The Dutch transport company Van der Wal International wanted to develop a sustainable solution for their learning practices. With support from Delft University of Technology and ACHT Business Innovation, they developed a learning strategy using microtraining as a central learning concept. The truck drivers now use online learning to acquire competencies using the Digital Tachograph, which is a mandatory tool for trucks within the EU since 2006. Peter de Vries from Delft University will present the learning concept at OEB.
The Digital Tachograph was inaugurated in April 2007 by European law to effectively monitor periods of driving and rest of lorry drivers all over Europe. All monitored data has to be downloaded, archived and saved accordingly. The technical innovation as well as the legal requirements associated with the tachograph created an immense need for training at transport companies across Europe. Van der Wal International, a Dutch family business with over 450 employees across Europe, embarked on online learning to train management and staff how to deal with the new tool.
The main goal of the transport company was to develop a sustainable solution for their learning practices. The solution should allow the company to improve and augment the learning capacity while enabling it to manage the process.
With support from Delft University of Technology and ACHT Business Innovation, they developed a learning strategy using microtraining as a central learning concept. “Microtraining is a concept that supports informal learning practices”, explains Pieter de Vries, one of the developers. “Informal learning in the vicinity of the workplace is in general more relevant for job performance than anything else. Our concept of microtraining helps to structure individual self-learning actions and materials, e-learning and other learning activities, while focussing on what is learned and needed in the workplace.”
The analysis clarified that learning in a transport company is largely an informal, multi-dimensional event that consists of information exchange, mutual communication, learning processes and performance improvement. Therefore, the strategy that was developed focussed on three elements: information exchange, learning and performance.
The microtraining arrangement for Van der Wal comprises a time span of 15–20 minutes for each learning occasion, which can activate and maintain learning processes for longer periods if they are bundled up in series, face-to-face, online or in an e-learning situation. Each session starts actively, followed by a demonstration or exercise, feedback or short discussion and ends with directions for further development and a brief preview of the next sessions.
“Now, if you have lorry drivers as a target group, you have to cope with their mobility in one way or another,” explains de Vries. “That requires more online information and online, mobile modules. Generally, we opted for a mix of information, sessions and online courses.”
In general, the programme is a mix of delivering information and group training sessions, depending on the needs and possibilities. “So far, the learners at Van der Wal are very happy with the ‘online newsletter’,” de Vries continues. “It is used as a main communication channel for timely and urgent messages and additional ‘learning modules’ like for the Digital Tachograph. So it is not just a learning programme, but an integrated information, learning and performance concept to serve the lorry driver close to his place of work.”
And the concept has evolved. Having initially started with training for the digital tachograph, it has meanwhile been expanded by one manager who developed an online instruction for the peculiarities of transporting tractors. “This was something we clearly wanted to achieve,” says de Vries. “We trained the management on how to use the microtraining method for developing urgent learning modules. The idea and content were produced by the manager in collaboration with his drivers and we helped to put it online.”
A third module developed deals with “cost calculation”. A major issue at this moment is the integration of the “handbook for drivers” in the “online newsletter site” as the main reference guide which connects to news and other information through the use of “tags”.