Learning at Your Own Pace

Anne Müller is a clerk at 1 of the 16 general, local health insurance funds (abbreviated to AOK in German) in Germany. She has signed up for courses on the effects of health insurance reform on her daily work. To attend the course, complete its assignments, and to exchange experience and ideas with others in the class, she doesn’t even need to leave her desk. Anne Müller is one of 4,000 users of a countrywide e-learning portal, the AOK Training Portal.

“The need for qualifications among the approximately 69,000 AOK employees spread throughout Germany is very great,” says Timo Tesch, the project director of the federal AOK association. Ever since the health insurance market was deregulated, AOK has had to hold its own in the midst of increased competition.

And to complicate things even more, AOK employees have to explain the effects of political decisions to their customers. “They have to focus on customers, be familiar with the current legal situation, and absorb information quickly. Traditional, face-to-face classes have long been inadequate,” says Tesch. That stringent environment gave rise to the idea of qualifying AOK employees using the AOK Training Portal.

Germany’s largest health insurance fund works with a training portal that is based on the SAP NetWeaver technology platform and SAP Learning Solution. AOK Systems, a systems and software company for the health insurance industry, designed and implemented the training portal of the federal AOK association. The AOK Training Portal is the foundation of all e-learning scenarios within AOK.

Employees of all local AOKs can take training continuously and individually over the AOK Training Portal. Web-based training (WBT) makes it all possible. Each WBT course covers a special topic. Trainers prepare the material electronically, and students complete it step-by-step. Those responsible for training employees can direct and manage all learning and training offerings in a targeted manner.

Quick implementation

AOK Systems developed and operates oscare, an industry solution that is based on SAP software and that focuses on the complex requirements of statutory health insurance. That makes SAP the preferred partner when considering procurement of new applications. “Based on the development partnership with SAP, it was clear that we would also use SAP software when implementing the AOK Training Portal,” says Uwe Schwartz, the technical project manager at AOK Systems who is responsible for the AOK Training Portal.

AOK Systems first worked with the federal AOK association to conduct a feasibility study and develop a prototype. After a successful evaluation and a four-month pilot project with those responsible for training, the federal association approved the start of the project. The AOK Training Portal uses the SAP NetWeaver Portal component as the foundation of its user interface and communication platform. SAP Learning Solution is integrated with this foundation. “Implementation and later upgrades ran quickly and without any problems,” says Schwartz. Employees of the federal association, AOK Systems, and SAP handled the implementation.

Individual pace of learning

Anne Müller benefits directly from this collaborative project. Her work demands that she learns about the changes mandated by the healthcare reform in Germany as quickly as possible. She logs in to the AOK Training Portal and accesses her personal training area. She can initiate approved Web-based training, create documents, or contact other course participants. She can complete individual sections of the Web-based training at her own pace and continue until she has successfully completed the entire course.

The trainer answers any questions she might have and provides feedback on the assignments she completes. She can also participate in discussion forums with other students. Birgit Siepen, an expert project manager at AOK Systems, sees tremendous advantages in this type of learning. “Everyone learns differently. The AOK Training Portal enables employees to define their own pace and rhythm of learning. That has a positive effect on the success of learning.”

Central learning content

The portal also simplifies work for leaders of training departments and the HR department at AOK. “Training material on certain topics needs to be created only once. It is centrally available throughout Germany, so we save time and money,” says Tesch, who managed the project for the federal association. The association can now use the portal to offer courses that could never run before because of the small number of students in individual funds.

The days of providing important information to all AOK employees from the tap of the intranet are now past. “We can provide learning content to specific users flexibly and in a timely manner,” says Tesch. The content management system of SAP NetWeaver Portal and SAP Learning Solution handle the management and maintenance of the content. Tutors can create documents and files in various formats, which simplifies integration into the work environment of students.

A successful solution

AOK Systems currently operates, develops, and hosts the AOK Training Portal. In 2008, SAP Learning Solution will be integrated in the oscare system landscape of each insurance fund. That means a merger of the AOK Training Portal and the employee portal. As is the case with any change, the first users were initially skeptical. Earning qualifications electronically sounds anonymous and full of boring efficiency. But that reaction changed quickly. “User feedback is thoroughly positive. They appreciate individual attention from the tutors, and they like being able to define their own learning goals. And interaction with colleges from other areas of Germany is also extensive,” reports Tesch.

Anne Müller’s experience with the AOK Training Portal was also positive. She completed her course successfully, including praise for her teacher.