The digitization of education has reached new dimension since the corona lockdown and school closures

By patrick.gunti / InterviewMONEYCAB  (Original in GERMAN)
08. Mai 2020, 12:44 

by Patrick Gunti

Moneycab.com: Mr. Blattmann, digitalization on education is not a new topic, but since the corona crisis, lockdown and school closures, it has a completely different dimension. How have you experienced in the last weeks?

Alex Blattmann: Digitization has gained enormous momentum since the outbreak of COVID-19. Many prejudices have been dispelled. The planning uncertainty associated with the corona crisis means that many institutions are adapting educational offerings in an agile and flexible manner. Suddenly they are experimenting, learning quickly and looking for innovative and sustainable concepts. While competitive pressure and digitization forced other sectors to change much earlier, education is now being challenged to reposition itself, even to reinvent itself.

During the first lockdown week, MaxBrain received more inquiries than before in the entire four-year history of the company. How many new customers were you able to win?

The first weeks of the lockdown were challenging, with dozens of inquiries and several new customers per week. Now the demand has settled at a high level. In parallel to the emergency aid packages, we are already working with many customers on long-term, sustainable digitization projects.

"Our service promise is that the customer can use the MaxBrain application for (further) education participants in just one working day".
Alex Blattmann, Co-Founder and CEO MaxBrain

MaxBrain reacted quickly and launched a "Corona emergency aid package". What does this substitute for face-to-face teaching offer?

The emergency aid package aims to support institutions quickly and unbureaucratically at calculable costs. MaxBrain quickly switched to virtual lectures with the full integration of Zoom Online Meetings and webinars. In a second step, interactive learning designs, learning control questions, e-learnings and interactive lessons are available to dynamize classic frontal teaching. For larger institutions, we offer mobile apps with our own brand to be always present with the learners.

How quickly can the digital MaxBrain Classroom be put into operation and what are the requirements?

Our service promise is that the customer can use the MaxBrain application for (further) education participants in just one working day. This includes the configuration of the tool and training. All participants need is a stable Internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone.

For May and June, the Federal Council has now announced that the rules will be relaxed and school attendance will also be possible again. How sustainable will the effects of the digital lessons of the last weeks be?

The Corona crisis will accelerate digitization in all aspects of our lives, provoke changes in behavior and bring forth new business models. Such caesuras, which trigger and to some extent force innovation leaps, are unique. In the crisis, all things digital are given a unifying element: different strata of the population and age groups are suddenly on an equal footing and adopt new forms of behavior that were previously only thought to be the preserve of the "digital natives.

Now technological innovations are coming into their own, enabling faster, more flexible, regular and targeted learning. The shortening of learning units (Bite-Sized Learning), mobile learning, the consistent use of behavioral data (Artificial Intelligence), and the mapping of individual learning paths will now make the breakthrough.

"The Corona crisis will accelerate digitization in all aspects of our lives, provoke changes in behavior and create new business models."

They have integrated the video conferencing solution Zoom into the platform. But that only shows a small part of what is possible with digital teaching. How can teaching be made more innovative?

MaxBrain has been a member of the Swiss EdTech Collider at EPFL since 2019. This vessel ensures that innovative technologies are supported in the field of education. We are already working with the first companies such as Classtime or Taskbase. They offer, for example, interactive learning solutions, partially automated yet qualitative feedback, or self-learning systems that enable individual learning paths. In this way, MaxBrain, with its own innovations and the integration of innovative third-party products, will internationally change the way in which working people learn anywhere and at any time. Our technology is unique in that it integrates different content sources for the end-user but still allows individualized use.

The pandemic has catapulted digital learning forward and many things are now possible that were not foreseeable a few months ago. What will the next developments be in the next few years?

The automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning associated with digitization open up new didactic possibilities and free up resources to make learning more individual, personal, and therefore more relevant. Especially due to globally scalable content, the best knowledge, which is often offered for free, will reach the learner faster. More than ever, we can dream of a democratization of education.

"Our technology is based on the design of social media such as LinkedIn and Instagram and looks very similar to Netflix in the next development step".

You consider the provision of simple and intuitive solutions to be a critical success factor in digital literacy. Can you show us how MaxBrain implements this credo?

Digital tools can often do too much. This means that (end) users no longer find their way around and digital tools are criticized. Our technology is based on the design of social media such as LinkedIn and Instagram and looks very similar to Netflix in the next development step. We don't reinvent the wheel but rely on already successful design concepts that work globally, across ages and cultures. With our feature switch architecture, we can switch all features on the platform on and off at the push of a button, ensuring that only what is really relevant is shown everywhere.

The MaxBrain customer portfolio is broad and includes universities as well as the building insurance company of the Canton of Zurich and the Bundesliga club Schalke 04. For the first time, MaxBrain's new customers now include a law firm, Bratschi.ch. What development opportunities and do you see in the legal sector?

Many law firms are still in their infancy when it comes to digitalization. Huge potential lies dormant here in terms of productivity tools, process automation and training and further education. Bratschi.ch is one of the first law firms in Switzerland that wants to tap the potential associated with digitalization. Digitally affine and well-trained employees form the basis for successfully mastering the digital transformation.

Last question: You yourself have completed a comprehensive education and speak six languages fluently. How much of this did you acquire in classroom teaching?

That is a good question! I learned French, English and Italian in primary school and then at grammar school. Spanish and Portuguese I taught myself mostly in self-study at home on the computer and while traveling. Only with Mandarin, I did not get along at all, despite several hours of private lessons.

Mr Blattmann, thank you very much for the interview.