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Going Digital: Insights from the St. Gallen Learning Forum

Posted by Frank Ecker on Wed, Apr 24, 2019
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St. Gallen Forum on Digital Learning,
March 2019


At our second St. Gallen Forum on Digital Learning,  the extent to which digitization has affected training in companies became very clear.  The transition from classical desktop eLearning to web-based learning to mobile and multi-modal/platform learning has considerably disrupted the L&D space. 

Old LMS platforms are now competing with software applications and startup technologies that were developed for an entirely different purpose, bit which are proving to have tremendous application in the realm of learning. These technical advances bring with them a cultural shift in L&D, a transition from controlling  learners to making them more responsive and accountable  for their own continuous training.

At the second annual St Gallen Forum on Digital Learning, we had an opportunity to hear from a number of experts in the field about the disruptive nature of what it means to go digital.

Below is a summary of the key takeaways...

Learning on all Channels

Offers such as the Microsoft collaboration platform Teams, Slack, or the cloud-based Google Docs platform have what it takes to outpace the outmoded learning management systems. This is one of the ten trends presented by Dr. Jochen Robes,  observer and blogger in vocational IMG_1828training. Among other things, he brought forward the example of a “messenger campaign” from the Bavarian Broadcasting Corporation (Bayerischer Rundfunk), which on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the death of the first prime minister sent historical news through WhatsApp and Instagram every day for more than four months, demonstrating how learning content can easily be sent to a large community of interested followers in small and timely “bites” via social media channels. 

Beate Gubler from the Novartis Academy spoke about digital trends and learning best practices from her own experience. The Swiss pharmaceutical company offers its employees access to an extensive cadre of courses from LinkedIn Learning and Coursera. Granting free access to numerous courses is only the first step however, it does not guarantee increased usage. But when an effective campaign of managerial support, course curation and skillfully designed learning pathways are implemented the likelihood of a rise in user engagement increases dramatically.

Using Novartis’ "Digital Learning Hub" as an example, Ms. Gubler underscored the importance of two very simple concepts: 1) providing employees with a clear indication of their course/curriculum learning progress, and 2) adding small awards or badges to mark progress as they strive to earn the title of "Digital Champion". These act as small but effective incentives that increase the likelihood of course completion.


Individual initiative, the block chain and self-produced content

Voluntary learning is also on the upswing at Allianz. Dr. Diana Seibold led the development of the digital "Time Warp" training course, a course that emphasizes the importance of going digital and what that means for managers and their employees in the changing world of insurance. IMG_1871Because the training has a total length of around 90 minutes, it is broken down into five more consumable standalone modules that can be take separately or all at once. The success that Allianz has had with this learning program is remarkable: To date, "Time Warp" has won three awards, been translated into several languages and has been completed by more than 10,000 employees.

Oliver Durrer, founder of SwissLeap, used ODEM, a digital marketplace for the exchange of learning content, to show how block-chain technology can be used to foster an environment of trust with respect to the quality of offers in a market that is difficult to control. Patrick Veenhoff, who describes himself as an eLearning "disrupter", reported that learning content produced by individual contributors themselves and distributed across companies via social networks is very popular even without a blockchain.

Even when it comes to distributing very customized content produced for a specific company, more and more training managers are relying on individual initiative and a sense of personal responsibility from their employees for the oversight and management of their own training.  André Karbowski of pay-TV provider Sky discussed how, within just a few weeks, 3,000 salespeople had been able to get valuable updates on the new "Sky Q" package offer on their mobile devices – leveraging small microlearning modules that were timely, to the point and which assisted the salesforce at the moment of need. The employees accessed what the needed when they needed it and were able to deliver on time and on message information to their clients.


Digitization covers logistics and universities

For Alexander Barmscheidt of nox Nachtexpress, quality is paramount.  In a breakout workshop at the learning forum, he gave a first-hand account of how the logistics company succeeds in training new drivers with engaging learning videos, and the use of a mobile app available offline. Nox focuses on using simple and direct training language, something relatable and relevant. They also provide training to their drivers not only German and English, but also Romanian.

Even renowned education providers such as the University of St. Gallen are not immune to digitization. This is a trend that the university itself is now actively exploring and implementing as part of its continuing education programs. Prof. Bruno Mascello showed how tailor-made digital learning formats supplement existing classroom training and how mobile learning and post-learning reinforcement apps are becoming increasingly more important in this fast-paced and competitive world.


We were very honoured to have such great speakers at this event and very much look forward to continuing the discussion at our next Learning Forum at the University of St. Gallen's vocational education center, scheduled for April 25, 2020. 


Topics: Digitalization, Digital Learning, st Gallen learning forum, going digital, elearning trends

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