Education technology, also known as EdTech, is rapidly changing the way we view education. The use of digital platforms, alongside traditional teaching, has increased in different forms. From administrative systems to online courses and learning applications, digitalisation is taking over also the schools. But the beneficial features of EdTech aren’t always acknowledged or understood. To help these conversations, a Finnish company created an EdTech evaluation based on science.
Bringing Pedagogical Arguments to the Conversations Regarding EdTech
The office building takes some time to find due to road works, but as I reach the front desk I’m greeted with friendly faces. After a call and a little wait, I’m shaking hands with Olli Vallo. His offer of cup of coffee sounds heavenly after a walk in the snowy streets of Helsinki. And with the home-baked bun in hand, we sit down to discuss the purpose of Education Alliance Finland. A company Vallo co-founded in 2015 and was, until recently, known as Kokoa Agency.
The idea for the company, like they often do, came from a need noticed on the field. Vallo was working for an EdTech company while writing his doctoral thesis. He felt that the pedagogical arguments in conversations regarding EdTech weren’t highlighted enough and the learning impact of the applications wasn’t always understood by the customers. And this is how his company came into being and to fill in a niche in the market: to help EdTech companies to improve their operations and customers to find trustworthy products and services.
Trust Comes from the Transparency of the Process
What does Education Alliance Finland do then? The process always starts from the evaluation report. The pedagogical design of a product or platform is analysed with a method based on academic research. In addition to evaluating the learning impact, other features such as usability, gamification and interactions are taken into account. The purpose of analysing every part of the platform is to develop it to its best version. After the process, there is clarity on the necessary improvements and the application can live up to its promises of influencing users’ learning.
If an EdTech company then wants to have a certificate issued by Education Alliance Finland, certain criteria needs to be fulfilled. As with the evaluation process, the criteria are based on science and research. To receive the certificate, the platform is evaluated by three independent teachers and one peer evaluator from Education Alliance Finland. The evaluation is done by using a specific method and platform created in cooperation with research group Engaging Learning Environments. If the application gains enough points from the evaluation, the certificate is granted. The research group is led by well-known Professor of Educational Psychology Kirsti Lonka, who is currently working at University of Helsinki.
Why should anyone then trust the evaluation made by Education Alliance Finland? “Our method is based on science. The theoretical framework used is available in our website”, answers Vallo. The company is independent from other EdTech companies and their influence. In addition, the evaluation and description of each product certified can be found from the Education Alliance Finland website.
Service Benefits Both Sides
The reason for companies to use the services provided by Education Alliance Finland is simple. “The evaluation report alone is a benefit in itself”, says Vallo. Having an evaluation made by independent organisation provides a different perspective to the platform and its functions. The evaluation might raise issues which weren’t thought about before. Education Alliance Finland suggests concrete improvements to make the development of the platform easier.
Finally, the certification works in two ways. The companies can use it in their marketing to appear more trustworthy and it is easier for a customer to make a decision based on relevant information found online. In a broader scale, the whole industry of education technology benefits from the discussions regarding the pedagogical impact of the educational platforms. The purpose and benefits of the digital learning materials are highlighted. In a technology driven world, digitalisation in schools can’t, and mustn’t, be stopped. But the materials must be of top quality.
Education Alliance Finland is official partner of Polar Partners.
Written by Polar Partners’ Marketing intern Juliaana Kärkkäinen