Tag 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.

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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

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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.

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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!

Education reform in Finland

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This week I caught up with Kirsi Harra-Vauhkonen, Managing Director of Sanoma Pro, market leader in Finland. The Finnish market is currently undergoing both a major curriculum change and digital transformation.  I asked Kirsi to explain more about what’s going on.

You’ve got an interesting background Kirsi, including positions at Nokia and Google. Tell us more.

Continuous learning is my passion, and I have been fortunate to be able to gain experience from many different positions. I have worked for example in recent years in telecommunications (Nokia), digital media (Google) and now in educational publishing. During my career, I have worked mostly in commercial and business development leadership roles. Mostly I have been leading change – be it new opportunities in the market, new ways of working or digital transformation.  I am driven by working with great people and teams.

Finnish education has a world class reputation. Why is that?

Finnish pupils have scored highly in the PISA surveys for many years. This is a result of the high quality public education system in Finland. Excellent teachers are one of the most important cornerstones of the system. All teachers have a university degree, and being a teacher is a highly respected profession. The fact that high quality education is available for everyone, is very important for Finland. High quality, versatile learning materials also play an important role in helping pupils and teachers to achieve excellent learning outcomes.

What role does Sanoma Pro play in Finnish education and why are our methods popular?

Sanoma Pro is a major publisher with a very good reputation and the most extensive offering in the Finnish educational market. We publish learning materials for all grades K-12 and also for vocational education. In addition we also have the Oppi & Ilo edutainment line for the consumers as well as tutoring services by Tutorhouse.

Our learning materials are used in almost every school and class, and our digital learning environment has more than 100 000 active teacher and pupil users. Our solutions are developed through very intensive collaboration with our customers, and our authors are the best professionals in their own subjects.

Our solutions are popular because they are high quality, they fit the curriculum perfectly, they are easy to use, and they have a good mix of print and digital elements that match the ways and needs of the classroom.

And they provide excellent benefits by enabling learning impact: they help pupils to achieve good learning outcomes, they engage and motivate pupils to learn, and they save time for teachers in their professional work.

 

There’s curriculum reform coming this year and next. What’s happening and how are we supporting the change?

The reform is a combination of driving change in the pedagogy and in the learning goals and related learning contents. First of all the reform is encouraging strong engagement of pupils and thus changing the role of the teacher to become more like a coach for the active pupil learners. Another theme is to update the learning objectives to equip children with such skills and knowledge that better meet their needs of the future. Also the need for more theme-based learning is emphasized as well as the aim to bring digital into the everyday work at schools.

We have integrated these themes in our methods, in addition to the new learning contents, and provide a lot of supporting tips and tools to help the teachers to adapt to the new ways of teaching.

 

What are the most important digital initiatives we are working on?

We are very excited about our new digital learning solutions. It’s now possible to use fully digital learning materials for teaching and learning in all of the primary subjects in the new curriculum. In addition, for the teachers who prefer a hybrid solution, we are launching the gamified, curriculum-fit exercise environment Bingel. Bingel supports seamlessly the Sanoma Pro learning methods and makes exercising engaging and inspiring for pupils.

In upper secondary we have Kompassi, the digital testing and assessment tool that provides teachers an easy way to create and assess tests, saving a considerable amount of their time and providing students with the opportunity to get familiar with the digital testing. The first national digital matriculation tests in Finland will take place this Autumn.

What are you most proud about with Sanoma Pro?

I am very proud of our extremely professional and talented team. Going through a phase of digital transformation in the market simultaneously with the very intensive curriculum change is not an easy task, but the team has shown great effort and we have been able to bring all the print and digital products to the market, while also innovating new concepts.

Our new learning solutions bring a lot of new opportunities and support for the teachers to renew their way of teaching, and to engage and inspire the pupils. I am very proud of this achievement, and having delivered this as a team!

