EF is celebrating 25 years of teaching online this year, pioneering digital learning by delivering the first-ever online language lesson way back in 1996. The world of EdTech and EF innovation has moved on hugely since then, so we took the opportunity to talk about the evolution of digital learning with one of our long-term partners.
Orange is a global telecommunications company, with over 100,000 employees worldwide, of which 83,000 are based in France. Orange and EF have worked together for over 12 years to improve language and communication skills amongst their diverse workforce. We had the pleasure of speaking with Learning and Development Manager, Véronique Poli.
What do you remember about online learning at the beginning of the partnership between EF and Orange?
We’d had some experience with e-learning, but our experiments with EF were the very beginning of what we called “blended” or digital learning. For us, the voice recognition function was very impressive. Also, the concept that you could work independently on self-study content where and when you want, being able to organize your time as you want. You could also schedule your appointments with your trainer.
I remember in those days (2008) it was very difficult from an IT perspective to get new digital platforms whitelisted, we needed to travel to physically see a supplier’s technical departments and infrastructure.
What was the reaction to digital training amongst your Orange workforce in those early days?
At the beginning our employees were used to face to face training, so during the first year, it was very difficult to prove to them that you could make progress and that you can immerse yourself in that kind of virtual training. Our adoption rate was initially only 14%.
In addition, at that time some employees did not have internet access as standard at work or home – therefore we had to provide special places so that they can access properly and be in a comfortable atmosphere for training. So, it was a challenging time to implement this kind of training, however, after one or two years, adoption grew rapidly and it was a quick progression from there.
What do you think are the most important innovations in online learning?
I think the most important is that you can learn when you want and where you want, including on your mobile. For languages, I am still impressed by voice recognition, because you can see if your tone, your accent is OK. In the EF school for example, if you want to progress through the levels, you’ve got to get a certain level of success including the right accent and tone in certain exercises – you have to do them a few times to succeed.
We are seeing in many organizations that regarding training and development today, digital learning is what people think of first. Do you think the pandemic has affected people’s mindset about virtual training even further?
Speaking about our learning catalog, I think it was nearly 80% digital learning this year. We had a special offer from EF on self-study content. It was really appreciated by all employees, not only in France but also in the wider network of Orange countries.
I think our learners are all impressed with what we have, but not just in languages, we have tried to implement distance learning in many subjects to improve productivity and effectiveness. It is especially important in the flow of work, but a lot of people want to go back to the office, we are all fed up of working without interaction with our colleagues.
Post-pandemic, how do you see your learning portfolio evolving?
We will maintain at least one-third “distance learning” going forward. More and more employees have taken the opportunity to work on their own, and with this kind of virtual training. We’ve enabled more countries to get access to EF content, mainly in Africa, Eastern Europe, and more and more people are requesting it.
I was very pleased that EF gave us the opportunity to offer training to the Orange group worldwide to develop their English skills. Thanks to EF, it was really appreciated.