We can sometimes complain about what is going wrong in Finland, but it is also a country where a lot of interesting and original things happen, and Arcusys’ story with the NASA is one of them.
According to the company’s official history, once upon a time, in 2003, four young men with a solid confidence in their abilities decided to establish a company. Their objective was to carry out projects responsibly from the beginning till the end. This is what the company name “Arcusys” stands for. The name comes from a Latin concept of arcus, an arc reflecting the long life cycle of a service and systems, reflecting the aim of building better systems.
The company had ups and downs, in particular in crisis times. They went from 1 office with 4 persons to now more than 110 persons in 3 countries. They are quite flexible people: when one line of products and services was in difficulty, they began something else, and were successful, more than the hundreds of IT companies dying in Finland in the 21st century.
One day, in order to face the needs of the client, they started developing a product of e-learning based on the platform that they used to do their projects. One of the Arcusys people, now a partner in the company, Jari Järvelä, had background in e-learning, and he thought that the platform that they utilized could be a great learning environment, by just adding learning features, such as specific standards, doing exams and quizzes, and all the basic functionality that you might find from learning platform such as the well-known Moodle.
They began to develop it. There was very fast a clear interest in the technology, people wanting it, so they produced it and supported it, from 2012-2013, making it a success story in Finland, in the public and private sectors. Arcusys made it better and better. But the Finnish market is small, so they thought: “What is the next level, going from that national league into the championships?”
In order to go to this famous next level, they thought that, in order to develop the best learning technology in the world, they had to be working with the best. And they set two R & D targets that year. One of them was to start working with NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in the U.S., because they thought that obviously, the folks that have been in the moon—they have the coolest stuff and engineering things, and they should be a good learning organization.
They didn’t have a clue at that time of how they would actually start that. They went to the Finnish government, but they were told that maybe it’s not realistic to start directly working with NASA. And of course, as they are Finnish and based in Joensuu, where the Finnish “sisu” flows freely, they took a plane ticket and finally got an appointment with the NASA. They went to their HQ and talked to their chief knowledge officer, presented their product, and NASA said something like: “you have the coolest stuff that we have seen for a while“. And there was another asset, the whole Finnish education, which seemed very fascinating for the NASA, they were curious to know how the Finns thought about the digitization of education and learning. So they started working with Arcusys!
The aim of the cooperation is to create a global learning environment for students of top universities, researchers from different branch of sciences, astronauts, as well as for the young interested in space science. The testing phase of the new learning environment has begun in autumn in the research and training programs, where the possibility of Mars habitation is being researched.
NASA uses Valamis, Arcusys Learning Experience Platform, in order to push students around the world (including some Finnish schools) to work virtually together and apply modern pedagogy to find solutions to sustainable human habitation of Mars. The multi-national teams share information regarding the problems and solutions and the information is continuously curated. In Valamis learners constantly learn informally and formally, and are being coached in a socially engaging environment. Furthermore, with the help of the technology built in Valamis following up and authenticating the learning processes of the learners is effortless.
So this research program lead by NASA has adopted the Finnish Valamis learning platform by Arcusys… A Finnish story of sisu and IT intelligence…