Category Archives: Learning

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.

Organising for the digital transformation in Belgium

de boeck blog

I’m really happy that we have acquired the educational publishing activities of De Boeck in Belgium. Welcome to our new colleagues! Click here for a short vlog about it.

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De Boeck is a trusted brand with a good market position, making about € 17 m of revenues in 2015 and employing about 80 professionals. They share our passion for education and learning and there’s a very good fit with our mission of helping teachers to develop the talents of our children.

mission

Why?

Demand for multi-channel learning solutions is increasing. Our customers tell us that digital can support learning impact: improved engagement and higher learning outcomes for pupils and better workflow efficiency for teachers. A great example of using multi-channel to enable learning impact is bingel. So we made this acquisition to enable the digital transformation of learning and teaching in Belgium. We are working hard to organize ourselves effectively for this.

How?

We intend to combine the complementary high quality portfolios and well-developed learning design capabilities of Van In and De Boeck.

This will bring more scale to our significant investments in digital across these high quality portfolios.

We can realize synergies in our operations as we create a new organization ready for the future.

Looking forward >>

Bringing together two great companies, Van In and De Boeck, will help us to better fulfil the needs of our customers, today and in the future. Good luck to the new team in making this a success!

Child-friendly learning design at Bureau ICE

I like the way Bureau ICE helps in identifying and developing the talents of our children.  I also especially like the child-friendly and child-centric design thinking that they use, which engages pupils to show their talents.

“Helping to identify and develop the talents of our children”

This week I caught up with Karen Heij, Managing Director of Bureau ICE to hear more.

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Karen Heij

Karen, I’m interested to know more about Bureau ICE and your personal  motivations as MD

We specialise in tests and exams that help learners to really show their capabilities. We believe it’s a human right to be able to develop in a way that gives you the best opportunities and helps you find a direction in life that makes you happy. Since testing often plays such a major part in a person’s (school) career, we believe that these tests should help you show what you’re capable of, and not hold you back. In the 26 years that I’ve worked for Bureau ICE and especially the last 16 years as managing director, this has always been what drives me.

Bureau ICE joined Malmberg at Sanoma Learning in 2012. How have things been going since?

Sanoma Learning and Bureau ICE share the same goals: we both want to improve the impact of learning for pupils, teachers and schools.

“Investing in improving learning impact”

Joining SL has given us great opportunities in entering the primary school market. Until 2014 this market was dominated by one other makers of tests and exams.  But when the government decided in 2013 that the final primary school exam should be mandatory for every school, it prompted the decision that a monopoly wasn’t allowed anymore: schools had to have a choice of tests. We wanted to pursue this opportunity and the investment of creating tests for a completely new market would never have been possible without the support of Sanoma Learning.

Recently, you’ve had a lot of success with the new IEP Eindtoets.  What is it?

IEP Eindtoets

The IEP Eindtoets is one of the three government approved final exams for primary schools in The Netherlands. It measures the language proficiency and calculus capabilities of 12-year old children who are on the brink of leaving primary school and moving onto their secondary education. In The Netherlands we have different levels of secondary education. The primary school teacher decides which type of secondary school his pupils should attend.

“A child is more than his cognitive abilities”

To help the teacher make that decision we not only have the IEP Eindtoets, but also the IEP Advieswijzer. This is a package of tests designed to measure other characteristics than language proficiency and calculus capabilities. After all, we believe a child is more than just his cognitive abilities. Therefore the IEP Advieswijzer consists of various tests measuring creativity, social skills and learning approach. We also have an IEP English proficiency test especially for this group, the 12 year olds. All our language tests are based on the Common European Framework of References for Languages.

Why did we win?

In short: our test is significantly more child friendly than the two competitor’s tests. We’ve created the IEP Eindtoets in a way that it would enable pupils to really show what they’re capable of. So we gave the test a recognizable and playful design. It’s very easy to use, so making the test becomes less stressful. And less stress means better performance.

