Personal Digital Coach – could an application help the competence development of the worker?

Teksti | Sini Maunula

Often the worker is solely responsible for their own competence development (Erkkilä & Kortesalmi 2020; Erkkilä, Lamberg & Kortesalmi 2021). In order to provide them support and encourage their self-efficacy, the concept idea of Personal Digital Coach app was planned and put to a test.

Urban Growth Vantaa project develops and pilots innovative new solutions targeted for small and medium sized companies (SMEs) in Vantaa. The deals combine the elements of growth; recruitment, lifelong learning and consultancy for technological change in socially responsible ways. The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative. Laurea is responsible for designing and organizing the training and lifelong learning education throughout the project.

As a part of the Urban Growth Vantaa project work package 6 ”GSIP Intelligence”, agile Proof-of-Concept (PoC) type of concept creation is utilised. The idea is to test technical solution ideas that could be shareable and actualised in the cities of the EU. The aim is to frame whether and how created Proof-of-Concepts could be developed and what kind of benefits they could provide.

One of the created PoCs is the Personal Digital Coach (PDC) phone application. The phone application form provides many benefits. Applications can be made free and easy to use. Thanks to their mobility, phone applications can be used anywhere, any time or place. These characteristics make the application accessible to many people.

The idea of the PDC application is to support and encourage the self-efficacy of the workers aiming for their competence development goals (Suomala & Räsänen 2020). The basic idea of the app was simple. First the users set their goal in the application. Then, twice a week, they respond to a short questionnaire to report how they are doing. The application will send messages according to their responses, trying to help them reach their goal.

The development of the application took five weeks from the drafting of the requirements and user stories to the first functional test version. The application was tested during a five-week test period with 36 users, consisting of project workers and employees of partner companies participating in the project. Testing revealed that the assistance, designed for a wide variety of goals, ended up being too general and thus not truly helpful for most. Users also found it difficult to define their goals. This was the case even when combined with project training that gave assistance in planning their competence needs. Open feedback given by the test users included suggestions for different uses of the application. In the end, the results pointed towards the same conclusion: the application should be modified to work in a single context first – then plan how it could be easily expanded to new areas. Another problem was the fading of user activity. Although it is common to lose as much as 90% of users during the first month (Chen 2015), it is still worth considering how to get the activity loss to its minimum; a small percentual change in active users means more people can benefit from the application.

The next version of the application is planned based on the findings of the first. The second version is designed for a narrower context, which would remove the need for defining individual goals and make it possible to create more helpful feedback from the application. Users would be divided into groups, to support one another and to make their commitment public. This could aid user activity, because making promises to the public encourages people to keep them even despite the promise not having been made independently (Cialdini 2001). The main purpose of the second version of the application is to find out whether users find the application useful and whether it could be used to support competence development.



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