A New Approach

A typical program of The Analytics Academy (TAA) usually comprises four phases: a data capability assessment for the participants, various courses to increase data capabilities on an individual and organizational level, community-building events, and on-the-job coaching to bring the theory into practice with TAA’s in-house industry experts. While this is a proven approach for medium to large size groups that have the same learning trajectory and tempo, this approach is less suited for participants that need a more self-paced approach.

To address this challenge, The Analytics Academy introduced blended learning into its proposition. In the blended learning approach, eLearning modules are combined with traditional face-to-face sessions. In this way, the theory becomes entirely time and place agnostic, which is ideal for students that would like to go through the material at their own pace. The face-to-face sessions can subsequently bring interactivity into the curriculum by discussing questions and use-cases of the theory, empowering engagement and efficiency. In close collaboration with our pilot customer Kandoor, The Analytics Academy set up their first blended learning program.

The Company and the Curriculum

Kandoor is a fintech subsidiary of the AGP Pension Administration Organization, focused on providing financial support to potential customers and pensioners. This support is either given online by a chatbot or in-person by an employee with expert knowledge about the problem. Due to advanced customer-expert matching and chatbot algorithms, all employees must have a strong grasp of the content regarding programming, databases, and artificial intelligence. Together with Kandoor, TAA designed a curriculum that would enable a select group of employees to conduct data science projects themselves in their respective domains. The program consisted of four phases with an increasing degree of complexity: python programming and data preprocessing, exploratory data analysis and visualization, graph databases and streaming data, and probability, statistics, NLP, and text mining. All phases were executed with the blended learning approach.

The blended learning methodology consists of the following three elements: an online self-study curriculum, curation sessions for the most relevant courses, and face-to-face coaching sessions. The online courses are hosted at MOOC-vendors and teach the basic theoretical knowledge and hands-on skills in a certain subject. The translation of this theory to practice is subsequently done in two steps, both complemented with guidance from TAA experts. First, the participants acquire their first hands-on experience with homework assignments. Although this gravitates towards self-study, both the course material and the homework assignments are discussed during coaching sessions. Secondly, the participants apply the gained skills and knowledge on their use-cases through the development of several data-science proof-of-concept applications. Again, coaching sessions enable the participants to leverage the experience and knowledge of the experts of The Analytics Academy. The proof-of-concepts are not textbook examples, but cases that enable the participants to bring the acquired knowledge directly into practice.

Advantages of Blended Learning

The blended learning approach brings various benefits to the traditional way of education. First, it enables the participants to access the material anywhere and at any time, minimizing the impact on their day-to-day workflow. Difficult parts of the courses can easily be reviewed and repeated, ensuring a full understanding of the material. Furthermore, the combination of face-to-face curation and PoC coaching empowers engagement and dedication. And lastly, by leveraging online content, blended learning curricula have a more affordable pricing structure for very small groups (5-15 people) or very large groups (100-1000 people).

Despite the blended learning novelty, the feedback has been very positive. The participants appreciate the flexibility, but also value the in-person sessions for clarification and in-depth knowledge. The acquired theoretical knowledge, combined with the guidance on the homework and proofs-of-concept, was regarded by the participants as a viable alternative to traditional education methods. All-in-all we consider this as a very successful pilot, and we are keen on applying this great approach with more organizations!