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Digital support is what counts

Learning is becoming part of everyday working life

11/2017 – Whether it's new technology, procedures or collaboration methods, people of today cannot do without continuous learning. digital spirit provides an overview of the various methods and innovative learning approaches, their advantages, but also the challenges involved.

Looking at developer teams today, it’s increasingly common to see two programmers sitting in front of one monitor: one writes, while the other watches. No, there isn’t a lack of work space, rather they’re programming together “as a pair”: while one developer keys in the program code to realise an idea, the other “inspects” the entries, while also thinking about the problem – and upon noticing issues, can address these immediately. Pair programming leads to fewer code errors and promotes greater working discipline. At the same time, each partner can learn from each other’s experience and directly apply this knowledge. This type of collaboration requires a certain degree of trust and so prior teambuilding is required. At DB Systel, this method and other agile methods have long been in use for developing better software.

However, not only is concrete collaboration in front of one monitor new. In recent years, new forms of conferences have emerged – particularly due to pressure of the changing working environment. For internal knowledge transfer meetings, for example, DB Systel is increasingly using a format called “Barcamp“, which is based on Open Space methodology. With this approach, an agenda is not created until the start of the event, whereby participants propose their presentation or exchange topics to a plenary, and then take a vote on which are the mosting interesting for discussion. Once the plan – which usually comprises hourly sessions – has been defined, participants share information during the course of the day in a relaxed atmosphere, the informal nature of which normally suppresses any hierarchical boundaries. This method delivers an extensive overview of many topics, whereby the voting approach guarantees an in-depth discussion of certain topics.

Redefining learning

These two examples show that new methods of learning or knowledge transfer have long since made their way into everyday work at DB Systel. Furthermore, Deutsche Bahn is also breaking new ground in supporting digital content. In Group-wide collaboration between DB Training, DB Cargo and DB Systel, the internationally deployable ELMS (European Learning Management System) learning platform was launched in the summer of this year and will be rolled out fully in 2018. Various learning technology is made available and used on this platform, including simulations in 2D and 3D, e-learning modules, videos and educational films. What the new system particularly supports is cooperative teaching and learning methods, whereby learners exchange information online. They meet in virtual classrooms or discuss in forums. A wiki allows them to deepen their knowledge and present learning results. Even the tests and certifications for the lessons are conducted online.

New professional development methods

With the ICE 4 – Deutsche Bahn’s new long-distance train – a new form of professional development, co-developed by DB Systel, is also gaining a foothold throughout Deutsche Bahn. For training train drivers as well as on-board service employees, EVE (Engaging Virtual Education) is deployed – a simulation of a train with its functions in a virtual environment. With EVE, users equipped with 3D glasses can step into this virtual learning environment, which records their natural movements and gestures. Real functions are available, whereby learning can be intensified considerably – especially for training topics such as train fires and other scenarios that cannot be taught on real trains and driving simulators. However, this learning content can be experienced not only in a virtual environment. With conventional tablets, train drivers alway have learning content at hand in compact form.

Still in development are “mixed reality” applications, for example, which can project information about an object in need of repair (such as a switch point or control box) directly into a maintenance technician’s field of vision as an overlay. At Deutsche Bahn, this technology is being tested for educational purposes.

Video: © DB Systel GmbH

Virtual Reality becomes more and more a part of professional development, as seen in this example of maintenance and cleaning the suburban train. A gamification approach arouse ambition and fun.

Communities are becoming commonplace in everyday work

An informal meeting known as an “Agile Round Table” (ART) gives all practitioners and interested parties in the DB Group the opportunity to discuss agility and share experiences. The ART is just one example of the growing number of communities delivering valuable impulses for working. Another example is the IT Support Community provided by DB Systel. In this forum supported by the IT Helpdesk, users themselves can ask questions and help each other. Here they can find answers to their questions, for example, concerning Office 365, the new office communication system to be introduced Group wide, which also changes the type of collaboration.

With the introduction of Deutsche Bahn’s new social intranet, “DB Planet”, a platform has also been created for a range of self-organised communities for many topics of employees’ everyday work: from IT in rail vehicles, future rader, through to current trend topics, multicopters at DB or even an exchange of influencers for the “Future of rail operations” programme, to name just a few.

Another form of learning that is starting to establish itself at DB Systel is “working out loud“. Conceived by former Deutsche Bank employee John Stepper, this method for developing an attitude that is open and more productive for social working networks relies on small learning groups. During a 12-week programme, participants “gradually develop an open, generous and interlinked attitude towards working and life. This approach makes everyday life more fun and helps you discover new, unexpected possibilities”, says John Stepper.

Challenges for managers

With these diverse new learning methods, it’s becoming more and more difficult for managers to “keep pace” and keep track of their own employees’ level of knowledge. Tools such as a Learning Management System naturally help, but the challenges have become greater, even in the personal sphere. Self-organisation, agile methods and new forms of management are giving managers new day-to-day challenges. To face these challenges among other things, DB Systel has – besides recruiting external coaches – started a programme for mediating internal coaches. Besides managers, all other DB Systel employees who would like business coaching as well as coaching tailored to their personal needs can take up this offer. Through self-organisation, conflicts previously reserved for managers are occurring more and more with other roles. To help with this, a “coach pool” is formed by other DB Systel employees who are certified through relevant training. Members of this coach pool see themselves as companions and facilitators who can offer a change of perspective and support during the transition.

Still no end in sight

In all areas of professional development and assistance systems, a radical change is currently taking place. Innovation labs – such as DB mindbox, DB Systel’s Skydeck and the accelerator programme it organises for idea providers at DB, so-called intrapreneurs – are continuously producing new product ideas also in the area of professional development and learning.

What’s certain is that our everyday work of the future will be dictated by continuous learning, to allow us to keep pace with the rapid developments. New methods are changing learning itself, generating additional motivation through interesting concepts, thereby pushing mundane memorisation of content more and more into the background.