Education in general is being confronted with a wide range of challenges: shortage in teachers, new learning methods, generation Y teaching in different ways, too much administration, well being, multicultural classrooms, budget cuts, the digital shift,…

Like media, education is trying to adopt and adapt to the evolution caused by the new digital reality. Access to smart boards and iPads as new learning tools, but also the fact that schools to an increasing degree have access to fast broadband internet. Projects like ‘Fiber to the School’ are providing new infrastructure and open up a world of new possibilities. 

New opportunities like flipped classroom teaching, interactive and engaging video and audio content, MOOC’s and remote learning are some of the evolutions that currently prove to be very successful. 

Engaging with media in learning is becoming the new normal. Teachers are increasingly using news topics to engage in a dialogue with the students and thus stimulate critical thinking. But a lot of work needs to be done: children do not pay much attention to news, they tend to mix news with fiction, and also do not always have access local news at home. Statistics show that children and youngsters consume most of their news feeds on Facebook an Twitter, where fake or incorrect news is widespread. So it is primordial to bring trustworthy and quality information to young people and introduce them to media literacy. VRT Startup was able to learn and share knowledge about the news platform NUUUS specifically designed to bring young people news in a new and attractive format.

Teachers and students are not the only consumers of educational content benefiting from the digital shift. Parents, researchers, start up and regular companies also have their interest. Opportunities are manifold, so collaboration is a must. Educational publishers, for example, are being challenged because the new learning platforms online need important investments, new expertise and business models. They are waiting for a ‘tipping point’ to switch from classical educational material like books to digital online publication in different forms. In order to produce media needed for this transformation, it will demand close collaboration with experienced partners. Together we can bring valuable media and services to education.


On the one hand VRT Sandbox tries to identify and connect different actors in the field in order to join forces and facilitate the digital shift.  And additionally it can bring content, VRT brands and media expertise into the equation.


about the Case

In this VRT Sandbox case we combined expertise with VIAA, the Flemish Institute for Audiovisual Archiving, Plantyn, a publisher of educational material, and Moovly, a startup that provides online solutions for creating animated videos. The goal was to understand how content creators, teachers and students would benefit from media topics and tools to support learning.

In order to understand the needs, it was important to gather the perspective of the stakeholders involved. An overview of some of the insights which we gathered:

  • Students do not pay much attention to topicality.
  • Students receive a lot of incorrect information, making it hard to distinguish real from fake news.
  • Not in every home Belgium topicality is being considered.
  • There’s no real dialogue between broadcaster and audience, the local context is (often not?) considered. Children have their own perception of the world, making them more sensitive to treating them the same way (dit versta ik niet… - phvm)
  • 90% of the teachers say they have used YouTube content, 54% say they have used content from VRT/
  • 2 of 10 Flemish teens have thought about suicide
  • Too many early school drop outs
  • Mismatch between education and job requirements
  • Upcoming shortage of teachers
  • PISA-results are still ok in Belgium/Flanders
  • By 2018, 65% of the teachers will be Generation Y,  35% Generation X and babyboomers
  • 86% of teachers feel stress
  • 53% of teachers don’t like the bad image of teachers
  • 50% of educators have difficulties with parents
  • 33% of teachers have difficulties with the expectations of the students (45% in BSO)
  • 64% of teachers are satisfied with their job
    • 83% are satisfied of their students
    • 61% are satisfied with the creativity in their job
    • 58% are satisfied with their colleagues
  • Teachers pros and cons:
    • Pros: students, creativity, new technologies, care
    • Cons: administrative tasks (planning, tracking learning goals) take to much time
  • The use of video improves engagement in the classroom
  • Interactivity on video is an ideal tool for educators (Prof. Ellen Vandenhove, UGent)
  • From all types of material, teachers prefer video and newspapers. Video for explanatory and newspapers for context.


Distributing content and enrichment with educational value


In many cases media broadcast content has educational value. Today some teachers are using it to interact with their pupils and others refer to it for assignments. When asked, teachers prefer to use video (mainly explanatory and real news media) in the classroom to support them in interaction and dialogue with pupils. It engages them in a conversation and makes them think and express their opinion, while using the methods that fit their environment.  


A lot of media content is being consumed through touch-points of media companies. Breaking out of the learning platform is not always optimal and moves the user from the context where he or she was in. You can compare it to the distractions one has when using social media like Facebook. Platforms are often made with the purpose of keeping the visitor engaged as long as possible. Some tech savvy educators, able to download the content, prefer using it offline in the classroom. Also because in some schools the internet infrastructure is far from optimal.


The way content is used depends on the skills of the teacher and the functionalities of the platforms they use. Basically every person using this content adds meta information to it in order to make it more useful as an educational instrument, ex. questions or discussion topics. Platforms such as ‘Klascement’ support educators to share the material they create themselves.


In a first innovation case at VRT we tried supporting the distribution of media content by analyzing the content itself and adding information, specific for educational purposes. The idea was to make it more relevant for usage by a large group of educators. 


By allowing Plantyn to analyse the VRT/Canvas tv-series ‘Wetenschap redt de wereld’ (translated: ‘Science saves the world’) and give them time to create educational material before it was being broadcasted, we were able to support flipped classroom teaching. This means teachers can ask their pupils to do an assignment based on what they’ve seen on tv or online. It also enabled teachers to have a classroom discussion the next day. The content was accessible through ‘Archief voor onderwijs’ the educational platform of VIAA; also in Scoodle, the educational platform of Plantain; and on, VRT’s second tv-channel’s website.

