will be important to future success.

Evolution (or revolution?): changing ecosystems

edmodo.png

Edmodo, collaborative learning platform, has 50m users

Some of the most interesting discussions of the week centred on how ecosystems for educational resources are changing. How can we develop a symbiotic relationship with Open Educational Resources and User Generated Content that could delight teachers and pupils? How can we further boost the “platformisation” of our business? How should we most effectively inter-operate with other players? How can we put data to work for better learning impact whilst carefully respecting privacy? Evolving with our ecosystems must be core to our strategy.

Proud of the team

It was a thrilling trip, full of inspiration and energy, with our team in excellent form: one of the best weeks of my life! Sensing the energy, curiosity and intelligence of the team as we de-briefed what we had learned each the day was simply a gift. Great job team!

Looking forward >> How to become a true learning company?

I believe that Sanoma Learning can rightly be seen as one of the world’s best education companies. Ultimately, I think the most important question to come from the visit was: how can we become a true “learning company”? A company that can consistently learn from and with the best and translate those learnings into great “impact” for pupils and teachers. This is the exciting journey we’re on!
PS I was kidnapped by Betsy Corcoran, CEO of Edsurge during our visit. Check out the podcast here

Looking forward to the digital transformation at Sanoma Learning

The second half of January is an exciting and important part of our annual calendar since there are some key shows which gives us a good opportunity to share the latest developments and discuss them with our customers. There are three things I’d like to share with you from last week which I believe are important for our customers and hence also for our own digital transformation.

Sanoma Pro at #Educa2015 in Helsinki

Our Finnish subsidiary and market leader Sanoma Pro was an exhibitor at Educa2015 last week and announced our latest innovations. The Finnish market is going through a critical period prior to the upcoming major curriculum renewal and we are keen to show leadership in the market through a future-oriented and competitive offering that will help teachers to excel as professionals and pupils to learn. Three innovations in particular were well-received.

Bingel being launched in FinlandFirstly, all of our courses will be available digitally in line with the roll out of the new curricula (2015-2017). Secondly, we will be launching the highly successful gamified learning platform Bingel in Finland later this year. (Check out the video). This platform is currently used by 75% of pupils in primary education in Flanders and on average each pupil has done more than 1000 exercises on Bingel since it was launched. Thirdly, we announced the upcoming launch of our new digital ABC book which we hope and expect will be well-appreciated by pupils, teachers and parents alike. Go Pro!

Young Digital Planet and Sanoma Learning at #BETT2015 in London

Our international subsidiary YDP was once again an exhibitor at BETT in London, the world’s leading learning technology show. Every year their stand is buzzing and this year was no exception. We arranged a breakout session where I spoke about Sanoma Learning’s vision on the digital transformation of education and as a case study Jan Trubac (Agemsoft) and Jan Machaj (Edulab) from Slovakia gave an inspiring presentation about how they are successfully working with YDP in bringing digital learning to Slovakian schools.

J Trubac from Agemsoft explaining how they localise YDP solutions in Slovakia About 70 executives joined us from leading local players across the globe (from South East Asia to South America) and we had an inspiring and engaging discussion. There’s a world of opportunity out there! We’re looking forward to engaging with some of these potential new partners further in working out how we can develop some of these opportunities together. Go YDP!

Malmberg at #NOT2015 in Utrecht

Next week Malmberg will be exhibiting at the gigantic NOT in The Netherlands. This week we announced the results into the research into the impact of our new Early Reading course Lijn 3.

Lijn 3, Early Reading in The NetherlandsThe conclusion of the research was that that the reading performance of pupils using this course were significantly better than the national average. Furthermore, 94% of teachers would recommend Lijn 3 to other teachers and they rated it 8.2/10 on average. I believe this research is highly relevant for two reasons. Firstly, we are now starting to evidence the impact that our courses have on learning, which we have hardly done in the past. Secondly, the impact is very positive, which is great news! Go Malmberg!

I love it when our people are out there with customers, working out how we can help them to make a positive impact. This is what matters. Respect!

Slush 2014 – Shaping The Future Of Learning

In November last year I was a keynote speaker in the edtech session at the startup meeting Slush in Helsinki.  I was excited about participating.  I love the positive energy of entrepreneurs, it’s a great place for networking and inspiring to hear the new ideas.  And as continental Europe’s biggest edtech company in the K-12 space, Sanoma Learning is keen to play a full role in helping to bring new solutions to schools and to support the startup community that can help to accelerate such innovations.

I truly enjoyed the event.  It was rather huge and slightly scary on that stage!  You can check out my keynote here.

▶ Slush 2014 – Shaping The Future Of Learning | Green Stage #slush14 – YouTube.

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 >>

Leading the digital transformation in learning at Malmberg

lijn3Excellence and innovation

Sanoma Learning’s reputation internationally is built on two pillars. First of all, we are a leading and integral player in some of the World’s best-performing education systems including Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and also in Sweden. Secondly, we are frontrunners in the digital transformation – with about € 50 m of new media and roughly € 100 m of multi-channel solutions sales (on a total sales base of roughly € 300 m) we are arguably Europe’s leading edtech company today.

“Now is education’s internet moment.”

