Bühler Group

At a Glance

  • Distance Learning
  • Learning abroad
  • Cultural exchange

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Polycom Video Solutions Enable Bühler Group to Create Innovative Distance Learning Programme - ClassUnlimited™


Founded in 1860 in Uzwil, Switzerland, Bühler is a specialist and technology partner for plant, equipment, and services for processing basic foods and for manufacturing advanced materials. The Group holds leading market positions worldwide in technologies and processes for transforming grain into flour and feeds, making pasta and chocolate, as well as in the field of aluminum die casting. The core technologies of the Group are in the field of mechanical and thermal process engineering. Today, Bühler Group operates in over 140 countries, has a global payroll of 10,000, and generated sales revenues of CHF 2,409 million in fiscal 2012.

Bühler prides itself on being one of the largest employers in Eastern Switzerland, and takes additional pride in the quality of its employees. To insure their employees have the right training from the start, Bühler has a recognised apprentice and trainee programme. Typically, an apprentice spends 50% of his time in a classroom, and 50% in the field applying the techniques learned in class. As Bühler has factories located around the globe, Andreas Bischof, Head of Professional Education programme, thought it would be a great opportunity for Bühler, and for the apprentices to develop their hands-on skills by working in factories abroad.

ClassUnlimited™ Project

The ClassUnlimited project came to life last year and is the first apprentice programme in Switzerland to offer its students to apply their new acquired learning abroad. The apprentices attending vocational training college have the possibility to utilise their technical skills in factories in China, South Africa and the United Kingdom, while attending their classes held at the college, in Uzwil. With the help and council of Polycom certified local partner, Symetria, Bischof found the perfect distance teaching solution. Bischof’s vision was simple - he wanted the classroom to be easy to use for both the students and professors, and found Polycom Video Solutions to offer that simplicity with minimal disruption. The classrooms are equipt with Polycom HDX solutions, the intelligent camera, the Polycom EagleEye and ceiling microphones. As Bischof imagined it, it’s just like walking into one classroom. So much so, that when you ask Marcel Rohner a student in Automatics, the benefits of the ClassUnlimited project, he talks about his incredible experience working and living in China; and finds that attending class in China, with the teacher in Uzwil is identical as being in person in the same classroom.

The classrooms

ClassUnlimited consists of an interactive classroom, a base station, and a remote classroom. The Polycom EagleEye camera position creates the impression that the students are actually sitting in the same room as the camera and microphone zooms in on the person who is talking. For the teacher, having remote students does not affect his class. The camera and screen positioning is set out so the students appear to all be in the same room. He can question and interact with the apprentice in exactly the same way. Hansjörg Brändle, Vocational School Teacher says “Teaching via ClassUnlimited is very much like teaching a ‘normal’ class. If the instructor knows how to use multimedia teaching tools then it is as if it were a normal classroom. Instructors do however, need to prepare the materials ahead of time, to allow the students in the extended classroom to follow class.”

A Successful Programme

“Our Polycom RealPresence Platform allows us to link the continents, and offer our apprentices a greater learning experience. So much is possible with the ClassUnlimited project,” confirms Andreas Bischof. Today 20% of the apprentices are able to study in Uzwil while living and working abroad in China, South Africa and the United Kingdom. The programme is very successful, and Bühler plans expand to India, the United States, and Brazil, to allow 1/3 of their apprentices to benefit from an international experience by 2015.

Read the press release

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