The story of EDUbox: how innovation can turn an idea into an educational platform

EDUbox illustration

Over the past year, EDUbox has gained its place in the educational landscape as a medium that introduces young people to a particular societal theme. The team behind EDUbox innovatively merges storytelling, media and technology into a physical box of teaching materials. Each EDUbox is created in collaboration with partners who deploy their expertise around a particular theme. The creation and growth of the concept itself is also a story of collaboration, both with external partners and with various VRT colleagues who worked to realise their idea via the innovation mechanisms of VRT. In order to strengthen the further growth and impact of EDUbox, we are exploring its digital possibilities together with start-ups in the test environment of VRT Sandbox and researching how we can also make the format scalable for multiple learning platforms and teachers.

Innovation in practice: from VRT Sandbox to VRT NWS

In order to prepare young people for the technological and societal challenges of the future, a VRT Sandbox project started in 2017 to introduce a more practical form of education. Together with Technopolis, VUB and UGent, an educational box with technological teaching materials was developed. EduTech Expert Tim Van Lier: "At the start of this project, we organised an event with presentations, workshops and demonstrations on a specific theme. We would create media content during these events, which we could collect and distribute via a box. With the content of the box, pupils and teachers could then simulate the demonstrations and experiments of the event itself in a classroom and challenge pupils creatively and technically". 

In a next phase, VRT NWS continued to work as a project partner on the possibilities of this interactive and audiovisual format, and the EDUbox was born. In addition to all the content that VRT NWS creates on radio, TV, online and via social media, VRT NWS wanted to bring young people into contact with societal themes in a different way and inspire them to get engaged. In the ready-made teaching packages of EDUbox, sheets were provided with theory, practical exercises and assignments, which are also linked to an extensive digital section with audiovisual material. "In order to reach and inform more youngsters, innovation in the field of education is necessary," says Fran De Vriese, responsible for education at VRT. "It is an added value for VRT NWS and EDUbox to be able to experiment within the safe test environment of VRT Sandbox, in collaboration with start-ups. This way, we can succeed together in tailoring EDUbox even better to the needs of teachers and pupils, and ensure extra valorisation of our audiovisual material for education".

In order to reach and inform more young people, innovation in education is necessary. It is an added value for VRT NWS and EDUbox to be able to experiment with this in the safe test environment of VRT Sandbox, in collaboration with start-ups.

Fran De Vriese, responsible education VRT NWS

Illustration timeline

Boxing against corona

The EDUbox has always existed in a physical form, with limited digital extensions. However, due to the corona crisis, there is a need for digital, qualitative and educational content that is accessible and can be used quickly. That is why the project team has been given the support to fully digitise EDUbox in the coming months. Thanks to the collaboration with partners such as Mediawijs, the National Bank and imec, new digital EDUboxes around financial education, social media and smart mobility can be developed and reach a wider audience.

First, there will be a digital version of EDUbox for individual learning pathways, in the form of interactive videos, so that young people can go through an EDUbox at home or in the classroom at their own pace. In addition, the project team also intends to integrate EDUbox within existing learning platforms in the near future and explore additional interactive functionalities that could further enrich the format. In order to be able to take these next steps in a targeted manner, close collaboration with the end user is necessary. That is why the digital learning platform FTRPRF and GO! education of the Flemish Community, within VRT Sandbox, are exploring a digitally integrated EDUbox to test these with teachers and pupils.

"The combination of testing, practical roll-out and the fantastic material of EDUbox is already a successful approach for FTRPRF," says Jonathan Joos, product owner at FTRPRF. At the same time, it also felt like a shared mission for Mark Willems, pedagogical employee at GO! education of the Flemish Community: "A case such as that of EDUbox illustrates a clear focal point for EduTech and digital learning materials. Today, schools are often forced to choose a combination of different platforms because these exclusively provide access to certain digital learning resources. However, they want to be able to work on a single platform in order to reduce the burden of digital planning, improve collaboration, follow up and coach pupils better and so much more".

A case such as that of EDUbox illustrates a clear point of reference for EduTech and digital learning resources.

Mark Willems, pedagogical staff member - ICT & innovation GO!

Illustration EDUbox themes

Innovating together, learning together

Also in the longer term, the project team has some ambitions to make EDUbox scalable and usable for multiple learning platforms and teachers, both in education as in a professional context. With the start of the imec.icon innovation project STEAMS, supported by VLAIO, the VRT is working with itec, Augment, FTPRF, Hudson and Uitgeverij Averbode to further develop the format of EDUbox around collaborative learning. Collaborative learning is a much needed competence today, but difficult to learn and evaluate. "Pupils and students sometimes fail to see the benefit of collaborative learning, and teamwork in a business context does not always guarantee success," shares Annelies Raes, senior researcher at itec. "This is often because group learning is not used in the right way and because insufficient support is provided. You have to learn to work together. STEAMS wants to develop the tools to support both learners and coaches and to make group work a success". 

The aim of the STEAMS project is to capture, analyse and promote group dynamics both physically and digitally. To this end, a new visual language and narrative techniques will be developed, of which the learning effectiveness which will be measured. Experiments will also be conducted with a virtual moderator that can facilitate the experience of EDUbox between individual, group and classroom learning. For example, in the future online lessons could be assisted by a virtual moderator or tools that facilitate the learning experience.

You have to learn to work together. STEAMS wants to develop the tools to support both learners and coaches, and to make group work a success.

Annelies Raes, senior researcher Itec

Wondering how we innovate by collaborating with startups? Then visit sandbox.vrt.be

Illustrations by Anne Manteleers

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