Client: Defensity College 

Defensity College (DC) is the Ministry of Defence’s working student programme for academic students. Every year approximately 100 students are recruited within this military programme. These future economists, psychologists, technicians and IT professionals can already work, during their studies,  in their field of expertise at the Dutch Armed Defenses. Simultaneously, they are able to follow extracurricular activities and training programmes that will advance their personal, professional and military development. This makes Defensity College one of the most interesting and challenging working student programmes in the Netherlands.


The Challenge 

There is a wide range of students working at Defensity College. Each student is assigned a workplace that suits his or her specific field of expertise. The tasks they perform are therefore very diverse. 

 “Workplaces can range from analysts in intelligence services to writing software for drones in a robotics project. However, also psychological investigations of trainee marines. It is incredibly diverse”.
– Erik, Programme Manager and co-founder of Defensity College . 

Despite the great diversity of tasks and fields, all students are required to go through the same Onboarding process for the standard work tasks at Defensity College. However, it soon became clear that it was difficult to reach everyone when needed. Students generally read emails poorly and are often inundated with Whatsapp messages. It was therefore necessary to find another way to make it easier for students to familiarise themselves with the correct knowledge about their workplace. A solution was found in the accelerated digitisation of the Onboarding trajectory and soon the idea arose to use instruction videos to meet this goal. 

 The challenge is clear: To set up a flexible and easily adaptable Onboarding programme via instructional videos, to accelerate Onboarding of 200 students on different locations and continuously bring them in contact with each other. 

“GPAL enables someone to communicate all kinds of messages and knowledge in an easy and accessible way. With a video you can make instructions more understandable and spread them more quickly. At the same time, students prefer to learn by means of video rather than reading a manual”.
– Erik


The Approach

DC thus began with GPAL to meet this challenge. First essential things were recorded on video, amongst other things a general introduction to the organisation, explanations of protocols such as clothing rules, videos on how to find a workplace yourself and explanations of cards and software. Within the GPAL app, this information is conveniently and clearly divided into chapters and topics. 

On a return day, where all military work students came together, the new Onboarding programme and GPAL were introduced to a large group of work students. As part of the Onboarding trajectory, a video-introduction book was also introduced. Students could record a short introduction video of themselves and upload it in the GPAL app. Within half an hour, 80 videos were posted. In this way, the working students could get to know each other more easily and make connections. Since the launch, new students can access the GPAL App to follow the Onboarding programme, while more experienced students receive periodic video updates. In this manner, students always have access to the most important information that they need, especially since the GPAL app is integrated with the e-Learning platform of DC itself. 


Filming the workstations

Last month, DC started filming and digitizing student’s workstations. In addition to the basic Onboarding trajectory, DC also wanted to make instructional videos about more specific functions and work-tasks of students, if possible.

Therefore, a colleague travels throughout the country to visit all the different student workplaces. Together with the workplace supervisor and the work student, the most important tasks are filmed and uploaded in the GPAL app. Eventually, a separate booklet with QR codes will be made for each separate workplace. When the QR codes are scanned in the GPAL app, the right video immediately appears. This allows students to work more independently in their new workplace. However, the videos also have another purpose, namely to pique the interest of other students within Defensity College.The videos offer a glimpse behind the scenes of many different workplaces, giving students a better idea of what to expect from the workplaces. At the moment the workplaces are designated, but with the videos it will be easier for new working students to choose a place of their own. For security reasons, not all workplaces can be filmed, but where possible, the introductory videos receive positive reactions. 

“What we especially want to change with GPAL is the way in which we, as an organisation, share information. We want to move away from the traditional ways and implement a system that is effective and works well for the students.”



What makes GPAL truly special is the fact that every employee can make their own instructional videos and thus contribute to the organisation. Working students are therefore encouraged to think about which videos they still miss. They can submit proposals for official videos or make their own videos. These videos are then checked for quality before they are finally uploaded in GPAL. Soon new filming days will be organised, in which the most enthusiastic students will be asked to pick out specific tasks and make clear instruction videos about them.





Challenges within DC

The ultimate goal is for all students to take the initiative to create and share videos in the app. However, in the beginning, this certainly requires time and energy. Erik explains that GPAL is not yet at the point where it is used completely organically. But this is a challenge we are happy to take on! 

“For example, if a light bulb in my car is broken, I immediately go on Youtube to see how to replace it before I drive to the garage. We also want to have that reflex with GPAL in DC. Before asking a question, we want someone to  first check GPAL to see if the answer is not easily found there.”

To stimulate the daily use of GPAL, smaller teams have been created in GPAL, in which working students are placed together in smaller groups. Within these small teams, videos are watched more often. The videos often have humorous aspects and further stimulate students to make and upload videos.



At the moment, colleagues and students at Defensity College are still working hard on the planned expansions. However, positive results are already visible and much more is expected.


Onboarding for students by students  

The Onboarding process in the GPAL App allows DC to communicate more easily with new, and more experienced, students and enables accelerated Onboarding.  

By having students film their own work tasks, we expect that the Onboarding trajectory for specific functions and workplaces can be digitised more quickly. Consequently, new students will be able to go through the Onboarding programme more independently by looking at the instructional videos made by previous working students or colleagues. For example, you can instruct the working students to watch a series of videos before coming to their introductory day. In this way you can manage time more efficiently. 

“I think everyone is becoming more visually oriented. We read less and watch more. It’s more of a social change than something that is going on specifically at DC. That’s why GPAL fits in so well.”
– Erik, programme manager and co-founder of Defensity College.


Contribution to professional development, skills and knowledge

GPAL also provides more insight into the level of knowledge and the degree of involvement among working students. In the management console it is easy to see which videos are being watched. In the future this can also be more individually focused, so that this information can be used as feedback to an individual student. GPAL also offers extra support to refresh knowledge or to exchange tips and tricks. 

“The added value for us is having a closed, controlled environment that we can link to our business operations, that can also give analytical insights in the level of skills of our students. That is a really strong combination”.

More connectedness (COVID-19) 

Defensity working students work all over the Netherlands and study in different cities. Nevertheless, it is nice that there is interaction and communication between the students with the GPAL app.

Especially during Corona times, it is more difficult to stay connected to the organisation. Many working students are sitting at home because of the regulations. However, people stay involved by sharing videos. For example, every once in a while a message is sent out via GPAL to all those currently working at home.

“During Corona times it is more difficult to connect with each other. You see that people who have come in since March are less likely to find connections with other working students. A platform like GPAL can then certainly provide support for more connection”.
– Erik


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