Through digital, Excelia wants to reinvent its educational model


Anthony Hay, Director of Digital Transformation at Excelia Group: “Data can help personalize and personalize teaching sessions.”

On May 31, 2022, higher education group Excelia unveiled XL Vision, a multi-faceted digital transformation plan aimed at delivering immersive learning experiences and more flexible learning methods.

AdvertisingThe higher education group Excelia welcomes more than 5,000 students each year to its campuses in La Rochelle, Tours, Orleans and soon Paris-Cachan. It has five schools that train in management and administration applied to tourism and digital professions, with about 350 permanent employees and nearly 500 external contributors. On May 31, 2022, Bruno Neal, CEO of Excelia, accompanied by Anthony Hey, Director of Digital Transformation, Laura Zdroe, Director of Human Resources and Transformation, and Carolyn O’Neill, Educational Engineer, presented the XL Vision Transformation Plan, which aims to reinvent the group’s teaching model for Providing students and staff with a flexible learning system and immersive experiences.

According to Bruno Neal, XL Vision aims to be “a comprehensive plan shared with all stakeholders”. It aims to propose a phygital educational model that “changes the way knowledge is disseminated”. Excelia’s Transformation Plan revolves around three goals: reforming learning methods, expanding instructional missions, and mainstreaming flexibility in pedagogy. It also gives an important place to change the organization, through a data-driven approach that is put at the service of all users and learners as well as teachers, administrative and governance staff. Finally, the directions also include the “green thread,” with goals of social responsibility (CSR) and digital sobriety. To implement this plan, included in the Strategic Plan 2020-2025, the group planned a budget of 5.6 million euros over five years and the recruitment of about forty employees in new professions.

Experience-Based Teaching

Higher education today faces many challenges: the emergence of new online competitors, students wanting to return to campus and those looking for enhanced experiences, the development of micro-degrees in continuing education, the need for educational continuity with co-education… Challenges, Excelia has chosen to work on four strategic axes. The first is to reinvent the learners, educators, and administrators experience with new, human-centered collaborations and services. The second relates to promoting a digital culture, with the HR strategy focused on skills development. The third relates to developing innovative and immersive pedagogical methods centered around learners’ needs and success. Finally, the latter is to build an innovative technology base to support the growth of the group. These strategic axes are divided into six axes and 38 projects. “We plan to launch eight projects per year,” said Anthony Hey.

AdvertisingTechnological innovation plays an important role in this plan. For Excelia, it works on two levels: on the one hand, smart universities offer an enhanced experience, and on the other hand, a set of services in the digital world. For the first part, the group planned to equip each campus with an XL factory, physical spaces of more than 100 square meters organized in four spaces: Exploration to explore new educational approaches, including virtual and augmented reality; Creation for creativity through a production studio; Think thinking with meeting spaces that enhance team intelligence and finally a lab for training. The first full XL plant will open in La Rochelle in October 2022, with the other campuses to be completed within the next six months. The group is also working on R2S-4grids certification for buildings connected with Certivéa.

Metavers and learning experience platform

In the digital world, Excelia works on two types of metaverses, accompanied by the specialist consultancy Antilogy. The first is the synchronous metaverse, the digital twin of the XL Factories. According to Anthony Hié, this metaverse will make it possible to offer immersive educational experiences, complementing those on campus. “We don’t want to reproduce lectures, we target scenarios with the support of teachers,” said the Director of Digital Transformation. Excelia also wants to deploy the asynchronous metaverse to give learners the opportunity to develop skill sets, “maximizing and stimulating cognitive abilities”. For Carolyn O’Neill, an educational engineer, “It’s about bringing together neuro-education and technology in order to ensure effective pedagogy.” The use of virtual and augmented reality, preferably with headphones to increase immersion and focus, allows learners to observe the same concept in different environments. “Choosing VR to visit foreign companies also means limiting your travels,” explains Caroline O’Neill, which contributes to the consolidation of knowledge.

The group also wants to implement the Learning Experience Platform (LXP), a training platform focused on the learner experience, which will notably offer micro-modules to meet the increase in demand for micro-certificates. “LXP leverages data and artificial intelligence to enable super personalization, adapting teaching to learners’ progress, preferences, and behaviors,” said Anthony Hay. On these topics, the group works specifically with Domoscio, which specializes in adaptive learning. Within LXP, business block data is already operational and progress is underway in the CSR and Sustainable Development cluster. Going forward, Excelia has registered a brand called ILE (Immersive Learning Experience) to name the quality of immersive experiences, both on campus and in the digital world.

cross-sectional organization

The plan also provides for the deployment of a digital workplace, a single, multi-channel, multi-party portal for all group communities, students, and educational and administrative teams. This will allow information to be shared, but also to facilitate the online registration process. “Our priority is to ensure continuity of the experience as the user moves from one platform to another,” emphasized Anthony Hey. Finally, to support its data-driven strategy and meet the challenge of analytics, Excelia launched a data system that brings together business experts and more technical profiles, such as data engineers, data scientists, and data engineers. This multidisciplinary laboratory is aimed at all services of the group, both educational departments, finance, marketing and other organizational processes. It aims to exploit data to respond to new uses and participate in building future value creation models. “Data can be used to guide strategic decisions, but it can also help personalize and individualize teaching pathways,” said Anthony Hey.

To manage these transformations, the Excelia Group has also built a cross-functional organization around a major digital transformation division. This combines the traditional functions of DSI with support and innovation functions, in relation to the human resources and teaching professions. Besides DSI, there are two new poles that embody this ambition. The Center for Business Support and Change Management aims to facilitate the adoption of methods and tools, while the Center for Digital Innovation, Education Technology and Experimental Innovation manages the digitization of lessons with the educational engineering team, as well as integrating new experiences (metavers, data, devops, etc.). Human Resource Management and Transformation (DRHT) is closely linked to the plan, in order to develop a digital culture at all levels of the organization. Among the actions implemented was the creation of a mirrored organization at the project manager level, mirroring the digital transformation department, with pairs combining digital skills and business lines. An Internal Change Support Unit has also been established. According to Laura Zdroj, this cell is responsible for “educating all staff in project management, implementing joint workshops or even developing ambassador communities around cross-functional projects.” Finally, the DRHT team is also committed to acquiring the skills to make the transformation, through short-term rare profiles and long-term (9-18 months) internships.

In line with its transformation plan, Excelia Digital School also wanted to incorporate training in immersive technologies into its courses. From 2022 to 2023, the school will launch workshops and master classes on virtual reality and metaverse. In 2023-2024, it will offer modules and specializations in these areas, and then in September 2024, a bachelor’s degree in “Virtual Reality and Metaverse”.

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