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Schneider Electric’s free online education program, Energy University was recently recognized with the prestigious Sustainable Energy Europe Award, presented during the EU Sustainable Energy Week 2014 by the European Commission. The awards go to the best projects of the year in the fields of energy efficiency, renewables and clean transport.
In all, more than 340 entrants were competing for awards in six categories. Energy University received first place in the Learning category during a ceremony in Brussels hosted by EU Energy Commissioner Günther H. Oettinger.
You can read all about the awards and their background in this press release, and more about the Schneider Electric entry specifically here. I thought it’d be interesting to learn more about what makes Energy University an award-winning educational program, so I talked to three folks who are instrumental in putting the program together: Michelle Souza, Sr. Program Manager; Melissa Smith, a Senior Instructional Designer who creates the courses; and Tom Clune, Global Curriculum Manager.
I learned that ideas for Energy University courses come from a number of sources. One is the vast array of white papers that Schneider Electric produces. When new or revised papers are published, the Energy University team works with the subject matter experts (SMEs) who produced them to determine whether they’d be good candidates for an Energy University course, or an update to an existing course.
Customers and “students” are another source of ideas, Clune says. As visitors take courses, they fill out surveys that provide feedback on topics and any changes they’d like to see. Customers also send emails asking if the company has courses on various topics. And Souza routinely stays in touch with executives at large Schneider Electric customers around the globe to pick their brains for courses they’d like to see.
In some instances, organizations come to Schneider Electric looking to collaborate. For example, Souza says many members of the American Society of Healthcare Engineers (ASHE) have taken Energy University courses over the years. This close relationship with ASHE, and the healthcare segment of Schneider Electric, has created a need for more courses in the industry. As a result, Energy University is now working on creating courses based on the group’s content, all targeted at the healthcare industry.
The end result will be courses that healthcare engineers can take to earn education credits, which they need to maintain their licenses. ASHE is far from alone in that regard, as some 22 organizations have endorsed Energy University as an accredited organization through which their members can earn continuing education credits, Souza says.
“We almost always qualify for accreditation with industry groups because we’re vendor- and product-neutral, all of our courses meet the one-hour timeframe that they look for and our materials are high quality,” she says.
Smith is responsible for seeing to the quality. “Our instructional design process is rooted in sound, established educational adult learning theories,” she says. Smith drafts outlines and scripts, which are both approved by an SME on the topic. She then uses high-end tools to build the courses, which are hosted on a learning management system (LMS). The end result is an interactive, engaging learning experience that is far superior to the typical webinar or PowerPoint presentation.
“Users are impressed with the quality of the courses and the professional voiceover,” Souza says. “That’s not possible without the LMS to host them.” The LMS also enables registered users to track which courses they’ve taken, the results of the quizzes attached to each, print transcripts and certificates of completion, and more.
There’s a lot to choose from as Energy University currently offers over 350 courses in 13 languages, including more than 200 in English. Since 2009 more than 400,000 registered users from over 180 countries have taken some 670,000 courses. In 2014 alone more than 62,000 registered users have taken more than 63,600 courses, increases of 69.2% and 56.5%, respectively, from this time last year.
With those kinds of numbers, it’s clear that Energy University is indeed well deserving of the Sustainable Energy Europe Award in the Learning category, which rewards “capacity building and knowledge transfer initiatives.” Energy University clearly offers plenty of both.