What seemed far-fetched earlier is reality today. All thanks to technology, as it has made it all possible. As the world is changing to embrace the tech future, the way one teaches and learns also needs to be redefined. Taking this into consideration, many education leaders have stepped up to create a future that supports every learner. One such leader who is shaping the future of education is Sahra-Josephine Hjorth.
An Accidental Entrepreneur
CanopyLAB’s CEO, Sahra-Josephine Hjorth, defines herself as an “accidental entrepreneur” because she never dreamt of starting her own company until she realized the need in the Ed-Tech market for a social, intelligent, and adaptive learning platform. The idea was shaped during the early days of her Ph.D. Fellowship at Aalborg University, where she turned to her husband Christian Skræm Juul Jensen to discuss her research results. Soon after they first connected over her empirical research, the couple launched and experimented with teaching through a Youtube channel, which served as a place for Sahra-Josephine to reflect on her teaching experience, experiment with different modalities, and connect with global learners. During this time, she coined Virtual Immersion Program, and with it developed a new methodology for learning online. She later came up with the Learn.Act.Build (LAB) approach to online learning and launched CanopyLAB in 2015 and CanopyLAB’s first platform – the LAB.
The LAB is a free social learning platform where youth Learn.Act.Build by engaging in online courses created by 120+ NGOs, foundations, and museums. The classes are about controversial topics such as sex, gender and identity, bullying, and the SDGs.
Providing Personalized Learning Experiences
CanopyLAB has evolved into a digital universe that uses Artificial Intelligence to provide personalized learning experiences. Today CanopyLAB also sells Learning software B2B with hundreds of clients worldwide and employs 50+ staff in Vietnam, Denmark, Colombia, Peru, and the US. The remarkable growth CanopyLAB has experienced rooted in the same principle that drives Sahra-Josephine Hjorth: Using technology to make the world a better place, focusing on the use of artificial intelligence and automation. And what better way to do that than through education?
A Self-Building Course
Sahra-Josephine also works for the prestigious Singularity University in Silicon Valley, where she got most of the ideas for what she called the “self-building course” back in 2018 and deployed it in 2019. “The self-building course was the idea that we can automate the course authoring process, simply by allowing teachers to place learning materials like text books, videos and powerpoint presentations in the cloud. Our AI authoring tool then creates most of the course for you in just minutes. It is the first-ever of its kind and has consistently gotten more refined since we released it in October 2019”, expresses Sahra- Josephine. Her invention became the first AI authoring too in digital learning.
When Not at Work
During her spare time, Sahra-Josephine Hjorth is a ballet fanatic and holds a seasons pass that she uses with her son Elliott aged 5. She uses the aesthetics from the ballet combined with the modernity futuristic feel of South Korean K-dramas and Sci-Fi books to shape her thinking on the future of design, artificial intelligence and learning. She recently watched the dance show “Centaur” where the dancers were guided by Artificial Intelligence and enjoys being at the forefront of automation, culture, and learning.
In 2018 Sahra-Josephine won Rising Star of the 2018 Women in Tech Awards (WIT), in 2019 CanopyLAB won an SDG Award, and the company has since earned recognitions by Elearning Industry and Holon IQ, consistently ranking Top 20 in User Experience and Customer Experience and appearing on the Top 50 Nordic-Baltic edtech list.
Redefining Digital Learning Spaces
Furthermore, true to its mission to democratize education, CanopyLAB has reached more than 100.000 teachers worldwide with the platforms TeacherLAB and DocenteLAB, which offer free courses about digital literacy, AI, the future of education, and more.
Iit takes a village to build something from scratch and take it to the next level, and CanopyLAB is no exception. Sahra-Josephine recognizes the importance of having a well-rounded team. In this sense, and inspired by the book Radical Candor by Kim Scott, she has built a diverse team in offices around the world in Denmark, Vietnam, the USA, Peru, and Colombia. CanopyLAB may have started with only two people and three interns in Copenhagen, but today it is a well-oiled international machine that is redefining digital learning spaces and bringing the future of education to the tip of your fingers.
Bringing Futuristic Fiction to Reality
Moreover, inspired by different people throughout her life, such as Ray Kurtzweil from Singularity, Sahra-Josephine is unafraid to push boundaries. Thus, she looks at the future of education with the eyes of a Sci-Fi reader who brings futuristic fiction to reality by striving for a learning system rooted in a Nordic approach, which is social, collaborative, and automated. Furthermore, she and her team are striving for increased automation, encouraging schools and universities to think more holistically about the virtual campus, and promoting automated grading and feedback that can relieve teachers from mundane tasks so they can focus on preparing their students for the 21st century and the job market.
A Roadmap Ahead
As if building the Tesla of education wasn’t enough, CanopyLAB’s CEO expects to reach 10 million users by 2025 and have 22,000 courses available on The LAB by 2026. Furthermore, Sahra-Josephine is excited about having state-of-the-art AI features in CanopyLAB’s chatbots that will allow users to get feedback and engage in discussions with them. Additionally, they are working on enabling Siri in their software, and on many more integrations.
A Fearless Leader
But how has Sahra-Josephine become a fearless CEO and created a profitable brand that pushes boundaries? Her secret is simple. She has never doubted that she could accomplish this, and not once has she asked for permission to bring her ideas to the table and continue to lead an Ed-Tech company in her heels and fashion-forward outfits whether that’s pregnant, with her children in a stroller next to her, or giving speeches at conferences where most of the attendees are men. You see, Sahra-Josephine understands that no one can step into her role, and so she makes hard decisions every day to make sure she can continue to lead the Ed-Tech market and be home in time to draw and paint with her sons Elliot and Atlas and put them to bed. The road has not been easy for this trailblazer, and based on the past six years building CanopyLAB, her words of wisdom for aspiring female entrepreneurs are: “It is possible to have kids and run a company, but you have to make some tough choices to make it possible. You have to decide what you are willing to sacrifice and how you want to design your life so that you can make it happen”