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How openSAP MOOCs are Creating Dynamic Learning Communities

June 10, 2015 by Susan Galer

Since MOOCs (massive open online courses) have emerged as an accepted educational option, one of the fundamental questions is how much students can actually learn in a virtual classroom. The answer is plenty, based on the recent experiences of participants in openSAP’s latest MOOC, “Build Your Own SAP Fiori App in the Cloud.”

Over 20,000 participants signed up for the challenge to design and build a working prototype of an SAP Fiori UX app, with 6,000 completing the weekly assignments, and 1,500 seeing it through to create a prototype app and receive a certificate of achievement. The three winners took home Apple MacBook Air computers, and an additional 170 students are showcasing their app prototypes in a special online gallery.

No developer experience needed

Since introducing MOOCs several years ago, SAP’s experiment has gone mainstream quickly. With over 700k enrollments from people in over 180 countries, openSAP is achieving a 30 percent completion rate that’s the envy of the industry. The SAP Fiori app challenge reflects SAP’s commitment to foster a dynamic learning community through continual refinements.

“We wanted to provide an end-to-end learning experience around app building with SAP Fiori UX, from idea conception to a fully functional, prototype app as an outcome,“ said Bob Caswell, Product Owner, UX Rapid Deployment Solutions at SAP, and one of the course instructors and creators. “The goal was to empower participants to be their own designer and developer. In fact, people didn’t need to have a developer background. We wanted to be very elastic about who could participate.”

Participants had trial access to SAP Web IDE (Integrated Development Environment), a cloud-based HTML5 mobile app tool that’s part of SAP HANA Cloud Platform. Caswell said one person with a few hours a week can gain the know-how to create their own prototype app. Of course, participants need to factor in their individual skill sets to scope out the ideal time commitment for course completion.

Real-world experiences reinforce learning

Online learning need not be any less immersive or detailed than the classroom experience. For example, SAP’s instructor team for this latest MOOC included not only experts from the company’s SAP Web IDE and UI5 (SAP’s User Interface Development Toolkit for HTML5), but also last year’s SAP Fiori challenge winner, David Lindquist, as a real-life example of what’s possible with the mobile user interface. This year’s winners couldn’t say enough positive things about this hands-on learning strategy.

Iterating real-time in the cloud

True to cloud-based computing fundamentals, instructors of the SAP Fiori MOOC were continually updating course materials, keeping real-time pace with the latest SAP Web IDE releases.

“My advice to other instructors is to be ready to engage at a moment’s notice, checking and rechecking your content so you can update it in real-time as the technology evolves,” said Caswell.

Also mirroring the company’s cloud-based software design, instructors are constantly iterating MOOC content, including the grading processes. Participants were required to grade each other, and received the grading rubrics in this latest course early on versus half-way through the program as in the previous course. In response to requests, SAP provided more examples of design ideas, to illustrate the grading criteria without stifling creativity. SAP also increased the number of submissions that participants were required to review from three to five, providing a more sustainable feedback loop. There were less than 25 requests for regrading.

In addition, participants in this contest gained exposure to a wider pool of SAP experts. Besides peer reviewers and course instructors, submission judges included senior leaders like Michael Kleinemeier, Member of the SAP Global Managing Board; Quentin Clark, SAP CTO; and Sam Yen, SAP Chief Design Officer.

To date, SAP has developed 35 MOOCs; four are in session now and seven are open for enrollment. With hands-on experiential learning, state-of-the-art peer review, and exposure to senior company experts, Caswell said participants see this latest SAP MOOC setting a new benchmark in online technology learning.

“Our CEO, Bill McDermott, announced that SAP Fiori UX was free as part of the SAP software license, and we’re taking user experience seriously with openSAP MOOCs,” he said. “These thousands of users are becoming ambassadors for the new SAP experience, reflecting the company’s larger commitment to customers.”

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