Sensavis, the Swedish 3D content company, is experiencing more success at reaching educational customers with their 3D educational science content, the 3D Classroom, than many other content producers I know. They are one of the only companies successfully selling to colleges, universities, and even entire school districts. I wanted to know why, so I spent time interviewing Mattias Boström, a past school principal and currently Director of Product Development for Sensavis, and Fredrik Olofsson, CEO and President of Sensavis with this goal in mind.
I discovered that Sensavis pursues a different strategy than most companies do. And the folds and creases of this strategy can be informative for any industry hoping to penetrate the stubborn education market. Here’s what I learned:
It’s all about the teacher. The centerline strategy of Sensavis appears to be their focus on meeting the needs of teachers, not just supporting the curriculum or providing content directly to students. It’s the teacher that matters to Sensavis. For example, “most companies add a lot of text and voiceover to their products, because they want to appeal directly to the student”, suggests Bostrom, who is also an experienced school principal. Sensavis content “leaves room for the teacher”, he explains. By the way, each heading below points right back up the page to this same priority. You will soon see what I mean.
It starts where the customer is at, not where the technology is at. Most of Sensavis’ educational customers don’t have the technical wherewithal to broadly implement stereoscopic 3D. But that hasn’t stopped them from making the sale. Schools and colleges are urged to invest in the rendered 3D content and make the move to the far superior stereo 3D content when they are ready. (The Sensavis content is provided in both rendered and stereo format, upon purchase.) While most content companies will push for a stereo-only format, Sensavis has learned to start from the position of the customer’s strength, not from the customer’s point of weakness. In this way, rendered 3D can support a variety of classroom formats: flipped, blended, online or face to face settings, without requiring the school to invest in additional hardware. A good example is the Tanglin Trust School in Singapore, which uses both rendered and stereo 3D in the classroom, as needed.
It’s all about rightsizing. Sensavis has successfully enabled its content to run on more minimal devices, such as the Microsoft Surface Pro and even ordinary teacher computers. They showed me their newest simulations running on a Surface Pro, requiring a minimum i5 processor, 8 gigs of RAM, while running Microsoft operating system 8 or X with a 64bit installation. Their 3D sims can be run in either rendered 3D or connected to a 3D projector or display to run in stereo 3D. Even the rendered 3D is lifelike, full HD, fully interactive content. “We wanted to be able to install our simulations on any teacher’s computer”, explains Mattias Boström. “Most people can’t do that”, he adds. He’s right.
It’s about user-created content. Olofsson explains it this way: “What really attracts teachers and schools is the video recording segment of the product, which enables students and teachers to create their own educational videos.” He explains: “Teachers can manipulate any process in the recording. We recognize the most important thing is that teachers don’t generally like to be told what and how to teach. Therefore we have added the capability for teachers to create their own simulations or walkthroughs.”
It’s about sharing. In the U.S., teachers are isolated, One of the innovative developments now under design by Sensavis is the creation of a private cloud-based solution that can house teacher- and student-created animations, shareable across schools, districts or states. This approach eliminates the need for each teacher, each school or each district to recreate the wheel with teacher-developed content? Why not store and share the best?
Holding the line on VR. We’ve all heard that 2016 is the year of “virtual reality.” So where does Sensavis sit in terms of the huge bandwagon that is VR? Olofsson responded: “We are not into show business. We have some viewable content, but are currently not moving in that direction.” He advises: “We are not sure if we want to do that in three months or farther down the road–in twelve or eighteen months. We’re a small company.” He adds: “What we are trying to do is listen to teachers. If we had 100 teachers asking us, ‘Where is the VR material?’, then we would definitely move there. We are constantly working with teachers. We do what most of our customers demand. We will go there if the customers come.” He reasoned that, for now, students can use Sensavis content to create their stereo content (not 360 or immersive VR content, however), viewable on the likes of Google Cardboard. “They can use our tool today.” Here’s an example of science content, viewable on Cardboard, and translated into Arabic (in Sweden) that is used for educating migrant youth.
As you can see from each of the above strategy nuances, as far as Sensavis is concerned, selling to the education market is all about the teacher—and doing things differently than the rest of the marketplace. –Len Scrogan