“Child-friendly design and choice for schools”

Also, in the calculus items we only use the language necessary to measure that specific skill. Superfluous usage of language can throw children with weaker language skills off and we didn’t want to do that.

But there’s a longer story to it as well. Schools have been forced to use the same test provider for decades and now that there’s choice, they want to choose something that fits their school’s vision.

“More than 30.000 children will use the IEP Eindtoets this year”

Last year was our debut and around 7.000 students made our test. This year this number will surpass 30.000! Of course this has to do with the quality of the test, but also with the great experiences of the users last year. They really spread the word to neighbouring schools.

What makes you most proud about Bureau ICE?

In the past 25 years we’ve really been able to bring about a change in the way people in The Netherlands think and feel about testing.  We’ve taught policy makers both in government and schools to think about what they believe students should know and be able to do at the end of an educational period. We have shown them how to create tests that measure their desired outcomes and this has in turn shaped the course contents.

What would you change about testing in The Netherlands?

I’m hoping I can help to change the ranking  approach that is currently used at age 12 in determining the future school path. Currently students are ranked against the rest of their group and the relative ranking determines the specific schooling path.

“Change the ranking approach”

In other words: it’s not an absolute norm or end goals that determine the level of school you will go to, but your capabilities in comparison to the rest of the group.  This ranking is unfair and demotivating I would like to help change policy in this area in the near future.

Positive spirit

It’s not only the child-centric philosophy that I like about Bureau ICE.  You feel the passion for their mission throughout the company and this energy feeds a healthy entrepreneurial spiritGreat job by Karen and the team in creating this!

Working together to develop scalable technology at Sanoma Learning

One of the key trajectories in our strategy is using technology to help pupils and teachers. We believe technology is an enabler of what we call learning impact: engaging pupils, improving learning outcomes and supporting the workflow of the teacher. Developing and deploying the right technology in the right way is therefore critical to our mission.

Key parts of our technology are developed together and scaled across our units. This is not easy but brings benefits in terms of speed, quality, cost, skills and shared learning.

This week I caught up with new recruit Heikki Rusama, in the team of our Chief Business Technology Officer Arnoud Klerkx, who recently moved from Rovio in Finland to Sanoma Learning’s co-development team in The Netherlands, to learn more about this work.

Tell us about your background and why you joined Sanoma Learning

I’ve been interested in learning since my teenage years and studied educational science to originally prepare for a role in academia. I’m keen to work in a role that will allow me to combine my passion for education with technology.

I found such a role when previously working at Rovio Learning, the entertainment company behind the Angry Birds. However I joined Sanoma for two reasons: to me it is important that learning is the company’s core business and secondly I see potential for further international growth in learning. Therefore, Sanoma Learning feels like a perfect fit for me.

What’s your role at Sanoma Learning?

My role as one of the Business Technology Consultants is to help business units to grow in digital learning by providing building blocks for the current and the future applications. This I do by leading some co-development initiatives like Edubase (learning engine), Identity & Access Management, and later this year Learning Analytics.

How does this bring value to our ways of working?

One of the many strengths of this company is the deep understanding of education including the local differences. Through our co-development program we identify and build common, scalable technology.  This helps us to develop higher quality solutions, faster and at lower cost and also to share learnings across our footprint which includes some of the World’s best education systems. If we are able to take co-development to the next level, we are going to create more Bingels in the future.

What are your first impressions of working with us?

I really enjoy my work. Like today, when I had meetings with Business Technology teams from Van In (Belgium) and Sanoma Utbildning (Sweden). Not only are they inspiring people to work with, I really admire the drive and passion they have for learning and technology. With teams like these, the co-development agenda will succeed.

Where do you think we stand on the digital transformation?

The future of our business seems bright yet increasingly complex. I am confident that we are tackling the right questions. We’re clearly a frontrunner on the digital transformation, which is going to be a long journey. Our deep understanding of learning combined with our technology capabilities make us strong. Further building on our co-development abilities will prepare us better for the future, by enabling us to make better products faster.

