The City of Vantaa in Finland is developing a platform for learning, education and well-being for the entire country’s use. In this article published in the Ratkaisu magazine*, read how the DigiOne project is accelerating the digitization of early childhood education.

DigiOne aims to bring all electronic operations of the teaching sector onto a single digital platform. This includes the data, systems and services used by teachers, students, principals, guardians and administration.

“The objective is not to create this for Vantaa only, but we are building a platform that other cities and municipalities can join. An ecosystem of users, content creators and service providers will be built on top of the platform. We will create a system for comprehensive schools and general upper secondary schools, which can then be extended to cover vocational institutions, free educational work and early childhood education,” explains Ilkka Kalo, Director of Basic Education at Vantaa, who is heading the project.

Business Finland has provided its largest ever public innovation funding of EUR 5.4 million with a record funding period of four years, instead of the typical one to two years. The City of Vantaa is investing an equivalent sum. “We have a lot of work to do and it is not going to be easy. This will not be completed in four years; instead, it is an ongoing process,” says Kalo.

Ilkka Kalo

Ilkka Kalo, Director of Basic Education in Vantaa, is waiting for the implementation of the VESA ERP system.

Basic syllabus of activities

This is how the system could work. The teacher obtains students’ objectives from the eBasics service, which brings together the electronic curriculums, degrees and education basics in one place at the national level. This enables the teacher to plan learning activities through various assignments for different students in a customized manner.

For instance, when students start doing math assignments on their tablets in class, if certain students are having difficulties, the teacher can help them personally. Evaluation is carried out continuously in an encouraging and proactive manner, and results can be found in one place instead of in various notebooks at the bottom of a student’s school bag.

Students are provided with their own view to the system. Their school assignments are adaptive, which means they become gradually more difficult, like with games. They can be challenged more, or more guidance can be provided, as necessary. When they are ready, students can compare their results to the average score.

A guardian’s view into the system depends on a pupil’s or student’s age—the younger the child, the more the guardian can see.

In administration, principals can track how lessons are proceeding at the class level. If one of the parallel classes is doing really well, this information can be used when planning lessons for other classes. Education authorities have access to a similar view at the school level. Digitization also provides opportunities for measuring and monitoring the well-being of staff and students.

Other cities are interested

DigiOne is being implemented in a modular manner. Currently, the project is in the specification phase. “The first milestone is in one year, when we can pilot the platform. In a few years, we should already have some finished products and, in 2023, the majority of products should be ready.”

According to Kalo, the biggest challenges relate to data protection and the pioneering nature of the project. Data protection and related changes to policies and legislation require work. “GDPR and the issues concerning ownership, use and anonymization of data must be clarified. Rules for education technology are needed, and this is why we hope the government will also participate in the project.”

Kalo says other cities have expressed a lot of interest and there are ongoing discussions. “Combining forces makes more sense than everyone doing their own thing. However, it is not easy for cities and municipalities to decide on these issues.”

In the midst of all the talk of digitization, Kalo reminds us that not everything will be digitized. “Students will be given books in the future as well. Digital tools are only one part of learning. Going forward, students will still make pancakes and turn cartwheels using their hands.”

CGI accelerates the digitization of early childhood education

CGI will provide the City of Vantaa with the VESA ERP system for early childhood education. The system automates manual workflows and improves information sharing between clients and early childhood education.

The VESA system will be deployed in phases during 2020. The secure, cloud-based modular system can be adapted to meet various municipality-specific needs.

“VESA will soon be adopted in Vantaa, and we will try to use it and its development in the DigiOne project. We are looking forward to the upcoming deployment of the system,” says Ilkka Kalo, Director of Basic Education at Vantaa.

*Ratkaisu magazine is published several times a year by CGI in Finland.