In the field of education, this spring will go down in history as the time when children as young as 7 years old learned distance meeting etiquette. Us parents will also remember physical education classes held in the living room, distance exams and internet connections breaking down at critical times. We were all part of a massive global change. Hundreds of millions of new pupils and teachers peeked into the world of digital tools.
At the end of this semester, we’ll hopefully have time to reflect on how digital tools should be used in the future. I’m not talking about electronic sign-up forms for school or digital books, the usage of which was about 20% in the classroom prior to the corona crisis. I’m talking about implementing more advanced digital solutions. These are e.g. platforms for organising learning and teaching, distance learning solutions as well as using big data, AI and augmented reality in education. Already for several years, there has been a growing demand for more advanced digital tools. It is, however, generally accepted that their use has been limited. Prior to the corona crisis, the digitalisation degree in the global education sector was estimated at around two percent and the size of the market at approximately € 250 billion.
So far, global software and platform companies whose systems were free or had already been purchased before the crisis have primarily benefited from the growing demand for digital solutions. Still, the demand for pre-tendered smaller-scale solutions has also increased.
It may come as a small surprise that over the course of this spring approximately half of the companies offering educational technology have been subject to declining demand. Schools and municipalities have not had time for new acquisitions or development. Because of this, several companies offered their solutions for free for a limited time. In this way, the companies have been able to increase customer understanding about the possibilities offered by their solutions. The next challenge is to transform the new users into paying customers.
The demand for educational technology solutions is expected to normalise quickly and the growth is expected to accelerate. Capital investors also regard the sector’s growth prospects as encouraging. The most interesting markets emerge where, instead of implementing single digital solutions, operational models are changed and investments are made in implementing platform solutions. Growth is estimated to be highest in the Middle East, Africa and North America.
In spite of virtual spring concerts, the corona crisis isn’t over. More resources are needed for the development and implementation of digital tools and working methods. We must be able to rethink digitalisation as part of the development of education and learning, rather than just as equipment or service acquisitions.
The corona spring has shaken up the world view of professional educators and brought about a massive change in attitudes. This spring, for the first time, a large part of education professionals believe that the digital disruption will occur already before 2023. Thus, the soil has already been worked for the digital transition.
The change is now welcome. In Finland, we are ready for it. We have a lot of promising educational technology companies with a strong pedagogic competence. In addition, we have a lot of competence within ICT, 5G, augmented reality, cyber security, block chains and AI. We have world-class teachers and a world-class administration, who wish to further the digitalisation. We have already invested in building platform solutions, learning analytics and ecosystems.
An example of a significant recent investment accelerating digitization in education is the DigiOne project. DigiOne is paving the way for the platform reform within education sector in Finland. The progress of the reform can be followed on the DigiOne website, also in English. In total, Business Finland has supported the development of education technology with EUR 30 million in recent years.
A skilfully implemented digital transition in the educational sector will make Finnish education more equal and improve quality without costs getting out of hand. In this manner we can create an interesting lead market and a growing export sector in spite of the recession. Our international reputation is already good.