Only few platforms are created in the field of education
Challenge: Only few platforms are created in the field of education
- Schools, teachers, and small actors lack incentives and resources for participating in and developing open, platform-based learning solutions. In Finland, the field of education is a socially networked community in which the members help each other and share free resources but in which there is little competition for being the best school (cf. private international schools). However, schools and teachers do not have sufficient incentives and resources for participating in the development of open platforms, production of open learning material, development and maintenance of functionality, and processing and dissemination of pedagogical innovations. On the other hand, many teachers work together with the current publishers to produce learning materials (books, digital learning materials, videos) that are behind paywalls and require identification for access. However, large publishers have no interest in promoting interaction between teachers in the development and distribution of learning materials. Consequently, while schools and teachers could play a much more central role in the creation of platform-based multi-party production models for teaching content and pedagogical solutions, their inputs will not be sufficient to make this happen.
Current incentives and closed platform-based solutions do not promote direct and smooth cooperation between teachers in the development of teaching materials and new pedagogical solutions, or the smooth sharing and continuous improvement of learning exercises. In addition, cooperation with companies may be seen as something negative, and municipalities lack the knowledge of its legal conditions. The municipalities do not have clear knowledge of which activities are permitted by the Act on Public Procurement and Concession Contracts, the EU General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act. This is why teachers’ expertise is not used optimally, nor are teachers encouraged to play an active role in developing the education sector platform economy. Small creative actors lack the resources for developing innovative learning services and the ability to attract parties (teachers, students, providers of learning materials and pedagogical solutions) to their platforms.
- A siloed market prevents the growth of platforms. Municipalities do not work together to develop platform-based learning solutions, and they do not have sufficient incentives for this. This results in several learning platform ecosystems that are neither scalable nor compatible with each other. On the other hand, the Finnish market is too small for some business actors, and developing a tailored national platform may not be of interest to them. The siloed nature of the market is apparent in both companies and municipalities, and no big picture of the development has emerged. Developing joint solutions is challenging as each actor concentrates on their own area; municipalities, for example, focus on solutions specific to them. Municipalities invest in development in different ways, and the challenge lies in how the limited resources should be allocated to development work. Municipal decision-makers do not know enough about the requirements and possibilities of platform-type teaching services. This leads to the development of fragmented systems with no guidance to achieve a uniform structure. Attempts have been made to link different services into ‘single sign-on’ solutions, but implementing the links is labour-intensive, and their commercial benefits for small actors do not materialise quickly enough. This makes developing new innovative operating models for teaching provision difficult and such development is rarely undertaken, with the exception of the DigiOne project, the Tiera Edison and Tiera Vesseli models developed by the municipalities, and the platform development project of medium-sized and large cities, including Helsinki.
The production and sharing of teaching services on a platform are demanding (as there are no standards), and their development requires major investments. The lack of common standards, for example for authentication and log-in, hampers the development of learning solutions and interaction between platforms. Educational platforms must be pedagogically consistent, in line with each country’s curriculum, objective and accurate. The development and deployment of platforms suitable for municipal services requires expertise.
- The current legislation, funding model and data protection restrict innovation. The regulation of education sector actors’ tasks, incentives and competence is inconsistent. For example, the municipalities are obliged to provide teaching, the use of student and learning data is regulated, learning materials are subject to certain requirements, and the procurement procedure directs the use of learning solutions. In the current regulatory environment, publishers lack incentives to build open learning solutions and environments. On the other hand, schools lack incentives provided by legislation to participate in developing innovative platform-based learning and teaching services and solutions. There is no common vision of the aims and goals. The field of education lacks a shared vision and goal for developing digital platform solutions, definitions for the roles of different actors, and clear conditions for developing open and closed platform-based solutions.
The current legislation and funding models do not encourage the development of innovative, platform-based learning solutions, and the value creation mechanisms of the platform economy (including volume, diversity, variation, complementarity and accumulation) are not developing favourably. The determination of the municipalities’ tasks, the funding system and the budget of public/local government finances limit the scalability of platforms in Finland. Becoming involved in the development of education solutions is difficult as the activities are directed by so many parties (Finnish National Agency for Education/education provider/school or educational institution/teacher). Procurement and GDPR issues, on the other hand, slow down the deployment of many individual services and the development of effortless deployment. In addition, some of the platforms have been closed to third parties, or accessing them has been made difficult.
Recommendation: A future vision aiming for coherence should be created for the the education sector platform economy, interoperability should be developed, and investments should be made in co-development
A future vision aiming for national unity should be created for the education sector platform economy, at the core of which is promoting interoperability. Coherence and interoperability will improve the ability of all actors to deliver high-quality learning and effective teaching. In order to develop the platform economy in the field of education, current and new actors will need architecture, standards and rules to improve the interoperability of services and to develop data-based and platform-based innovations and solutions.
- The roles, rules, and operating models of actors should be developed based on a common vision of the future. The actors that regulate and steer the field of education should jointly formulate a desirable vision of platform economy in the field of education. These actors should also identify the old structures and roles that will be abandoned and the new responsibilities and structures that would be essential in order to build and create value through new platform-type solutions. Expertise from other sectors with more experience in digitalisation (ICT, marketing communications, audiovisual production, service design) should be tapped for this, as digital service production sets a very high standard for solutions. For example, it will be necessary to seek an understanding of ways of mobilising data, of the ethical principles of digital solutions, and of the development of innovative procurement models. Innovation policy must support a new perspective in which policy measures targeting companies, municipalities and development projects in the field of education aim to address the challenges related to the growth threshold of platforms.
- Broader cooperation in the development of platform-based learning solutions should be introduced. Co-creation is important, and coherence in the municipal field will enable rapid scaling. Developing platform-based learning solutions is long-term work that should be carried out through experimentation and iteration. Finding suitable scalable targets for development is important. The platforms must be compatible with the products and services of actors of different sizes. The activities could be facilitated by national models, such as login templates. The threshold for participation could be lowered by such means as co-creation or selecting a neutral actor to implement the platform. Effective incentives and financing and business models that benefit both private and public actors are a prerequisite for co-creation. The projects should have a sufficiently long term, and they should take national interests into account.
Other challenges and recommendations
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We make recommendations related to innovation policy aiming to accelerate the development and growth of the platform economy in the education sector. The key themes of the recommendations are cooperation, common rules and openness.