We are passionate about education and are keen to play a leading role in building the next generation of learning solutions. Our purpose is to enable teachers to develop the talents of every child. And as we develop our learning solutions we keep three goals in mind: i) helping pupils and teachers to achieve great results, ii) supporting the ways of working for time and cost efficiency and iii) engaging pupils and teachers on the journey of learning. We believe digital will be a great enabler in realizing these goals.

Malmberg in The Netherlands at the front of the transformation

Of the markets in which we operate, we see that conditions in The Netherlands are the most mature for adopting digital learning solutions. Our daughter company Malmberg has taken a leading position in the digital transformation and this has been well-received by our customers.

I’ve been super-enthusiastic about the relationship that Sanoma Learning has established with Knewton with Malmberg as trailblazer. I’m really excited to see the prototypes of the next generation solutions we will develop! I am sure they will help to take a quantum leap forward in improving results, efficiency and engagement. I’ve also been happy with the trailblazing role that Malmberg has taken in developing the next generation of editorial tools that we will deploy across Sanoma Learning. Together, these initiatives will help us to serve our customers better and make our business more future proof.

High Five!

In the meantime, school year 2014/2015 has now started and we have gone live with five new big digital initiatives at Malmberg! I wanted to write a few words about them here.

1. Forward (VOoruit) in Secondary Education

VOIn August we went live with our new platform, playing five of our main courses on pc’s, laptops, tablets and smartphones. It looks really great! During the next year we will be migrating more courses onto the platform and eventually expect to power it with Knewton technology, bringing market-leading adaptive learning technology to The Netherlands. The platform covers the complete learning/teaching process from instruction to testing and also includes adaptive practice testing and learning analytics. This is going to really help pupils and teachers! Adoption has exceeded expectations an it’s really been a step up in terms of user experience.

We believe this platform takes us a step ahead of the competition and are going to use it to win a position in the market for maths, which is the biggest market in which we don’t yet have an offering. The time is ripe for renewal in that market. We are building the course now and will launch it next school year.

2. Language Blocks (Taalblokken) in Vocational Education

taalblokkenThis year we have renewed our didactic concept, concept and platform for Taalblokken. We have focused on usability and differentiation. Our first usability analysis has just been completed and both students and teachers have rated the solution with 8/10. Great! A few years ago, Taalblokken and Rekenbloken (languages and maths) were our first courses to play digital first/digital only, and they have been a big success for teachers and students and also helped us to grow our business. We have the ambition to sell 25% more student licences this year, and the signs are that we will achieve that.

3. Pluspunt Digitaal in Primary Education

pluspuntWe are market leader in primary education and our platform is now used by more than 1 m pupils in The Netherlands. We have just created a fully digital tablet version of our winning maths course Pluspunt and are testing it with 40 schools. We expect this course will help teachers and pupils to get better learning results, save time and stay motivated. We also notice that they trust the brand and like that they can deploy print and digital as they wish.

4. Final year testing (eindtoets) in Primary Education via ICE

iepThe government has taken the good decision to open the market for the final year test to new entrants. ICE has an excellent reputation for quality, usability, innovation and digital and we are introducing a new solution to be deployed in 2015. This will be great for our customers and the competition will be good for the market. Cito, here we come!

5. Taking the Primary Curriculum into the home with Family Pluym

pluymWe’ve extended our language and maths courses to the home via a fully digital learning environment following the learning lines and pace of the school curriculum. We started with a soft launch last week and will be rolling it out in the next month. I really like the user experience and believe that parents are increasingly looking to support the learning of their children in the home environment. Our market research and user testing have shown that parents and children like the extension of the trusted school brand into the home too – you know that it is high quality and in time and in tune with the school. This is a potentially new market for us and I am very curious how this will develop.

Investing in the future of learning

2014 is a crucial year for us in investing for the digital future. The first signs are that our customers appreciate and have adopted the renewed offerings.

I admire the frontrunner role that Malmberg takes at Sanoma Learning and in the Dutch market. Customer focus and innovation sit deep in the genes of our people. Respect!

Looking forward >>

Sanoma’s Learning Lab hits the right note

learning-labI love the start of the new school year: it feels like a time of new beginnings and new opportunities. I’m especially excited about the coming semester because we will be running our Learning Lab in partnership with five great innovative schools!

Improving the impact of education on learning

We’re a key partner to schools and frontrunner in the digital transformation in some of the World’s best performing education systems, including Finland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and also Sweden. We’re deeply committed to supporting excellence and equity in education. And we see that many stakeholders in education are looking for renewal: for improved learning outcomes, for better engagement and for new ways of working. Our goal with this Learning Lab is to co-create new concepts, together with our partners, that help to improve and evidence the impact of education on learning.

In time and in tune with teachers

Our target was to recruit 150 participants. However, the Lab has been heavily over-subscribed: we have received about 350 applications! We will increase capacity to take account of this. Interest has been especially strong from teachers. The subject and timing of this innovation lab seems to be very much in line with the needs of our customers. We really appreciate your trust in working together with us in developing new ways of teaching and learning.

Five innovative partners

Thanks to all the individuals and also to the five partner schools for showing their innovative colours and joining us on this journey of discovery. The partner schools are:

It’s great that you have taken on this challenge together with us.

Looking forward >>

I can’t wait for the kick-offs at the beginning of October. We’re going to learn new skills, broaden our networks and take a positive step to improving learning.  And we’ll have a lot of fun on the way!  I’m excited to be working with you on this initiative in the next few months!