Category Archives: Sanoma Learning

Going for Gold

Inspiring Spires

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Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University

Last week our Leadership Team at Sanoma Learning visited Oxford. We’re working together on how we will lead the transformation of learning for the next generation. It was inspiring to be in this environment of educational excellence and the sessions on Educational Neuroscience and the Purpose of the Team were especially good.

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Team GB winning Olympic Gold in Beijing

Most inspiring of all was the session with Double Olympic Gold Medal Winner, Steve Williams at the Leander Club (he won rowing Gold in the coxless four in both Athens and Beijing). The Leander Club was founded in 1818 (15 years earlier than the oldest established part of Sanoma Learning – Van In) and is arguably the World’s most successful rowing club. Steve talked us through his journey to becoming an Olympic Champion and then took us out onto the water to row together.

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Our teams after the rowing session

Steve is not only an Olympic Champion but also a gifted storyteller. I will try to re-tell the core ingredients of what brought his team success, but nothing can beat the inspiration of hearing it in situ. He strongly credits many other people for the success, especially their coach, team members and everybody who supports the operation.

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Steve explaining to us how they train

Overall, I believe the distinguishing factor behind their huge success has been their mindset: a culture of excellence where they truly live by their code. This has been nurtured and cultivated and almost certainly dominates the lives of the teams – you truly feel it everywhere at the Club. In my own words, I would summarise the essence of their approach as follows:

1. Set the highest expectations (goals)

Purpose: inspire a nation

Goal: win Olympic gold

Stopwatch: performance target (time)

They have set themselves a noble purpose with a clear and highly ambitious goal and they track progress consistently on the journey – not only to check and improve performance but also to affirm progress and success. The hunger for Gold in particular is deeply embedded in the culture and symbols of the Club. For example, the names on the Honours Board at the entrance to the Club for major international events such as the Olympics, are given in two colours only: Gold (winner) and Black. There is no doubt that this Club expects its members to win Gold. It triggered us to think how we can sharpen our purpose, goals and stopwatch at Sanoma Learning. What’s our ‘Gold medal’ – our impact on learning, our reach, our size?

2. Focus on moving the boat (strategy)

The Olympics are held every four years and a race lasts about six minutes. All of the focus on the journey there and during the race itself has to be on doing the things that move the boat. Make a plan to win, cut out the things that don’t make an impact and focus on moving the boat forward. The things that don’t move the boat forward basically hold it back. What lessons can we learn from this at Sanoma? What are the things we are doing that really move the boat forward? Is everything we are doing ‘moving the boat’?

3. Get the basics right (execution)

The team develops supreme physical fitness and technical competence that helps to bring them the bullet-proof confidence that underpins a winning mindset. Part of this derives from a gruelling training schedule of six hours per day, six or seven days per week. Good nutrition and rest are taken seriously and staying mentally strong is crucial. Essentially, the team is making the kilometers so that they are better prepared than anyone else on race day. The determination and pure discipline in delivering on the basics Steve showed were inspiring and possibly obsessive (no offence intended Steve). It makes me wonder: are we as fit in all places as we need to be to succeed in the future? How can I make myself fitter on the basics?

4. Learn fast (improve)

Part of any high-performance culture is to learn fast. I was especially interested in the ‘hot wash-ups’ they do immediately after each outing on the water. Very quickly, they huddle up and ask eachother a) what went well and b) what can we improve next time? Simple and effective. Part of their code is also that people speak out early and at the right time (before a decision) and that no problem lives longer than two hours. Feedback is so crucial to learning! We did a ‘hot wash-up’ and ‘feed forward’ with our team afterwards. We learned a lot and it was interesting and (sometimes) fun too! We have an open and trusting team so it was easy to do. Imagine how much further we could develop ourselves, our team, our people and our business if we would structurally build this into our culture. Let’s do it.

5. Celebrate success (enjoy!)

Members of the Leander Club want to be winners. And they want to feel like winners. Celebrating success feeds that mindset. Check out the Honours Board. See the photographs of winning teams hanging on the walls. Read the newspaper articles pinned on the wall, telling their stories of success. Listen to how they tell their story. Feel how Steve radiates pride at being part of the Leander Club. See how they measure progress and affirm their success. Who would not want to succeed in this environment? I am sure we could do a better job at celebrating our successes and those of our customers at Sanoma Learning.

Aim higher

I was inspired by Steve and his journey. Listening to him made me want to set (even) higher standards for myself, our team and for Sanoma Learning. We’ll be working this out with the team in the coming period.

Inspire a generation

Even more fundamentally: what about our schools? Imagine Steve Williams as Headmaster of a school. Think about the high aspirations, the culture of excellence and the dedication to purpose. The ‘fitness’ on so many dimensions. Imagine the positive impact such a leader would have on the next generation of children and teachers. What could be a better ‘Gold Medal’ than that?

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!

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 >>