Interview with Lena Beming, Director Learning Programs & Marketing Ericsson Academy at Ericsson
What does edtech mean to you?
Everything! It’s a way to scale and speed up, to reach every employee no matter the geography. It enables sharing competence with colleagues and connecting experts with the broader organization. Edtech also makes learning fun and makes us all experts.
Why do you think the edtech industry is so important?
As we have a very fast changing society and a fast changing industry, we need to ensure that employees constantly develop their competence by using new technology. Edtech facilitates this in a very good way, at point of need, wherever you are, you can always stay in touch with the latest and greatest findings and learnings. For me edtech is super important, to enable a company like Ericsson to always stay on top and be competitive.
How are you working with edtech at Ericsson today?
We have LMS for mandatory trainings, when we need to follow up that an employee has completed a training, or a learning path. We also have the Ericsson Academy Portal, where we showcase the best learning content per topic area. We know that the employees have little time, therefore they need help finding the most relevant content. Therefore we are experimenting with a learning experience platform using AI/Machine Learning, where we can automate the content flow per individual, to make sure that we can pull out the best content. Recommendations are based on job role of the employee, where in the world the employee is located as well as on personal interest.
Being a global company we also offer online classroom training. We need to offer live sessions, since we are not able to fly in people from all across the world. For these online trainings you can’t only rely on technology, you also need good trainers. It is challenging when people are sitting there in front of their laptops. You as a trainer need to be very good at asking the crowd questions that they can answer in a chat. You can also put up some polls or do breakup sessions where participants can discuss in smaller teams.
We also use edtech in making our learning content better, more interactive and more fun. We know that if you have fun when you learn, you’ll remember the content better. Games are for example great for this purpose. However, it takes a lot of time so we are trying to look into areas where we think professional games can be of good use. For example, to onboard our new techs, we have developed a game called “The Ericsson tech traveler game” where we are taking the employee from the start of Ericsson up until today. The game enable new employees to learn how to design a telephone network as well as learn about the Ericsson history, the products and where we are on our journey. This game has been very well received within our tech community.
What would you say are the biggest advantages of using edtech solutions?
First of all, you can reach a much bigger crowd. No matter where you sit in the world, you can enable competence development. This way anyone can access and take part of the competence development. Then of course you do it at point of need. Instead of having classroom trainings twice a year or once a month, you can do it much more frequently.
The drawback of online learning is that you need to be disciplined as an employee, to make sure that you do fit it in to your schedule. We are working a lot at Ericsson with creating a learning culture, making sure that employees understand the importance of competence development. It’s their competence, it’s their career and it’s their future. They need to make sure that they drive their own competence development. With help of their managers of course, but it’s their own responsibility to make it happen.
Do you have a lot of mandatory courses that the employees need to take?
We do make some sessions mandatory so that we can follow up. But then again that is just a small part of the full package. We do want employees to learn everyday through our online tools, whether it be a game their participating in, or if they are taking a classroom training, or if they are just learning from their colleagues. We have a lot of collaborations, where employees can learn from colleagues from all over the world. We have highly skilled employees at Ericsson, experts in their different fields and we are putting in a lot of effort into making sure that we spread that knowledge internally.
Are there any downsides?
I would say that there are no downsides. However, you need to be aware that just because you enable people to learn and have great tools and great content it’s not enough. If they do not feel the need for it, if they do not understand why it is important or if they have too many other pressing things, then they might not prioritize learning. You need to continuously sell it in, explaining why competence development is so important and the strategic areas to focus on. With edtech you can make this easy, which is a great thing.
I have also seen companies that are making things mandatory and simply following it up by numbers which can be very deceiving. Normally you need to follow up on competence development in other ways such as seeing proof from the business side. We try to find other ways than just looking at completions and satisfaction surveys. One example is to interview managers and stakeholders to see if people have developed and if they have seen any business results. Even if you have an e-learning and people have taken it, you can’t really know if they have learned anything from it. It is when you create engagement, in combination with the technology – that is when you can really get this going so you can start closing the gaps.
Which are the biggest corporate do´s and don’ts using edtech?
Again, if you combine edtech with creating engagement, making sure that the content you provide is good as well as recognize that it is not only the formal pieces, it’s creating that network of people learning from each other. If you can combine that, then I think you are in a good spot. Edtech in itself can’t solve everything but if you combine it, it’s a very strong component. You need to have a very good edtech strategy to make sure you leverage on all the good opportunities.
How do you think we will work with edtech in the future?
I think edtech is coming big time. I think we will see more of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning. I also believe we will see more on the mobile phones because it is more on demand. This means that you will see more videos because it is hard to see small details on a mobile phone. The best tools I have seen combines short videos with questions where you have to think and write down and where your colleagues can see your answers. Then you really take time to formulate and come up with some clever answers.
Virtual Reality is an interesting area. If you have a VR mask on and you can see other people in the virtual reality, this opens up a lot of new possibilities. You can be part of a classroom training and it feels much more real than if you are sitting in front of your computer via a normal Skype or Adobe connect meeting. This way you can see your colleagues when you are breaking out into the small classroom training, even though you are sitting in different parts of the world. If you have a coaching session you can have your coach sitting somewhere else. In the long run holograms would be great but that is a bit further in the future.
There are also trainings for our installation engineers where you can try to climb the antenna tower and you are forgetting to secure yourself, leading you to fall. That feels much more real than if you are taking an e-learning and you realize you forgot and fell. If you really see yourself falling through your glasses then that creates another feeling and you really realize how important it is to secure yourself. There are a lot of different technologies that I think will help us get a much better training experience.
Why are you coming to EdTech Sweden?
I absolutely want to be part of the latest and greatest. To meet people and to hear all the great speakers talking about the new things coming up and get their views on things – that is how I stay updated. I have looked at the program and it looks really interesting – I am looking very much forward to it!