 

Exciting times

Thanks for talking us through this Kirsi.  These are exciting times in Finnish education and it’s great to hear more about our commitment to working together with our customers in bringing new innovations to the marketGood luck to all our people in Finland!

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.

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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.

Sexiest Job at Sanoma (re-visited): Edtech Developer

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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 >>.

Pearson to focus fully on education

Pearson_WebBar_Top_Blue_RGBIn recent days Pearson, the world’s largest education company, has been in the news due to plans to sell the Financial Times and talks to sell its 50% stake in the Economist Group. It’s been estimated that these divestments will yield $ 1.5 bn net proceeds. Pearson will focus fully on education in the future.

Pearson expects growing and sustained demand for education, particularly driven by an emerging middle class in international markets and the digital transformation. The opportunity is to enable greater access, better affordability and improved achievement. They are working on transforming their business by building positions in fast-growing economies, shifting to digital and services, and promising to deliver measurably improved learning outcomes. With annual global spending on education estimated to be about $ 4.5 tn, Pearson sees space to grow current revenues of about $ 7.75 bn.

What could this mean for Pearson?

1. More focused strategy

You’re a global education company or you’re a global journalism company — both great things to be, but it’s hard to ride both horses equally well,” John Fallon, CEO of Pearson, said after the sale of the FT was announced.JohnFallonWe’ve reached an inflection point in media, driven by the explosive growth of mobile and social. In this new environment, the best way to ensure the FT’s journalistic and commercial success is for it to be part of a global, digital news company.” The leadership and management of Pearson can now focus fully on the growth and transformation strategy of their education businesses: emerging markets (growth), digital and services (growth and transformation) and outcomes (transformation).

2. Focused leadership of execution

Pearson already has some attractive positions in emerging markets and has taken a leadership role in the industry on outcomes, but is arguably not (yet) a frontrunner on the digital transformation. All three of these pillars will require leadership and heavy investment in the coming years and will therefore likely benefit from an increasingly focused strategy. With a rich pool of talent and an excellent reputation the company should be better placed to focus on the transformation of the education business.

3. Faster growth

Given a stronger balance sheet, Pearson should be more favourably positioned to make further investments in organic growth and to acquire other companies in digital and services, and international markets. This should in principle lead to better growth prospects for the company and a higher valuation.

What could this mean for education markets?

Good for customers?

My view is that a successful Pearson should be good news for customers. Looking at the big picture, if Pearson is successful in enabling greater access, better affordability and improved achievement in education in countries across the globe, this must be a good thing for our people and planet. And their success will likely encourage new entrants and more innovation in the industry which should yield further benefits for customers too.

Good for employees?

I would imagine that this will be good news for employees with the skills and ambitions to support Pearson’s growth and transformation agenda and vice versa.

What about the competition?

If you’re a growing digital education or service business in an emerging market, are making a measurable impact on outcomes and looking for an exit, this is probably good news :-). However, if you are predominantly a print publisher in one of the markets where Pearson is currently strong, it’s likely you will have to raise the bar to stay competitive. It’s not easy to see a direct impact on a company like Sanoma Learning which is arguably further on the digital transformation and operates in different markets, although there could be increased competition for international opportunities in digital down the line.

Will these divestments secure Pearson’s leadership position in the industry?

At this time, the company’s position seems secure: they are global market leader, they have a good growth and transformation strategy brought into sharper focus, an improved balance sheet and competent leadership. However, with a large “legacy” business, complex operating model, new competition from agile startups and a less friendly regulatory environment, it’s not a home run. Keep an eye on McGraw-Hill Education – they’ve been making smart and agile steps in recent times too as they reposition themselves as a “learning science” company.

It will be fascinating to experience the dynamics in this industry in the coming years as the giants transform themselves, new giants such as Google and Microsoft build their positions and (edtech) ventures such as Udemy, Edmodo, Altschool and NetDragon disrupt the market.  I’m interested to hear your views on this. Looking forward >>.