Tag Archives: Innovation

The Chinese are coming to a school near you

 

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

china

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

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

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

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

It made me wonder:

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

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

Scale

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

Commitment

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

Innovative potential

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

China: coming to a school near you

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

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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!

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 >>

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!

Sanoma Learning Lab: Co-create for Impact

sloa-header-1We’re going to run a Learning Lab this Autumn and I would like to invite you to join us. We’re going to develop new concepts with you, to improve and evidence the impact of education on learning.

There are 3 reasons why I would love you (teachers, academics, university students and Sanoma employees) to apply for a place at our learning lab:

1. Fantastic learning experience

You’ll get trained in start-up methods and work with experts on developing your idea. You might even win a place at bootcamp to build a prototype of it with a dedicated team of designers and developers. I’ve previously blogged about how such a program works and what happens at bootcamp. It’s really exciting to be part of it!

2. Great networking

The Lab will be a great way to build relationships with other professionals passionate about the future of learning, both locally and internationally. People from diverse backgrounds, from instructional design to user experience to learning analytics. People who want to make a difference in education.

3. Make an impact on the future of learning

We’ll co-develop new concepts with you, to improve and evidence the impact of education and to contribute to the future of learning. Concepts that will improve learning results, support the ways of working and help to better engage pupils. It’s about the future of learning.

Join us!

We’ll be accepting applications until 24th August. Please go to www.sanomalearninglab.com and apply. I really hope you’ll join us! Looking forward >>.

Where are the giants of edtech in K-12 education in Europe?

We’re committed to playing a leading role in renewing education for the next generation and believe we can add value by supporting pupils and teachers on three fronts:

– Achieving excellent learning outcomes
– Enabling efficient ways of working, and
– Supporting engagement and motivation.

Technology can be a key enabler on making progress on each of these three fronts, Today, Sanoma Learning is one of Europe’s leading edtech companies, with roughly € 40 M of pure-play digital and € 100 M of multi-channel sales.

We’re ambitious and like to partner with and acquire other edtech companies to help us to support customers on the three fronts mentioned above. Significant amounts of money are being spent on education each year, of the order of 6% of GDP. This is approximately € 800 bn per year in the EU: the market is sizeable and K-12 is a big slice of that. Yet there are relatively few edtech companies established on the continent today that generate more than € 25 M of annual sales. To be honest, I couldn’t name 10 off the top of my head.

Plenty of talent, ideas and capital

IBIS Capital estimates that there are approximately 3,000 e-learning ventures in Europe today. These companies employ a lot of entrepreneurial talent, many of them working on potentially high-impact ideas. Also, it seems to me that it’s not impossibly difficult to find funding for promising edtech ventures. In the USA in Q1/2014 about $ 500 M was committed in new funding to 99 edtech ventures – the biggest quarter for the last five years.

“The market is rich enough in talent, ideas and venture funding.”

So why hasn’t this large and transforming market in K-12 education spurred the growth of a handful of European edtech giants?

To be frank, I don’t know. Let’s start by looking at the context for K-12 education in Europe today. The great majority of the money in the market is spent (directly or indirectly) by the government through schools, many of which are not yet ready for e-learning. Also, the great majority of overall funding is spent on the salaries of teachers; this is absolutely right – teachers are the most critical factor in providing excellent education.

Within this context I think there are probably three main reasons that make it difficult for an edtech giant to emerge from the European continent on the short term:

1. A rather immature ecosystem
A well-functioning e-learning ecosystem can be built if we can make progress on four dimensions in schools: i) a clear vision on what we want to achieve and committed leadership to make it happen ii) good ICT infrastructure iii) availability of content and software and iv) teachers equipped with the skills to get ICT to work for them and their pupils. Although good progress has been made in many countries on many of those dimensions in the last ten years, most of these ecosystems are still relatively immature. In many ways progress needs to be made on each of these dimensions simultaneously in order for the ecosystem to flourish. There are a lot of data available on this. To name one important element – today there are of the order of 5 devices per household in northern Europe but five pupils per workstation at school. The home is a much more advanced digital ecosystem than the school. Surely this is just a matter of timing? Maybe BYOD tablets will provide the impulse the ecosystem needs? In any case, the early stage of the ecosystem hinders the adoption of educational technology.