Thanks for the feedback Heikki. I believe enabling our learning methods with technology to help our customers is the way forward.  The co-development agenda is a great way for us to scale investments, skills and learnings as we progress.

P.S. Leicester City has a five point lead at the top of the Premier League.  Go Foxes!

Learning impact

mission

We believe it’s important to constantly improve the products and services we offer to our customers. More recently we have developed and introduced Sanoma Learning’s Impact Framework (SLIF) as a guide in this journey. This week I caught up with Sendhuran Govindan to learn more about the SLIF. Sendhuran’s a super-smart and nice guy, a clear thinker with a practical pair of hands.

Sendhuran2
Tell us about your background and role at Sanoma Learning Sendhuran

First, thanks John for having me on this virtual interview and for the opportunity to talk about SLIF. I am currently the Head of Strategy at Sanoma Learning. I joined Sanoma Learning 2 years ago and am passionate about our mission to develop the talents of every pupil. As Head of Strategy, I work with the leadership team to develop and execute our long-term strategy. I also lead specific strategic projects, one of them being SLIF.

My background is in strategy consulting and technology. I have spent over 10 years advising companies undergoing transformation due to technology, regulations, and other market conditions. Education is undergoing digital transformation, and it’s an exciting time to be here.

Why did we initiate the SLIF?

We have a long tradition at Sanoma Learning of developing excellent learning methods (an integrated set of learning resources for a subject, including textbooks, workbooks, software, supplementary resources, etc.). Some of our companies, like Van In and Malmberg, have been recognized leaders in educational publishing for over 100 years! As we shift towards making more hybrid and digital methods, we want to ensure that these new methods also deliver the high learning impact we are known for. We initiated SLIF to help us do that.

SLIF is our new way of developing methods and of evaluating their learning impact. Before we start developing any method, we set clear learning impact objectives and identify the features needed to achieve them. We then develop the method with the required features. After the method is launched, we evaluate the learning impact to see if the method and the features actually deliver on the objectives. By doing this, we can find out what works and what doesn’t, allowing us to continuously improve our methods further. This is very important as we are on the cutting edge of education technology. We have to ensure our innovation delivers learning impact, we are obsessed with that!

You mentioned Learning Impact. Can you elaborate?

With Learning Impact, we refer to 3 things: engaging pupils, improving learning outcomes, and improving teacher workflow efficiency.

We design and develop our learning methods to engage and motivate pupils to learn. For example, the story-fication in Bingel (our award winning learning platform), motivates students to do more practices exercises. This increased motivation, coupled together with our well-designed methods, help pupils learn better and reach higher learning outcomes.

Additionally, we design our methods to help teachers achieve more in their hectic schedules. For example, in most of our software, exercises are automatically corrected, and the teachers are provided with detailed insights on student performance. In some cases, our software even provides personalized recommendations per pupil. This saves the teacher a lot of time, which can be used to provide individual coaching to pupils.

What were the main results from last year?

Last year was the first year of SLIF. We incorporated SLIF in 3 of our 6 businesses. And we conducted pilots in 3 others. We found that it helped our publishers sharpen their focus on learning impact, and helped them think of how technology can be effectively used.

Additionally, we conducted our Sanoma Learning Impact Survey to evaluate the learning impact of our top 20 methods across Europe. We found that our methods had significant learning impact.

“85% of teachers said our methods helped improve engagement of pupils.”

“95% said that our methods helped them improve learning outcomes of their classes.”

“Teachers said that our methods helped them save 8 hours / week across planning, homework assigning & correction and test creation & correction. This gives teachers more time to individually coach pupils.”

What are we planning moving forward?

We have an exciting multi-year roadmap for SLIF. Currently, we evaluate our methods at a high level. We also have several different ways to evaluate the learning impact (surveys, pilots, big data, etc.). As we advance our learning analytics, we will standardize our impact evaluation and also drill down deeper to evaluate the impact of specific method components. This will make it much easier for us to improve our products in the future!

