Interview with Dr Sebastian Graeb-Konneker, Royal Dutch Shell

Sebastian Graeb-Konneker, PhD, MSc, is a Learning and Development specialist with more than fifteen years experience as a facilitator, consultant, team leader, professor and designer of blended-learning solutions. Sebastian is currently Global Deputy Head of Design & Development for Shell International in the Netherlands. As a former university lecturer, Sebastian’s degrees and certifications are in Education, Learning Technology Applications, History and Literary Studies. Today his work includes clients as diverse as Philips, the German Embassy in Indonesia, the Talented and Gifted Students Program at U.S. the University of Oregon, the German National Academic Exchange Service – and of course Shell.


OEB:  Moodle scores very high in educational contexts and is continually gaining ground in the corporate sector. Has the system, in your opinion, already become a serious competitor to commercial Virtual Learning Environments?


Sebastian Graeb-Konneker: It certainly has for us. Two years ago, when the strategic decision was made to look into the market for a new VLE, we took the question very seriously: Does the system fit our strategy and does it fit our idea of value versus price. And Moodle certainly did. What we wanted to foster is a certain “Wiki attitude” in the company: openness, peering, sharing and acting globally. And we felt that Moodle, together with its great user community of input, comes with that right attitude. That was attractive for us.


OEB: What was the clincher for you to choose Moodle, then?


Graeb-Konneker: At Shell, we have a learning strategy that has been developed over a number of years, starting with the use of another VLE in 2001. Today, Moodle is just one of half a dozen applications that we use in learning and knowledge management. However, it is a valuable add-on to the tools we already have because it is strong in one specific aspect. We want knowledge workers; we want people to be able to contribute, so you need to have a functionality that engages users and allows them to submit, influence, manipulate and drive the knowledge that is in the system. In many ways, Moodle comes very close to that because it supports a constructivist learning mode. It is no big surprise that this was a good fit.


OEB: Could you give us a few examples of how you are going to use the system in your everyday business?


Graeb-Konneker: With Moodle, we are able to turn around the supply chain of learning. Instead of the learner coming to us and having to appear on schedule like at a brick-and-mortar training centre, the technology allows us to go where the learner is, to go to the workplace and then, most importantly, to create learning activities and assignments that are truly modelled around the needs of the business and the individual staff – almost as if you were on location.


In the near future, we want to run all our blended learning events through Moodle. And that will be lots of different things. It will be two-year training programme for staff to be trained up to job requirements. It will be a whole academy that will use Moodle to deliver its programme. We will also use it for field trips, supporting our geologists. Compliance training, technical training, health an safety, you name it. We will use Moodle also in the classroom just to give a few examples.


OEB: You say that Moodle will be introduced to 120,000 employees in 2008. How is this major task being implemented?


Graeb-Konneker: Things that need facilitation and distribution at a distance are currently delivered by another VLE, but we are now integrating Moodle with other systems such as a Learning Management and a Content Management system, and I think it will be going live by the end of October. We have started to migrate all the other courses and learning events into it.


Things will not change dramatically, though. This implementation is a pretty straightforward thing, by the way – that includes the pitfalls. You have to build project teams; you join forces with IT, the business units and you have set up a support organisation with staff available for helping run the tools. And you certainly need to build a governance around this.

OEB: A last question: What do you expect from Online Educa Berlin 2008?

Initially, the OEB seemed to be for higher education and governmental presentations, but now I can see that there is a growing interest in the corporate sector. For me, the last years’ discussions have been quite conceptual. We now should get busy and bring a good case study. What I want is to add a bit more of corporate spice to the discussion with a name as big as Shell.



It is not only that Moodle is getting increasing attention in the corporate market. I also want to know more about what people do with Open Source in general. Open Source is not really common in the corporate context – so I’d just like to see what the reaction is.


OEB: Mr Graeb-Konneker, many thanks for your time.


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