Bridging the Gap for More Effective Remote Learning

In 2020, the computer officially became the new classroom. This is true from kindergarten to corporate training. But the trend is not new; the pandemic accelerated us toward a digitized future that was already forming.

When faced with COVID-19 restrictions last spring, educators had existing online content and delivery platforms in place. SAP was also ready with thousands of hours of content online. Because of this, we could facilitate a rapid shift to distance learning for SAP professionals much more seamlessly than we could have even just five years ago.

Our digital transformation, however, was not entirely positive. The acceleration did not just take us to a future of e-learning, it also highlighted the shortcomings of how we reskill in a remote world. This year taught us that an online course alone will not cut it. The year 2020 also made it abundantly clear that networking in the comments below a YouTube video is not the type of networking that helps you land a job.

To understand why, consider the three primary benefits of classroom learning. First, learners are exposed to new ideas and information. Second, learners make personal and professional connections, building a network of peers and experts in their field. Finally, learners receive professional qualifications that are recognized and respected among employers – often in the form of a degree or certification.

Learners in a remote world expect to receive these same three benefits. But while an online course might teach learners new ideas and processes, they tend not to confer the rest of the experience.

The good news is that with a little creativity, a lot of innovation, and a focus on what learners require, we can get there. Zoom fatigue is no reason to give up indefinitely. If we do not crack this digital puzzle, we will fall far short of the workforce transformation we need to flourish across the economy.

Today, as long-term unemployment rates skyrocket, more workers are turning to digital education to reskill themselves for a new reality. The scale of the challenge is staggering. It is estimated that more than 1 billion jobs are likely to be transformed by technology in the next decade. We cannot upskill our workforce by bringing those 1 billion people back to school in a traditional sense. We need more.

The desire is in the data. This year at SAP, our digital model  SAP Learning Hub has seen course enrollments grow by more than 14% year-over-year (YoY). Active learners on openSAP, a platform that offers massive open online courses (MOOCs), have increased by more than 22% YoY.

Today’s learners are desperate for learning that is not just a distribution of content. They need those experiential aspects of learning offered in the classroom. While SAP saw 14% growth in course enrollments, we also saw almost triple that level of growth in peer-to-peer engagement within virtual learning rooms, which are online environments for learners to interact directly with each other and experts. In October, we piloted 1:1 coaching in learning rooms for personalized guidance – and they were oversubscribed by more than 600%.

The adoption levels of those new formats are staggering for an education business with hundreds of millions in revenue and hundreds of thousands of learners. But it is proof that educators can do more than pump information into users with a digital channel. For every learning professional, their job is to think about how they can create human connections and foster the career development required to make distance learning a success.

We have been making progress day by day. But as an industry, we can do better. SAP is committed to building up its remote learning offerings to offer more comprehensive career development beyond courses.

This is why at this year’s SAP TechEd event, we’re offering the event edition of SAP Learning Hub, which features complementary access to four tailored Learning Journeys and access to the SAP TechEd Learning Room to prepare learners for an SAP Global Certification Exam.

We know that we are not going back to the way it was before, not fully. Virtual learning is convenient, accessible, and the safest option in a COVID-19 world. But we also need to help ensure that online content comes with real, lasting value so that remote learning and development can result in opportunity for all.


Max Wessel is chief learning officer at SAP.