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The future of learning in a digital world – design & implementation approaches for the insurance industry

All-change, with face-to-face off the table

2020 has been a seminal year for Learning & Development (L&D) around the world. Covid-19 has taken face-to-face learning off the table and, as a result, digital courses are flourishing. Furthermore, there is widespread acceptance that these new approaches will have a permanent place in the solution set for both formal education programmes and, perhaps even more so, in business L&D programmes going forward.

TDI Academy – designing virtual blended solutions

At The Digital Insurer (TDI) we made a decision in the middle of 2019 to create the world’s first “mini-MBA” in digital insurance within a newly formed offering of TDI called TDI Academy. As a fully-fledged digital business with Digital in our DNA, we naturally decided to explore delivery on a Digital First basis. What we mean by ‘Digital First’ is that the default standard operating model is remote and digital, but that a human element is still incorporated into the design given the importance of engagement and collaboration to deliver the best outcomes for our customers.

Without doubt TDI has benefited from the changed environment that is further accelerating the need for digital transformation and the need for courses like ours to help introduce a digital culture as well as reskilling in our area of expertise around digital insurance.

Having listened to many business leaders and L&D professionals we also included in our design thinking the need to provide for the “vital many” to ensure scalability and affordability. More about that later

Figure 1 below outlines the design principles we established for TDI Academy and which have evolved over the last 12 months. These were established following input from many of our members around the world, alongside research on the latest trends in L&D.

Figure 1 Design principles for TDI Academy programmes on digital insurance

I’d like to share our thinking on some of the design principles above and will focus on the ones highlighted in salmon pink and move from right to left (and from top to bottom)

Up-to-Date – the topic of digital insurance combines the technical insurance world and the fast moving world of technology. For us this means a commitment to a quality curriculum and excellent lessons that are relevant to the industry. We designed lesson outlines that were developed and delivered by Industry Experts around the world who bring in the latest thinking on their lesson. The lessons are all systematically reviewed and updated to ensure they remain relevant and TDI Academy alumni will have continued access.

Collaborative – a comprehensive programme is beyond the capabilities of any one team or organisation.  At TDI we received practical and financial support from our Corporate Members, primarily insurers, who backed the development and launch of the Programmes. We also benefit from our broad community of interest of 40,000+ members who provide many options for selecting a diverse range of Industry Experts. This, combined with our large knowledgebase on digital insurance, that is constantly refreshed, has provided us with the basis for ensuring design and delivery of high-quality, relevant programmes for all delivered in a truly inclusive and collaborative manner

Focused – our content is geared to the needs of the “Modern Learner” and we have confirmed that video delivery of content is super effective as is plays to both visual and auditory senses. By “Micro-chunking” each lesson into 4-6 short videos it makes it possible for participants to consume the lessons on the go, on an ‘any time / anywhere’ basis. We also backup each lesson with more detailed presentation decks and further references to allow participants to take their learning beyond the curriculum where there is interest.

O2O (online to offline) – digital doesn’t have to mean digital-only and there is overwhelming evidence that the human touch makes a huge difference to the learning experience, in line with the Digital First model noted above. In our case, for our “mini-MBA” programme we introduced weekly discussion groups that can be conducted virtually over a webinar / online meeting platform. In addition, business-oriented and practical assignments ensure consolidation of knowledge and application to relevant use cases. The immediate application of knowledge to real work situations addresses the practical need of incorporating learning into the flow of work and increases ROI on the programme.

Integrated – lastly, we have integrated our TDI knowledge portal into the TDI Academy programme structure. This gives an initial entry point based around knowledge consumption and provides an “escalator” allowing people to take more formal programmes in the TDI Academy on digital insurance when required. This integrated approach also means we can grant programme alumni ongoing access to the programmes as a modest cost – essentially providing an environment for life-long learning and community connectivity that can help digital insurance professionals as their careers advance, as well of course as providing ongoing benefits to their sponsoring firms.

If you would like more information on our design approaches, then this webinar recording on blended learning in a digital world, that we recorded with LIMRA / LOMA, will be of interest.

What have we learnt so far?

12-months in, and with the experience of two cohorts and an aggregate ADI Programme NPS of + 53% (excellent), we are increasingly confident that we have created something of both practical relevance and global application for the insurance industry. And, most importantly for TDI, something which is very much in line with our purpose of ‘working together to accelerate the digital transformation of insurance’.

We have been very careful to ensure we get detailed feedback from all participants on each and every lesson. This provides us data to improve the programmes and also feedback to sponsoring companies.

