Tag Archives: Sanoma

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 >>.

Scaling up edtech in Europe

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Last week I visited the EdTechEurope conference in London. Congratulations to the team for putting together a rich program and high quality of production!

I love meeting the entrepreneurs and sensing their passion. It’s great to hear their vision and see the innovation. They trigger my curiosity. How could we put this to work for better learning impact for our customers? What could this mean for the educational ecosystem we serve? Could this company disrupt our business?

CEO Talks

 

I’m a member of the Advisory Board of EdTechEurope and spoke on the panel “CEO Talks on Digital Transformation” together with Rob Grimshaw (CEO at TES Global) and Karine Allouche Salanon (CEO at Pearson English Business Solutions). There was a lot of talk about the role of the teacher in this session which I liked since I believe the teacher is the killer app in education.

Scaling up?

I wonder if this conference tells us something about a wave of investment (and disruption) in edtech in Europe.

Is there more action?

This is the third time the meeting was held and each time participation has doubled, this time to 650 people. Is this simply because it’s a well-run and well-timed initiative? Or is the series tapping into an underlying trend of growing investment into edtech? At this rate, we’ll need to hire Wembley Stadium for EdTechEurope-2022!

Going global?

This year we had many more visitors from outside Europe. There was a particularly interesting session from SWSWedu – great to see Zaption and Cerego there, re-connecting after our recent trip to Silicon Valley! Also, the session on “Edtech Opportunities in Asia” was very worthwhile, especially for the useful advice from Prof Ping-Cheng Yeh on China. Are these signals of a growing global market for services and technology in education?

Who are the Champions?

It’s thrilling to see so much innovation taking place in edtech; IBIS Capital estimates that there are more than 3000 e-learning start-ups in Europe alone. Is this typical for a wave of disruptive innovation? Or an expression of the (sometimes hyper-) local nature of education? From an investment and partnering perspective however, it’s increasingly difficult to see the wood for the trees. Is there a risk that our industry is spreading talent and resources too thinly?

Looking forward >> Time for a Champions League?

Champions LeagueThese questions around scale trigger my interest in the idea of a “Champions League” of edtech companies, to lead the growth and transformation opportunity for education in Europe. These companies could act as magnets for talent, ideas and capital and help to bring scale to the industry. TES Global probably has such ambitions and is backed by the deep pockets of TPG. Pearson is the World’s biggest learning company and has extensive size and international reach. Sanoma Learning has a great reputation for excellence in education and digital transformation. Who are the other players who could help bring scale to the industry? Learn Capital (London)? Google?

I’m interested to hear your views on this.

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

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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

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?

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!

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 >>