Digital further education offers for external sales partners

Eppendorf AG relies on customer advice and competent problem solutions by its own personnel, but also by service and sales partners. They use Extended Enterprise Learning on our Learn Management System.

Eppendorf AG, which is headquartered in Hamburg, has been on the road to success for years: sales and profits are rising, the number of employees and global partners is increasing. At the same time the product and service portfolio is expanding and with it the need to train all employees who are in contact with the end customers quickly, good, in the same quality and according to their needs worldwide.

Typical view of a product training WBT.

For example, both internal employees and external sales and service partners must be able to acquire the necessary knowledge as quickly as possible when introducing a new product or service. In the past, this was only insufficiently possible with face-to-face training, presentations and business trips. With the aim of developing a company-wide learning offer that can also be used by external partners, we have therefore opted for a cross-company concept. Previously existing stand-alone solutions used for training are replaced by a comprehensive, professionally implemented blended learning approach.

Project start and general conditions

In order to design the training processes globally uniform and professional in the direction of digital learning, blended learning approaches and broad scalability, we decided to use a commercially available Learning Management System (LMS) from a leading provider. This has been individually adapted according to our ideas and requirements and is constantly being further developed. We believe that this will enable us to reach our goal faster and ultimately more efficiently than with a specially developed solution or an open source solution. For the creation of Web Based Trainings (WBTs) with interactive and multimedia content, an authoring tool from the same provider was selected in order to receive everything “from a single source”, especially in the introductory phase.

Another decision in the introductory phase of the LMS, which was successfully launched in 2014 as the “Eppendorf Academy”, concerned the creation of the content. In addition to a WBT pilot project, which we created together with the provider of LMS and authoring tools, the other WBTs were created by the relevant Subject Matter Experts (SME). It seemed better to us to train SMEs to use a relatively easy to learn authoring tool than to work with media experts who are unfamiliar with products and services before they can create suitable content.

With this approach, we were able to create a wide range of WBTs for almost all products in a relatively short time and thus made the use of the Academy interesting, especially in the initial phase.

Expansion of the target groups and scalability of the LMS

After the successful introduction of the Academy in our own global organization, the question arose as to how our global sales and service partners could be integrated in the future. Smaller distributors and service providers in particular are often not in a position to send their employees to training measures over longer periods of time and longer distances. We therefore discussed with the provider of our LMS how external learners and organizations can be integrated into our LMS. It was important to us to be able to adjust the visibility to contents, catalogues etc. as individually as possible. The scalability of user numbers and server performance as well as the global performance of the platform were also crucial for us. The LMS we use is based on a hosted cloud solution that allows almost unlimited scalability and global easy and fast access to training content via any web browser.

Through personalized access, separately available catalogs and customizable user interfaces, we were able to configure the system so that our external users only see the content that is relevant to them. At the same time, the local and global administrators of the Academy can view, support and evaluate the activities of external users and organizations.

Here too, access can be controlled individually, so that the local Eppendorf organizations only see the users who are relevant to them. The reporting options available in the LMS allow generating meaningful figures, data and facts. This information about the training status of the individual learners and external partners is very helpful to accompany the learning process and to assess the need for further learning measures.

Access via any web browser, mobile devices and offline

Especially in the area of sales and service, field staff rarely have time to concentrate on learning several hours at a time. On the other hand, there are often “in between” in the working day smaller breaks, which would certainly be suitable for small learning sequences. Therefore, it was very important to us that the access to our LMS can take place not only via any web browser online, but also mobile and even offline. Since every field representative carries a smartphone and almost always a tablet, these options offer many more meaningful opportunities to learn in smaller portions as needed or to access the knowledge learned as needed.

With the Extended Enterprise concept, we are thus taking an important step forward in providing not only our own employees but also external partners with high-quality, uniform and up-to-date training material.

Challenges and opportunities

Working at the Eppendorf Academy is possible both online and offline with mobile devices such as tablets.

Of course, there are also a number of other challenges that we still have to face. This includes the question of whether the localization of
content is required in order to achieve a sufficiently high acceptance among the target groups, in particular vendors and service technicians. We check this, for example, by intensively obtaining feedback from learners on our training material, which is currently only available in English. Another hurdle lies in the commitment of external users to learning. It is much easier to inspire your own employees and colleagues and, if necessary, to oblige them to work on learning content, than it is the case with external learners. This requires the support and contact of colleagues in local organizations; they usually have a much closer relationship with local external partners. Last but not least, the administrative effort, e.g. user care, course booking and communication with external learners, must be estimated. Most of this work has to be carried out by the local Eppendorf organizations.

Differentiation from the competition through training offers

With the concept of Extended Enterprise Learning, we offer our sales and service partners globally a learning offer that sets us apart from many other competitors, who may also offer interesting products and services. The experience we have gained in recent years shows that these learning opportunities are very much appreciated and seen as very helpful by our internal and external target groups. We therefore plan to continue along this path, to create additional relevant content, to expand the range of learning opportunities and to make our Academy interesting and attractive with new forms of learning.

The Author

Dr. Dietmar Kahle

studied molecular biology at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel. With Eppendorf AG since 1995, a leading supplier of products and services for laboratories. Worked in product training, marketing and application support, including 4 years in the USA. Started working with eLearning in 2005. In 2014, the Eppendorf Learn Management platform “Eppendorf Academy” launched with a wide range of digital and blended learning-based further education offers. The further development of the Academy into a Group-wide learning platform and the integration of external learners are focal points of current activities.


Eppendorf AG

Contact person:
Dr. Dietmar Kahle
Director Learn Management

Barkhausenweg 1
D-22339 Hamburg

Phone:+49 (0) 40 / 5 38 01-130