Some of our key insights so far are:

  1. The collection of detailed feedback allows more mature judgements to be made on how programmes are progressing and also provides the detail needed for meaningful lesson improvement.
  2. Use of Industry Experts to create and present content using video really works and our virtual model allows us to bring in talent from around the world.
  3. Micro-chunking the delivery provides ease of learning and is very popular.
  4. There is a variability of learning styles and preferences from participants so allowing as much flexibility as possible is important. We have introduced a faster, online-only version (CDI) to meet the needs of those that cannot commit to a longer programme such as ADI (with scheduled discussion groups and course assignments) and prefer a self-paced solution.
  5. There is an art to lesson design in order to produce something that is compelling, globally relevant and, can also be maintained and upgraded quickly as the external environment changes (this is a critical factor for us as technology is driving change and new use cases are emerging all the time).
  6. Having a dedicated core team of professionals to design and develop the curriculum and engage with Industry Experts is a key success factor. In our case there is a team of 6 including a Programme Director, Curriculum & Exam Director, Technical Production Director, Programme Admin, Video Production specialist and L&D platform specialist.xz

What does the future hold?

When Covid-19 finally goes into the rear view there will naturally be some reversion to face-to-face learning for some subject areas – but already it is clear that digital learning is being taken to the next level and is vastly superior than the old ways for many subject areas and especially for fast-moving business-based learning & development areas such a digital.

This recent quote from a McKinsey interview with Greg Heidrich, Executive Director at the Society of Actuaries (SOA), shows how the established institutions are moving to adopt the new reality:

“At the SOA, we are accelerating our own transformation. We had already planned to make more of our educational programs and examinations digital and to make our credentialing system more modular. Now we are fast-tracking our shift to offering more micro-credentials, more certificates, more digital badging, and more virtual or digital learning opportunities. For example, this year we’re converting all our learning opportunities from in-person to virtual. That means new delivery methods, new event designs, new pricing models, new attendee engagement methods—new everything. We’ve since learned that these events attract attendees never drawn before because our programming is now more convenient and less expensive. Employers and members seem to appreciate it. We’ll return to in-person learning and professional development when we can, but virtual programming is now a permanent part of what we offer.

At TDI we are committed to extending the range of L&D options available for those that are interested in how digital technologies can improve insurance for consumers. Figure 2 below illustrates the Learning Pyramid of programmes we have created.

Figure 2 TDI Knowledge Pyramid for digital insurance L&D

For us, the key to successful learning is to have an entry level founded on a robust, dynamic knowledge platform. This creates the material and community upon which all other programmes are built, and it provides the entry level from which participants, managers and HR professionals can decide how to deliver the right learning at the right time and at the right cost. At TDI this foundational level has been built-up over the last 8 years.

As we go forward our plans for innovating TDI Academy are in 5 key areas:

  1. Taking cost off the table: compelling offerings to Insurers to allow them to access the platform and make digital insurance L&D available to all at a fixed annual membership fee. There can be no excuses on affordability or access to the entry level platform of TDI J – we are focused on providing leadership teams with the tools to accelerate creation of a digital culture and address skills gaps at a modest cost
  2. Global scale: we are forming partnerships with other learning institutes and relevant bodies to make our programmes as widely available and relevant as possible. This includes extending our platform at no cost to those organisations who are working to bring increased diversity and inclusiveness into the insurance industry. We expect to extend language choices in 2021 making available professional translation of lesson transcripts and embedding captions into videos
  3. Maintain, refresh & improve: continued focus on the core curriculum to maintain, refresh and improve the quality of what we do – we have an embedded process to ensure this happens systematically. This backbone investment ensures our core programmes maintain relevancy and high standards over time
  4. Specialist programmes: we are exploring extending our ADI programme into a range of specialist courses of relevance to the insurance industry, under a new programme called FDI [Fellow Digital Insurer]. We will be using an open platform approach and will be partnering with people and companies around the world
  5. Learning credits: we will be introducing a member-wide learning credit system that allows members to track their engagement with content. We will also be providing rewards and incentives for those that engage more over time – thereby creating a virtuous circle that increases the number of active learners and reduces the costs of learning further

We look forward to your feedback, ideas and further questions. In addition, if you are interested in being a business partner or finding out more about the TDI Academy please do also connect. You can contact me directly at hugh.terry@the-digital-insurer.com .

Contact us for further information

Hugh Terry is CEO of The Digital Insurer (TDI), which is the world’s largest knowledge and community platform on digital insurance. TDI’s purpose is “working together to accelerate the digital transformation of the insurance industry”. More information on the TDI Academy can be found here.

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