Tag Archives: Edtech

Edtech: hotter than the Acropolis in August

At the beginning of the week I was in Athens celebrating my birthday. Let’s just say I was born in the 1970s :). I’ve always had an interest in Greek mythology (it was a good choice to read Mythos on the way) and as a man of learning, I wanted to see more of the homeland of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle.  An inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable visit!

News broke of the sale for $1.75B of plagiarism-checker Turnitin, more than the total amount that all edtech startups raised in 2018 ($1.45B) and also one of the biggest edtech deals this decade, beating LinkedIn’s purchase of Lynda, but smaller than the Ellucian deal.  This underlines the growing importance of technology in learning markets. In the meantime, Sanoma Learning is, with the intended acquisition of Iddink Group, emerging as Europe’s leading edtech company, with a couple of hundred million euros of digital/multichannel revenues and more than 300 tech employees.  It’s a hot place to be.  Hotter than the Acropolis in August!

The immediate focus back at the office was the steering of our High Five program.  At the beginning of March we went live with our Next Gen EdTech Team, where we have created one technology team for the whole of Sanoma Learning. It was good to see we are well on track to launch Kampus in Finland & Sweden, and Bingel in The Netherlands.  Overall I feel we are making great leaps forward with High Five!

Then we spent time with the Iddink team in preparing ourselves for finalizing the intended transaction.  There’s a good click between us, which is a great starting point.

At the end of the week we did the monthly business reviews with each of the units. We’re deploying a new stage-gated investment process into new courses and had a couple of very interesting cases from Poland. I was highly enthusiastic about how the team is approaching this and really appreciated to be able to spend time with them to learn more.  Well done!

Looking forward >>

Advertisements

Accelerating the digital transformation of education. Sanoma Learning acquires Iddink Group, a leading educational platform and service provider.

Sanoma Iddink

Earlier this week we announced that Sanoma Learning intends to acquire Iddink Group, a leading educational platform and service provider.

Pupils and teachers especially appreciate “blended learning solutions”: mashing up physical and digital approaches to inspire learning.  However the digital element of blended learning in schools needs a boost.

Together, we want to accelerate the digital transformation of education

Together with Iddink and in close cooperation with schools and other partners in the market, we want to accelerate the digital transformation of education. Sanoma Learning invests heavily each and every year in new blended learning solutions.  Iddink Group is also a frontrunner on the digital transformation, with amongst others the leading platforms Magister and Eduarte and intelligence service TIG.

Personalised Learning

Thanks to digital, we will in the future be able to serve pupils with tailored learning materials which play seamlessly on learning platforms in schools.  We believe this will enable personalisation, increase the motivation of pupils, and support the work of the teacher. Positive news for learning and teaching!

Iddink Group and Malmberg & VAN IN will be independent units Sanoma Learning. Naturally, Iddink Group will continue to collaborate closely with other publishers; future solutions and platforms we create will be available and open for the entire market.  This is what schools are asking of us and what will benefit pupils and teachers the most.  Open platforms, populated and integrated with great and up-to-date blended learning content, available to all.  Malmberg and VAN IN will of course, in turn, also continue to cooperate with other educational service providers.

I’m really excited about this development, which I think is going to help us to make a great leap forward in serving schools, especially as we go through the digital transformation together!

Looking forward >>

At the d.school Stanford

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.

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!

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.”

screenstudent

 

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!”

screenteacher

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!

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 >>.

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