You could say it all started in India. In 2011, Vesa Perälä, founder of Claned Group, was visiting the populous subcontinent with a Finnish business delegation and heard the local minister of education talk about the need for a smart learning system to train one million nurses.
“I started talking with Mervi Palander [Claned Group CEO] whether should we build this,” Perälä recalls. “We had both seen and analysed many educational projects so we knew what would work. We decided to start building an analytics-based learning system designed with the end-users in mind, whether they are students, employees or lifelong learners.”
This is now the philosophy behind the company’s cloud-based learning platform, also called ‘Claned’. Launched in 2016 it combines Finnish pedagogical research, artificial intelligence and social media features to give each user a learning experience that best suits their needs. They can find and interact with like-minded learners, collaborate on study topics and receive material recommendations personalised for their learning styles.
Claned says its platform suits schools, universities and corporations alike and has the references to back this up. The company counts Microsoft, the United Nations and European Olympic Committee among its customers.
The company has also struck a major deal in India, where it all started, and will soon be used by nearly two million students in 2 000 schools across the country.
The analytics of learning
Behind Claned’s appeal is its strong pedagogical focus. The company has worked closely with Finnish universities to build its algorithms based on validated research regarding how individuals learn.
“You get motivated by different things than I do and our motivation varies during a day,” Perälä says. “Bit by bit our system starts to understand the learning factors affecting how a certain user learns and how their learning experience can be personalised and improved.”
It is a major step forward from the ‘one-size fits all’ thinking of traditional learning platforms. In fact, Claned sees itself as a learning analytics company.
“No one else offers the analytics we produce on people, organisations and content,” Perälä explains. “Many services measure how many times an article was opened, but what we measure is if people actually learn something from that article.”
Flying the Finnish flag
Although Claned was only launched a year ago, the platform already has customers in 15 countries, including Singapore and the US. This has taken plenty of legwork, but the company has also benefitted from Finland’s reputation as an education superpower.
“It doesn’t secure deals, but it does open doors… Nowadays I introduce myself by saying, ‘Hi, I’m Vesa from Finland and we have the best education system in the world.’ And then I explain what this has to do with Claned,” Perälä says with a laugh.
But the crucial element in Claned’s fast internationalisation is its digital nature. This where Perälä believes Finnish education industry still has lessons to learn. He stresses the future of education exports is digital, as truly global businesses need to be easily scalable. No matter how many great teachers you have, they cannot be in many places simultaneously.
Claned practices what it teaches. Among its biggest customers is school organisation Catholic Education Western Australia, which has brought Claned almost 100 000 users, but the company secured the deal without ever visiting Australia. Perälä also believes computers will soon give way to mobile as the dominant learning platform.
“People in China, India and Latin America aren’t walking around with a MacBook Air, but with an affordable Android phone,” he says. “The benefit for us is that we can offer anyone in the world a personalised study package on their own phone. By 2020 70 percent of the world’s population will have a smartphone. That is quite a few people for us to help.”