The distribution of the content used various touch points:

Some insights:

  • Creating material to be used by teachers is mostly done by other teachers, called ‘detached’ teachers, working for publishers or other organizations in (re)purposing material with the skills and mindset of a teacher.
  • In this test more than 400 teachers activated the content on the platform Scoodle, making the content relevant for more than 24.000 people (educators, pupils) in education (Note: there are more than 1.400.000 people involved in education in Belgium/Flanders).
  • One episode of ‘Wetenschap redt de wereld’ could be used in 15 different teaching modules for various educational levels.
  • The content is not only being consumed, but also used in discussions, as working material and can be screened many times.
  • The media assets are being used in a time frame during school hours as well as after school hours. Flipped classroom adds value because it creates time during school hours for interaction and discussion, compared to classical ex-cathedra teaching.
  • Collaboration between media professionals and education professionals opens new perspectives. There are similarities in the creation process which could lead to co-creation.
  • Scoodle platform supports planning of class activities with integration of educational content including media assets.
  • Distribution of media assets with added educational value opens the opportunity to achieve a better understanding and more critical thinking about the content. 
  • By creating a feedback loop on the platform, there is an opportunity to interact with or provide feedback to the content provider: more people are working with and thinking critical about the material, not just consuming it lean back, like broadcast material.
  • The effort and risks are being shared between partners, and assets are being made more valuable.
  • Embeddable video enables to keep your brand in other platforms while users stay in a platform with a clear focus and added value.
  • Different distribution channels provided broader reach and different perspectives on the material.

Depending on the added (educational) value content has, and the way teachers organise interaction, different strategies might apply. For example, when talking about flipped classroom teaching, it is possible to refer to a television program which kids can screen beforehand, to engage in the classroom in a dialogue of what they have observed. This is possible when we talk about scheduled (not live) content.


Validating a feedback loop by answering to requested media topics


In the first step we were able to distribute content and add educational value to it, which was highly appreciated by teachers and made it more efficient for them to use the content in different teaching scenarios. 


To validate if we would be able to provide on demand content for specific educational needs, we asked teachers which topics in educational courses using media assets would interest them most. The most requested course was one with material about migration topics. Only a few months earlier, a campaign across all VRT brands was organised, on the migration caused by the war in Syrië. It was called ‘Op de vlucht’ (translated: ‘On the run’).


Since we had a lot of material, we were able within a period of two weeks to package various assets and make a specific course about that topic. Video, images and links were combined with discussion cards, questionnaires, interactive geographical maps, assignment sheets, educational data for research and exercises, et cetera… 

Enough material to find an inspiring way for teaching, efficient and without heavy planning and follow up overhead.

Lesson learned: there is a real demand for using material curated by VRT and distribute it enriched.


Co-creating content


Co-creating. It sounds like a buzzword. But when it comes to news broadcasters and education have something in common. It is difficult to arouse interest and bring the focus of young people to actuality. During the Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015, there was a real need for teachers to find and for VRT to produce useful video about the climate change issue. So the idea was simple, by collaborating together, the topic of Global Warming could definitely be a part of both the show for children as the discussions in the classroom. 


In order to create visually inspiring material in a short time, we opted for animation and partnered with Moovly, a video animation start-up. Together we wanted to explore the educational potential, and after deciding the concept, script and storyboard, the following animation came up, coproduced with Karrewiet, VRT’s newsmagazine for youngsters.

This animation is build up as a traditional 3-act story with the exposition and conflict in act 1, the raise of action and more personal problems are told in act 2 followed by the traditional climax or resolution. In the dutch version of the video there was an extra forth act: one little question added to the video: what will you do to save the planet? This was a call to action that functioned as a trigger for both the workshops as the television show. Because VRT’s children’s channel Ketnet was interested in doing the Climate Change Summit, they used the animation during their live television program ‘Ketnet Swipe’.

When observing young children watching a normal television show at home, we noticed they did not really engage with the ‘call to action’ of the show’s hosts. By bringing the same animation to the classroom, together with specific course material for the teacher, we tried extending the ‘call to action’ to the classroom, giving it added value.


Together with Plantyn and Moovly, a specific course was created. Children could learn about the causes of pollution, actions to prevent further pollution and solutions to improve climate change. But also become creative by telling their own story on how they would collaborate saving the climate. This approach was tested in a primary school in Mechelen, with a class of 10-11 years old boys and girls. The 30+ participants started by making a moodboard on the topic of climate change, then learned how to design a storyboard and were briefed on using the animation tool. Divided in groups of 4, 5 they started crafting their own film in the online animation tool of Moovly. In less than 2 hours, the whole process produced some amazing results, which left teacher and tutors almost speechless:

 Valuable insights were:

  • Media assets such as the cows, wind mills, etc… created in the animation film by VRT could easily be reused by the children in their own creations. Compared to animations we render the assets benefit society in a broader way.
  • Kids definitely like working with animation and digital tools. Educators also would like to use them to inspire their pupils, but they are aware they need mentoring & assistance.
  • Delivering quality content is related to the context of the audience. For educational purposes, there is a huge difference between providing information on a tv screen, and using in the context of a classroom, where different people can interact with it.