The future of learning
Customised continuing education for professionals

Ulm University

At the very latest since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the standard for corporate learning has evolved to no longer involve multiple days of in-person professional training seminars. E-learning is becoming increasingly important, as are mobile learning and professional training seminars on the go. But not all companies are prepared for digital learning. This is where the LI2Mo project, funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with around 3.3 million euros, comes in. This project involves companies who want to optimise their existing learning platforms and personalise their professional training programmes with the help of artificial intelligence. Scientific support for the project is provided by researchers from Ulm University and the coordinating research institute FIR e.V. at RWTH Aachen University.

Continuous development and the implementation of new knowledge are essential in most careers, affecting everyone from employees in the field to project managers to technicians on the production line. For this reason, employers should encourage active, individual learning and enable staff to independently pursue professional training. Here is where the project LI2Mo comes in: “The acronym for ‘Learning journey. Individual. Informal. Mobile.’ not only portrays the idea of being able to learn independently of time and place, but also challenges employees to view their daily work as a learning opportunity”, explains Professor Tina Seufert, head of the Department of Learning and Instruction at Ulm University. The technical base of the project is the widely used open source platform ILIAS.

Customised offers for learners

Eight companies and two research institutes are behind LI2Mo, including some small and medium-sized enterprises as well as such notable names as Murrelektronik and TÜV NORD GROUP. The project partners had all already been working with the online platform ILIAS, but want to be able to use it more innovatively and in a way that is more conducive to learning. Possible uses include individually tailored offers that adapt to learner needs and requirements using artificial intelligence and optimising learning environments for mobile devices to make professional training that is already independent of time and place even more convenient for learners.

As part of the three-year project LI2Mo, the participating industrial companies and service providers will receive support with making such platform changes by developers who are also part of the consortium. Scientific support will be provided by the learning and instruction researchers from Ulm, whose focus is on fostering “self-learning competence” and learning motivation. The scientists will identify specific learner characteristics in order to be able to create customised offers for them. The Aachen Research Institute FIR e.V. is contributing expertise in the area of organisational research. For instance, these scientists are developing a “mobile learning navigator” to foster learning. Potential users are then able to try out the optimised solutions immediately.

“The LI2Mo projects focuses on three starting points in terms of content – first, of course, the learners themselves. However, these staff members should be supported and challenged by the organisation as well. In particular, it is important that the managers stand behind the professional and personal development of their team. And, finally, the technology in the company needs to be brought to a level at which it can meet the demands of the future”, sums up Tina Seufert, psychology professor in Ulm.

Artificial intelligence in professional training

In this context, the purpose of using artificial intelligence is to make learning recommendations more personal and customised. It would be possible, for instance, to add an intelligent tutor system to a learning platform. Based on the activities of earlier users, individual assistance could be given – ranging from strategies for completing tasks to tailored instructions on using individual learning formats. Through the mobile access to learning material, employees would receive guidance on when and where the knowledge is needed.

The overall goal of the LI2Mo project is to provide employees with customised professional training programmes that can be used flexibly and on the go. The foundation is an optimisation of the open source platform ILIAS. Ultimately, the consortium plans to make its results available for use and further development by others.

LI2Mo project partners
The LI2Mo project is being funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) and supervised by the Federal Institute for Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung – BIBB).

Participating scientific partners are the FIR e.V. Institute at RWTH Aachen University and the Department of Learning and Instruction at Ulm University, which is receiving research money in the amount of just under 500,000 euros. Development partners are: Databay AG, leifos GmbH and Peers Solutions GmbH. Application partners are: TÜV NORD AG, Deutsche MTM-Gesellschaft mbH, Murrelektronik GmbH, Mauser + Co. GmbH and EICe Aachen GmbH.

Learning professional
The goal of the new project is to provide innovative learning opportunities for working professionals (Photo/collage: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)
Prof. Tina Seufert
Psychology Professor Tina Seufert heads the Department of Learning and Instruction at Ulm University (Photo: Eberhardt/Uni Ulm)