Learning via the net
A new system for training project managers over the internet, currently undergoing trials, promises to cut Statoil's costs substantially.
Eight of the group's employees have been taking the further education course since February, by and large from their own office or home PC.
Feedback from the students, who are due to finish this summer, has been good. A second group has just started the "virtual teaching" programme.
This pilot project replaces virtually all classroom teaching with internet, video and e-mail - saving money by cutting travel and physical gatherings to a minimum.
The method should make it possible to halve training costs, says Brita Træbakken, head of Statoil's project manager school.
Twenty people from Kværner and Norsk Hydro are also taking part in the first trial, which is being pursued in collaboration with various higher education bodies.
These include the Norwegian School of Management and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, with the universities of Manchester and Cranfield in Britain and Canada's University of Calgary also involved.
Lectures, presentations and coursework for the students are posted to the net. Lecturers receive and answer questions at specified times, and participants can discuss problems with each other in a dedicated internet chat room. All teaching is in English.
Most Statoil students during the initial trials will be Norwegian, but the plan is to involve locally-employed personnel at group offices around the world.
"That's when we'll be getting the full benefit of this 'virtual classroom'," says Ms Træbakken.
Students will find it easier to study than before. Less time is spent travelling, and courses can be tailored to an individual's conditions at work and at home.
"But the course is very demanding," Ms Træbakken emphasises. "Participants must commit a lot of their own time and be highly motivated to keep up in this new way of studying."