2. Long sales cycles but narrow sales windows
The great majority of spending on education in Europe is channelled through institutions. Most of those institutions are organised around an annual cycle. Sales processes into them tend to be long and complex and the window of opportunity rather narrow. If your service is great, but you are not well-positioned to make the sale, the opportunity can be lost until the next year, or for many years. This can be killing for start-ups managing their monthly burn rate and can be a big disincentive to some investors and entrepreneurs.

3. Lack of scale
The final area that is probably hindering the emergence of new European edtech giants is the lack of scale in the market. Education systems tend to be organised very locally and can be prone to political influence. There are relatively few things that scale across multiple countries. Even if your business does brilliantly well in one country, it will be very hard to capture that same position across the continent. Edtech ventures from the USA or China enjoy a clear advantage, with large home markets that can attract significant funding.

How can we improve?

Europe has many natural advantages in the edtech space. For example, it’s home to some world-class education systems such as Finland and there’s a rich start-up scene in a number of leading cities. There’s also a reliable and significant commitment to spending on education.

I’m sure there are lots of smart options about taxes and skills and common standards and so on that the EU is working on in building a big single European market, and I imagine many of those things will help. In addition to that I would like to see us getting more proactive as an industry in two areas. Firstly, it would be good to get more transparency on the market. Which of these new ventures are really starting to fly? Initiatives such as Edtech Europe and Sanoma’s Start-up Challenge help, but are not enough. It’s hard (but not impossible 🙂 ) to see the wood for the trees amongst the 3,000 of today. Who should we partner with? And secondly, are there ways for us to create a European network that can bring scale to the market so that we can more rapidly deploy new technology for the benefit of our customers?

I’m interested to hear your views on this. Feel free to drop me a line if you have inspired ideas.

Looking forward >>

Labster wins Sanoma’s start-up challenge on future of learning at TNW Europe

Mads Bonde, CEO of Labster, pitching at TNW

Mads Bonde, CEO of Labster, pitching at TNW

Last Friday at TNW Europe, Labster (www.labster.com) won Sanoma’s start-up challenge on the future of learning. Congratulations to Mads Bonde and the Labster team on winning not only € 25,000 but also eternal fame!

Labster runs 3D virtual labs in the life sciences and allows students to run their own experiments in a concept inspired by flight simulation. They claim their labs are effective in teaching theory, cost 1/10 of a physical lab, help to motivate pupils and yield rich learning analytics for teachers. They have been working together with leading institutions including UC Berkeley, Stanford University Online High School, University of Copenhagen, University of Hong Kong and Novo Nordisk and are currently used by more than 10,000 students worldwide.

Alongside Labster from Denmark, four other promising edtech start-ups pitched for the crown in Amsterdam, including:

i) Eduvee (www.eduvee.com) from England – an intuitive learning and tutoring platform that integrates and delivers personalised curriculum-mapped content to learners on any device
ii) DragonBox by We Want to Know (www.wewanttoknow.com) from Norway – a fun, game-based solution for learning maths
iii) Jumpido (www.jumpido.com) from Bulgaria – a game re-imagining education through games combining physical exercise with engaging maths problems, and
iv) EduKey’s Class Charts (www.classcharts.com) from Wales – a behavioural data solution supporting teachers in identifying how students interact with eachother and how this impacts their learning.

We chose Labster as winner of the challenge for two reasons:
i) excellent potential impact on the future of education, showing good proof-points on learning results, cost efficiency and engagement, and
ii) a strong “make it happen” team

We were really impressed by the quality of all five of these start-ups – they all did themselves proud in the pitching and we had a heated discussion about which of them would be the ultimate winner. Thanks to you all for having joined the challenge – you are all winners!

Sanoma sponsored this initiative since we are determined to take an innovative position in creating the future of education. We were delighted to have attracted more than 100 edtech startups from 24 countries across Europe. I also appreciated the good collaboration between Sanoma Learning, SanomaVentures and VentureScout in running a successful and spirited challenge: thanks to the teams for making this happen!