Moneycab.com: Mr. Blattmann, digitized continuing education is not a new topic, but it has taken on a completely different dimension since the Corona crisis, lockdown and school closures. How have you experienced the last few weeks?
Alex Blattmann: Digitization has gained enormous momentum since COVID-19 broke out. Many prejudices have been overcome. The planning uncertainty associated with the Corona crisis is causing many institutions to adapt educational offerings in an agile and flexible manner. Suddenly, people 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 reinvent itself.
In the first week of lockdown, MaxBrain received more inquiries than previously in the entire four-year history of the company. How many new customers were you able to acquire?
The first weeks of the lockdown were challenging, with dozens of requests and several new customers per week. Now demand has leveled off at a high level. In parallel to the immediate help packages, we are already working with many customers on long-term and sustainable digitization projects.
"Our service promise is that the customer will be able to deploy the MaxBrain application to (continuing) education students in just one business day. "
Alex Blattmann, Co-Founder and CEO MaxBrain
MaxBrain has reacted quickly and launched a "Corona Immediate Help Package". What does this substitute for classroom training offer?
The immediate assistance package aims to support institutions quickly and unbureaucratically at a calculable cost. MaxBrain has moved quickly to virtual lectures with the full integration of Zoom online meetings and webinars. In a second step, interactive learning designs, learning control questions, eLearnings and interactive lessons are available to dynamize traditional face-to-face teaching. For larger institutions we offer mobile apps with their own brand to be always present with the learners.
How quickly can the digital MaxBrain Classroom be put into operation and what requirements must be met?
Our service promise is that the customer can deploy the MaxBrain application for the (continuing) education participants in just one working day. This includes the configuration of the tool and the training. All participants need is a stable internet connection and a computer, tablet or smartphone.
The Federal Council has now announced relaxations for May and June, and school attendance will also be possible again. How lasting will the effects of the digital lessons of the last few weeks be?
The Corona Crisis will accelerate digitization in all aspects of our lives, provoke behavioral changes and give rise to new business models. Such caesuras, which trigger and to some extent force leaps in innovation, are unique. Everything digital takes on a unifying element in the crisis: Different population strata and age groups are suddenly on an equal footing and adopt new forms of behavior that were previously thought to be the preserve of "digital natives.
Now the technological innovations are coming into their own, enabling faster, more flexible, more regular and more 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, provoking behavioral change and spawning new business models."
You have integrated the Zoom video conferencing solution into the platform. But that only shows a small part of what is possible with digital teaching. How can lessons be innovatively designed beyond that?
MaxBrain has been a member of the Swiss EdTech Collider of EPFL since 2019. This vessel ensures that innovative technologies in the field of education are supported. We are already working with the first companies such as Classtime or Taskbase. For example, they offer interactive learning solutions, partially automated yet qualitative feedback, or self-learning systems that enable individual learning paths. Thus, with its own innovations and the integration of innovative third-party products, MaxBrain will internationally change the way professionals learn anywhere and anytime. Our technology is unique in that it integrates different content sources for the end-user, but still makes them usable in an individualized way.
The pandemic has catapulted digital learning forward and many things are now possible that were not foreseeable a few months ago. So what will be the next developments 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, more personal and thus more relevant. Especially due to globally scalable content, the best knowledge, which is often also offered free of charge, will reach learners faster. More than ever, we can dream of a democratization of education.
"Our technology is modeled on the design of social media like LinkedIn and Instagram, and in the next stage of development, it looks a lot like Netflix."
You consider the provision of simple and intuitive solutions to be a decisive success factor in digital training. Can you show us how MaxBrain puts this credo into practice?
Digital tools can often do too much. This means that (end) users can 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 are not reinventing the wheel but relying on already successful design concepts that work globally, across ages and cultures. With our feature switch architecture, we can turn on and off all features on the platform at the touch of a button, ensuring that only what is really relevant is shown everywhere.
MaxBrain's customer portfolio is broad and includes universities as well as the building insurance company of the Canton of Zurich or the German Bundesliga team Schalke 04. Bratschi.ch is the first law firm to join MaxBrain's list of new customers. What development opportunities do you see in the legal sector?
Many law firms are still in their infancy when it comes to digitization. There is huge potential here in terms of productivity tools, process automation, and training and continuing education. Bratschi.ch is one of the first law firms in Switzerland to tap into the potential associated with digitization. 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 that did you acquire in classroom training?
That's a good question! I learned French, English and Italian in elementary school and then in high school. I taught myself Spanish and Portuguese mostly by self-study at home on the computer and while traveling. Only with Mandarin I have not been able to cope at all, despite several hours of private lessons.
Mr. Blattmann, thank you very much for the interview.