Built a learning ecosystem for an entire industry

How do you realise the sharing of knowledge and support lifelong learning for all 65,000 professionals in the mental healthcare sector? By joining forces and collaborating.

The problem

How does a mental healthcare provider improve the care provided to clients in a complex world?

Mental healthcare providers in the Netherlands face a challenge when improving the quality of care provided to clients. There is a constant flux of all kinds of changes. New insights and new treatments related to a wide variety of mental health issues come into the picture. Society has ever-changing and ever-higher expectations of what mental healthcare providers and professionals should be and do. The government pushes cost-cutting programmes while, simultaneously, inspection authorities impose strict guidelines. This situation leads to some challenging questions related to learning and development:

  • In this complex situation, how is it possible to keep professionals up to date and properly trained?
  • What to do when your ambition is to improve the quality of care provided to people through highly skilled professionals when there is such little time, budget and other resources to enable and support learning?
  • How to create and provide easily accessible, high-quality and relevant learning materials to support these professionals in their day-to-day jobs?

The concept

Combining forces

What would be possible if providers joined forces to share time and money and teamed up to tackle these issues? To create an ‘all for one and one for all’ approach? A few representatives of different mental healthcare providers started an initiative to produce high-quality, sector-specific e-learning to be used within their organisations. As time went by, more providers joined, their initiative grew and so did their ambition. As the next phase, they wanted to create an ‘ecosystem for learning’ to serve all providers and all professionals within the mental healthcare sector. They chose the name ‘GGZ Ecademy’.

The overall purpose of GGZ Ecademy is to improve the quality of care provided to clients through highly skilled professionals who are properly trained and are able to keep their skills up to date by using easy accessible high-quality learning materials. GGZ Ecademy chose to create a learning ecosystem of different building blocks to bring the development and exchange of relevant learning solutions to a higher level.

The result

Empowering 65,000 professionals by collaborating

GGZ Ecademy started in 2011 as an initiative of 14 healthcare providers aiming to create bespoke, high-quality e-learning. Fast forward six years, and it has now become an official member organisation with 50 members. The 50 members consist of various Dutch mental healthcare providers.

  • GGZ Ecademy has evolved into a learning ecosystem with its own digital learning platform, offering 60 sector-specific learning modules, supported by central admins, providing support for local implementation and initiating research and innovation.
  • GGZ Ecademy supports over 65,000 professionals (through its member organisations) of the potential 83,000 professionals in the broad mental healthcare sector.
  • GGZ Ecademy also supports 18,000 mental healthcare professionals of non-member organisations with access to free learning modules, adding two new modules every year.
  • GGZ Ecademy uses the aNewSpring learning platform as the ‘central hub’ of their learning ecosystem, which makes it easy to exchange and ‘remix’ all central and local learning modules. By adapting the modules, they can be offered under any of the member organisations’ own ‘branding’.
  • GGZ professionals are owners of their learning portfolio. They keep their own learning portfolio throughout their careers, regardless of whether they work for a different GGZ organisation (or even other organisations), thus supporting them in their lifelong learning journey.
  • In mid-2017, the next step in creating the ecosystem was made by connecting 17 colleges that offer mental healthcare education to make use of the GGZ Ecademy learning modules.

“Our mission is to share knowledge and support lifelong learning for all professionals in the mental healthcare sector”

Kees Spitters
Senior Manager at GGZ Eindhoven and
Member of the Board of Directors of GGZ Ecademy

Creating an effective learning ecosystem

There was a clear belief that support was needed to make the ecosystem successful. Not only support by a central admin function to handle day-to-day support issues for member organisations and learners, but also support for implementation at the level of each institution, embedding and integrating the support in their specific way of working.

A blended learning platform would be a crucial element in the ecosystem. A platform to integrate all learning materials and make them easy accessible for all users. Also, a platform that made it easy for participating institutions to not only be users but also be producers, sharing their knowledge, content and learning solutions with others. And a platform that could support social learning between individual members of the community.

Another important starting point was that the platform would support individual professionals to really ‘own’ their professional learning and development. If an individual professional would be able to ‘take her learning with her’ during her career, that would make a real lifelong learning solution possible. Switching to work for different institutions shouldn’t be a reason for disturbing one’s personal learning journey within the GGZ sector.

Used aNewSpring functionalities:

  • Subenvironments
  • Submanagement
  • LTI connection
  • Events
  • Catalogue
  • Blended learning
  • Reporting engine
  • Connection with PE Online

Implementing a learning platform

After an intensive exploration and selection phase, GGZ Ecademy decided to choose the aNewSpring platform as their learning platform. Since some member institutions already used their own internal system or learning platform and content, work had to be done to move to a single learning platform.

Because the aNewSpring platform has a ‘reseller function’ and can easily load and integrate ‘external’ content via Scorm or other formats, this issue could be solved rather easily. Also, making use of the LTI functionality, interconnections between systems could be created. This means that all digital learning materials/modules are easily interchangeable between the central GGZ Ecademy platform and local platforms of member institutions.

To make it more specific: a module designed for all members can be ‘uploaded’ and represented in the own look and feel of a local institutions’ academy. In addition, a locally produced learning module in the look and feel of the specific institution can be made available for all members via GGZ Ecademy in the general look and feel.

These functionalities led to the possibility of a very flexible ‘mix-and-match’ approach. A design team (central at GGZ Ecademy or at a local member organization) can create a new learning program (learning journey) by mixing and matching existing and new learning content.


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