Online Learning Powers Siemens Partnership with Nexus Through the Pandemic

October 20, 2021

by Paul Nucci

Nexus at Michigan Engineering has provided professional training for Siemens Healthineers annually since 2000. However, a worldwide pandemic threatened to end that streak in 2020.

Headquartered in Erlangen, Germany, Siemens Healthineers AG is the parent company for several medical technology companies with employees throughout the world. Since 2000, Siemens has sent employees to Ann Arbor, Michigan for professional development training courses. The employees have participated in Lean Healthcare, Lean Six Sigma, and customized versions of several courses. For more than twenty years, Siemens employees have learned Lean principles from U-M, improving themselves and the company through this relationship that has stood the test of time.

In early 2020, however, the pandemic threatened the longevity of the collaboration.

Throughout the world, travel was restricted, and companies cut funding for professional development programs. U-M was also impacted as it canceled face-to-face courses and went exclusively online. With students no longer in classrooms, the academic world changed dramatically in an instant. As part of U-M, Nexus enacted the same policies and began conducting professional education courses online in the summer of 2020. Thanks to team expertise in online learning from years of providing online quality courses and degrees, Nexus staff, instructors, and students quickly adjusted to online learning.

Siemens also adapted to the changing landscape, according to Susan McDonald, Senior Manager, Training & Process Standardization, Siemens Global Healthcare Consulting Solutions. “We also experienced the challenges in quickly changing training delivery from face-to-face/classroom to virtual platforms for many courses offered internally so we understood that successful adaptation was going to require adjustments from instructors, materials, schedules, and students,” she said.

The company took a leap of faith and trusted U-M to transition in-person courses to an effective online format. In September 2020, Siemens opted to send its employees to the newly revamped online versions of Lean Healthcare and Six Sigma. The learners’ experiences were positively impacted because of Nexus’ strategic investments in new classroom technologies. Not only did Nexus transition in-person classrooms to recording studios to improve online delivery, the team offered class materials that were traditionally printed in an online format through U-M’s online learning platform, Canvas. The instructors and staff also worked to make face-to-face exercises engaging for an online class. 

“Nexus worked with us to modify all of these aspects. And, because they had quickly adapted other programs, they were able to use those experiences to inform our virtual program,” added McDonald.

Siemens’ faith in Nexus was rewarded, and the new online course was a success. The company was so pleased with the results that they scheduled a second course for May 2021. Because travel budgets and visa restrictions were not a factor for an online course, Siemens invited employees from around the world. As a result, the May course had the largest international representation ever, with twenty-two learners representing thirteen countries and six continents.

When Nexus converted the course to an online format, instructors and other team members had to address multiple challenges, including navigating teaching across time zones and creating an experiential learning environment on an online platform. The instructors developed an engaging and diverse curriculum that utilized breakout groups, online tools, and digital simulations. To ease time-zone challenges, the instructors extended the course schedule over several weeks, shortening the duration of individual class sessions.

Lean Specialist and Nexus Instructor Toni Benner has designed and delivered custom courses for Siemens throughout their 10-year relationship with Nexus. “I appreciated thinking through the course redesign with Siemens leadership as their understanding and appreciation for the importance of experiential learning helped create an effective pivot to an online platform,” said Benner.

From various countries and time zones, the participants stayed focused and involved in the course activities. The learners appreciated the effort from the instructors and staff.

“The entire course was run so professionally. From breaking into groups to utilizing tools (like MS Jamboards), it was a very enjoyable experience,” said Antonios Bouharoun, a Siemens Healthcare Consultant and Workflow Analyst based in Dubai (UAE). Bouharoun’s colleague agreed. “With such a diverse group of colleagues, we were exposed to different business models and had the chance to better understand their challenges and how to better deal with customers,” said Dr. Deepika Bagga, a Healthcare Consulting Solutions Specialist for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics based in Vienna, Austria.

The custom training program focused on multiple areas of specialty from Nexus instructors. Learners had numerous opportunities to engage with the content in a hands-on way through simulations. Barga especially appreciated the value of the ExperienceChange™ simulation as it focused on more than just the different aspects and stakeholders—it explored the sequence of steps/actions and how that can make a huge difference. “I found it very practical and something that would prove very beneficial for some projects,” said Bagga. 

Bouharoun has already utilized tools from the course, specifically intentionally including colleagues in decision-making processes using tools from the Change Management section of the course. “They feel so much more involved and are less resistant to change when they are a part of the process. They were never included before,” Bouharoun said.

Dr. Deepika Bagga

Healthcare Consulting Solutions Specialist for Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics

Both colleagues would eagerly attend another online course offered by Nexus. “We cannot travel (right now), but we can still learn and help the company,” said Bagga, “we would all prefer face-to-face learning but the current state of the world will not allow that. Travel is not a good idea right now. So we learn at home.”

Building on the success of the online courses, Clinical Sales, another division of Siemens, ran the same course with great success in July 2021. Nexus and Siemens will continue its online relationship into 2022 and until it is safe for international travel once again.

“Siemens has been a great partner to us,” said Nexus Assistant Director Andrea Schuitman. “The fact that we were able to continue to deliver world-class, customized professional programs to them in an online format during these uncertain times is a great source of pride for the team at Nexus.”

About the Author

Paul Nucci

Paul Nucci is a Program Manager at Nexus and manages Siemens courses. Nexus supports continuing education by offering professional education certificates and designing and supporting online degree programs from the University of Michigan College of Engineering. With Nexus, lifelong learners across all fields can engage with renowned U-M faculty either online, on campus, or on location.

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