But our short term priority in 2016, is to complete the roll-out of SLIF to all our businesses and to expand our Sanoma Learning Impact Survey.

Using evidence to support improvement

Thanks Sendhuran for talking us through this. I see the importance of using evidence in assessing what works best for pupils and teachers and believe the SLIF can be a helpful guide.

From the makers of bingel: yes we diddit!

Vicky Adriaensen

This is Vicky Adriaensen, Business Unit Manager Flanders at Van In

This week I caught up with Vicky Adriaensen who was recently appointed into the new role of Business Unit Manager Flanders, combining both primary and secondary education at Van In. I’m a big supporter of Vicky and admire her sharp focus on the business and inspiring positive energy and enthusiasm – a really great attitude and team leader!

The huge success of bingel in Flanders is well known. It’s used in about 80% of primary schools with more than 500 m exercises completed since it was launched in 2011. Bingel helps to engage pupils with learning, enable good learning outcomes and support the workflow of the teacher. It’s also been good for business and has helped us to grow our sales and market share in primary education. In the meantime we’ve scaled bingel further to Sweden, Finland and Wallonia. It has been a major investment for Sanoma Learning to make, but thankfully a good one.

In the meantime bingel has inspired us to launch a new learning platform in secondary education called diddit. This has been one of the reasons for us to ask Vicky to lead both primary and secondary education units in Flanders. I was especially interested to hear more about diddit from Vicky.

diddit_campagnebeeld

This is not Vicky Adriaensen.

Tell us about your background and new role Vicky

“I’m proud to have been part of the primary education team in Flanders when we were launching bingel and more recently the secondary education team as we have been launching diddit. Since 1 February I now have the opportunity to work with both excellent teams, helping to guide teachers as they take their next steps in the transformation. We share many common opportunities and challenges in the two departments – in creating new learning methods and helping teachers to use them and taking a lead on the digital transformation. It’s great to be able to work on these things together and get the maximum synergies along the way.”

We all know about bingel in primary education, tell us about diddit in secondary education.

“The bingel success story inspired us to do something similar for secondary education. We adapted the approach to fit the different needs of this age group, including a more mature and personalisable look & feel. We believe we have created the perfect successor for pupils stepping into secondary education, starting with the first grade. It offers the possibility for teachers to easily differentiate and personalise their education, to evaluate digitally and find lots of inspiration both inside and outside the classroom. Pupils can make exercises endlessly on an adapted level, get adapted feedback and also get rewarded by credits for fun and short games.”

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What do our customers like about it?

“The killer argument for the teacher is definitely the fact that it helps them differentiate very easily. The fact that after a test you can automatically generate personalised tasks for every pupil by just pushing one button, is a great time saver for them. Also they are now able to see exactly what students are doing and how they are performing, and of course all input is corrected automatically. Also the fact that they can find everything in one spot is considered very practical. Students use it extensively to prepare for exams and according to them, it works!”

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Do you consider the launch a success?

“Absolutely! Since the last reform in secondary education in Flanders five years ago our market share has been under pressure. Recently, although there wasn’t a specific curriculum “trigger”, we noticed that teachers and pupils were looking for something new from the market. We took the initiative with diddit creating a “big bang” connected with a whole set of new methods. For the first time in five years we managed to grow again and position ourselves as true digital leaders in the secondary education market as well. With more than 30.000 users in the first few months we definitely have the kick-start we were hoping for.”

What’s coming this year?

“On the customer side it’s clear: go for even more users and more usage! From the development perspective we will be expanding the content to cover the next grades and listening very carefully to customer feedback to make sure the user experience of the platform is super friendly and simple.”

Respect!

Thanks for the feedback on this Vicky. I truly hope that diddit will delight pupils and teachers in secondary education just as bingel has done in primary education. Good luck to you and the teams in making it happen. Respect!

