SAP MOOCs Evolve

From ‘how to’ development skills to best practices for business value, everyone keeps learning from SAP’s pioneering massive open online courses (MOOCs).

MOOCs are driving a fundamental shift in education that’s beginning to transform the learning industry. In many ways, they are tailor-made for today’s learner. Six-year college careers aren’t uncommon, and life-long learning is a must in fast-changing business environments. For example, SAP launched its pioneering openSAP Enterprise MOOCs program in 2013. Having attracted over 200,000 enrollees in eight MOOCs, the company is expanding its offerings to share best practices that customers and partners can use to get the greatest business value from not only its technologies, but also initiatives like sustainability.

According to Dr. Peter Graf, Chief, Sustainability Officer at SAP, who will be instructing the course entitled “Sustainability and Business Innovation,” SAP is ideally positioned to share its experiences. “We are making sustainability work at SAP. That puts us in a pretty good place to talk about what works and what doesn’t across industries such as automotive, cities, utilities, agriculture, petrochemicals, and retail,” he says.

Moving beyond product demos that might be expected in a company-sponsored MOOC, the course relies heavily on real-word examples of the power of sustainability strategies. Participants will learn how to craft a strategy with a compelling business case, and execute on a plan that includes results reporting. The course begins April 29, and is aimed at anyone from to students to seasoned professionals who want to broaden their knowledge.

Similarly, the SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA MOOC, which begins April 9, takes the technology out of the IT department, showing how various lines of business in specific industries can use it for greatest value.

“We started offering MOOCs on technology topics for developers including mobile, SAP HANA, and the SAP HANA cloud platform. We’re now adding MOOCs to help our entire ecosystem of customers and partners use our innovations for transformational growth. For example, now that the SAP Business Suite runs on SAP HANA, there are incredible best business practices possible. Using MOOCs, we can share this knowledge with more people faster,” says Dr. Bernd Welz, executive vice president and global head, Solution & Knowledge Packaging, SAP.

MOOCs Emerge as Steps on the Learning Journey

MOOCs are becoming part of an increasingly diverse educational mix. Michael Nanfito, Executive Director at the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), sees accreditation at the heart of the issue. “As online learning grows, there is a movement to review how credit is offered. Institutions of higher learning have to decide what business they are in. Are they in the teaching and learning business, or are they in the credentialing business?” he asks.

Nanfito, who authored the book, “MOOCs: Opportunities, Impacts, and Challenges,” says that schools are starting to consider using digital badges which contain a comprehensive portfolio of student work completed. “Colleges have to jettison their institution-centric view, and consider themselves as one of the points along the trajectory of learning. They need relationships from K to 12 through the business world. I could see someone engaging in a MOOC from a company like SAP, and then receiving a digital badge. The college reviews this and gives the student credit for those online experiences,” says Nanfito.

Indeed, Bernd says that the company is exploring ways to incorporate SAP MOOCs in the curriculums of member schools in the SAP University Alliances program.

Massive Scale Amplifies Everything—Good or Bad

SAP’s MOOCs boast completion rates of 30 percent, which is five to eight times higher than most academic MOOCs. Bernd credits this success to course quality. “Mistakes reach the general public on social platforms, as well as the hundreds of thousands of students taking the course. One important success factor is the authenticity of instructors. We only put experts who have hands-on experience in the subject matter in front of our students,” says Bernd.

MOOCs can also turbo-charge student collaboration. Kathryn Jablokow, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University, taught her first MOOC, “Creativity, Innovation and Change,” last year. She was struck by how MOOCs foster an intense student-led dialogue that’s unprecedented in regular classroom settings. “I was surprised at the vehemence of the students’ joys or dislikes. They engaged in self-driven dialogues in a way that’s completely different from what happens in regular classrooms. It was amazing to see students take the reins of their own learning.”

SAP Expands Gamification and Mobile Access

As for what’s next at SAP, upcoming MOOCs include rapid-deployment of SAP solutions, while An Introduction to SAP HANA by Dr. Vishal Sikka is available until April 14. All courses will feature more gamification so students can track their real-time progress, and a new iPad app for mobile device access. It may be early days for MOOCs, but their transformational value is already apparent to learners in all walks of life.

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