Sanoma Learning 2015: taking the right steps to prepare ourselves for the future

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Following the announcement of Sanoma’s 2015 financial results earlier this week, I would like to share with you some of the operational highlights from Learning.  There is a short video summary of it here too.

Engaged customers and colleagues

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 invested heavily to strengthen our position as a leader in the digital transformation. Thank you to our customers for your trust in us, and also to our people for your good work throughout the year!

Good progress on the (digital) transformation

We made good progress on the digital transformation and achieved 15% organic growth in new media sales in our footprint compared with previous year, showing new media sales growth in all of our footprint markets. The number of users and time spent per user increased significantly across our digital offerings. Also we took great steps forward with our co-development program including exporting bingel from Flanders to Wallonia, Sweden and Finland. We realized double-digit growth in market share in Poland with an excellent performance from the team at Nowa Era. The profitability of our core markets was solid, although overall profits were impacted by cleaning up legacy positions at YDP.

Making a positive impact on learning

In 2015 we introduced Sanoma Learning’s Impact Framework which helps us to measure the benefits our solutions bring to our customers. Through the SLIF, we have learned:
95% of teachers reported that our materials help them in enabling pupils to achieve their learning goals
85% of teachers reported that our methods help them with engaging pupils with learning
Teachers typically save about 8 hours of working time each week by using our solutions
I believe this is excellent evidence of the value we bring to education.

Van In realized an outstanding performance across a broad range of indicators including higher sales, market share, digital sales and digital usage. Great job by the team at Van In! Bingel prospered and won the prestigious “International Educational Learning Resources Award 2015” in London and together with Diddit “ICT Project of the Year 2015” in Belgium. New platforms Diddit and Wazzou have been launched in Flanders and Wallonia. Together with SchoolOnline and bingel, they have helped us to win in the market. YDP is now starting to look at taking bingel into new international markets.

Nowa Era achieved double-digit growth in market share, driven by the new business model and a strong operational performance. I am super proud about how the team has dealt with the extremely difficult market conditions resulting from the new legislation. In addition to this, winning in new segments such as exam preparation has brought us access to new markets. Vulcan has performed well and shows good potential for cooperation with Nowa Era in creating new offerings for schools.

Malmberg had a solid year. Good progress was made on the digital transformation, especially with the adoption of new offerings from VOoruit in secondary education. Bureau ICE made an excellent overall performance and it was brilliant to see their success in winning more than 30.000 customers for the IEP Eindtoets. Great job! Our first adaptive course JUMP! – created in cooperation with Knewton – has now gone to market and the early results are promising. I also very much appreciate the important role Malmberg plays in our co-development agenda, including the Editorial Tooling Suite Sanoma Learning (ETSL), Testing and Assessment platform (TEAS) and Edubase. Thank you!

Sanoma Pro faced a smaller market in advance of the broad-based curriculum reform starting in 2016. A big part of the plan for 2015 was to prepare ourselves for this new curriculum. We’re looking forward to bringing our new generation of multi-channel methods, including TEAS and bingel, to the market this year!

At Sanoma Utbildning our positions in secondary education and Swedish for immigrants performed well. Bingel is getting good traction with customers. Through the investments we are making in new learning platform Fox (built on Edubase and populated with content created with ETSL), we believe we are taking the right steps to re-position ourselves for future growth.

At YDP we hired an excellent new Managing Director who has formed a strong new management team which has addressed legacy issues and has made a financial clean-up. This team is now building a new product offering, a new commercial approach, and a leaner organization structure, to prepare ourselves for future growth. As a result of these actions we are optimistic that we will be able to improve performance and profitability at YDP in 2016 when compared with 2015.

2016: focus on winning in challenging markets

Last year we have taken the right steps to prepare ourselves for the future. We are using technology to bring more value to our customers. We will continue investing in new multichannel methods across our markets. And we’re bringing together content and workflow functionalities, to help pupils and teachers in ways that really work.

Proud of the teams

I’m proud of what our teams have achieved in 2015. I want to thank you for your good and hard work and look forward to working together with you in 2016!