Knowledge is a basic need of human beings. Within a company, employees’ knowledge is an asset. The rapidly changing innovation cycles of the information society demand that employees constantly expand and update their level of knowledge and ability. In this context, traditional methods of teaching and learning, based purely upon classroom presentations, reach their limits. These methods can still trigger on-going, self-directed continuing education, but the future belongs to new online technologies that increasingly find a place in training and continuing education. The advantages are obvious: companies can easily lower absence rates and costs. More important, however, Web-based learning solutions can be optimized to meet the needs of companies and their employees and allow ubiquitous access to knowledge resources.
A Tailor-Made Learning Portal
With SAP Learning Solution, learning becomes an integrated component of an enterprise portal. Employees have access to various learning offerings such as classroom training, a virtual classroom, or Web-based training. Individual offerings are arranged into curricula that are customized for the individual competence profiles of each student.
Employees use the learning portal to create a personal plan for continuing education and tailor it to their own needs, qualifications, and functions in the enterprise. At any time, they can view their own training activities, call up information on their own qualifications and qualification deficits, and check their progress. In addition, they can flexibly search the multidimensional training catalog for training offerings that might be relevant to their desired educational goals. Employees can use self-services to book training or make a reservation for future training.
Integration between SAP Learning Solution and mySAP Human Resources (mySAP HR) allows the human resources department to take over qualifications for position descriptions or the training department to find the necessary information to plan for its future needs. Suggestions for training offerings can be derived from employees’ plans or from position descriptions. Required training can be listed in the training plan automatically. Employees’ learning goals can be compared to their level of knowledge, and the ability for comparison extends to the content and scope of a training offering. The solution logs all current, future, and historical learning and assessment activities and uses this data for continuous adjustments.
Personalization and Adaptation
SAP Learning Solution uses the Internet to personalize learning one step further. Given that students differ not only in the level of knowledge they already have, but also in their learning style and media preferences, the content of individual modules can be structured tightly to the needs of an individual. Previously created and structured learning content is individually combined and presented at runtime, the point at which the student actually goes through the material. The specifics of a presentation depend upon a student’s preferred learning strategy and level of previous knowledge.
The innovative didactic modeling of Web-based training enables this kind of intelligent direction. In this model, training consists of individual knowledge networks at various hierarchical levels: curriculum, training, training portion, and training unit. The lowest level contains the actual instructional objects. Accordingly, the objects in the knowledge network are linked to each other by didactic and structural relationships. For example, the relationships include, “is the basis for,” “is analogous to,” and “is a part of.” Instructional objects are distinguished by orientation knowledge (overview, history, or facts), explanatory knowledge (an explanation of what or how), behavioral knowledge (rules, procedures, or laws), and source knowledge (references, manuals, reports, or the Web).
Creating Individual Leaning Paths
During training, users employ this didactic metadata to create an individual learning path based upon their freely chosen learning strategies. For example, if a user prefers to learn deductively and from a theory, explanatory knowledge is presented first. If a user prefers examples, a learning unit begins with an example. Only then do explanations and the presentation of behavioral knowledge appear. SAP Learning Solution recognizes a number of simple and complex learning strategies that enable optimal customization of training to the needs of students.
To create these kinds of adaptable learning networks, SAP Learning Solution offers its own, user-friendly graphical authoring environment. It includes tools to structure learning materials, format instruction with didactic metadata, manage catalogs of learning goals, create learning tasks and tests, and maintain versions under a uniform user interface. Additional, external authoring tools can be employed to format learning materials in the proper media. Already-available materials and training can be imported if they have been created according to SCORM (shared content object reference model), the international standard for learning objects.
Student-Centered Learning Environment
Recent studies in technology-supported learning highlight the active role of a student in the learning process. Studies show that tailor-made learning offerings do improve acceptance and increase the effectiveness of learning. Nonetheless, the level of success is much higher when a student is actively involved in the learning process. A student-centered learning environment requires adherence to some important principles.
Knowledge is complex and depends upon its context. Accordingly, learning materials must convey multiple perspectives, such as various expert opinions or different presentations. Learning does not result from the pure acceptance of information, but requires mental work by the student. The learning process also requires that students articulate and abstract. Accordingly, the learning environment must support an active attitude toward the search for meaning. Learning occurs by linking new knowledge with extant knowledge. Therefore, an effective learning environment must consider students’ existing knowledge and background as well as their goals and perspectives. It’s impossible to observe these principles solely through content-rich and well-linked knowledge resources. The learning environment must offer appropriate supplemental tools (scaffolding tools) that promote learning activities and form an integrated element of training.
Embedding Cognitive Learning Tools Directly
SAP Learning Solution meets this requirement and offers options to embed cognitive learning tools directly into training. But even more, coupling SAP Learning Solution with the cooperation platform DyCE from Partners Go4Teams enables users to employ these tools cooperatively with several students and trainers. In practice, specific forms of cooperation have proven useful. The project tool enables cooperative work on small tasks in a project. Various forms of discussion such as lightening rounds, round-table discussions, and pro/con disputes are regular parts of training. Trainers can schedule question and answer sessions with participants. Interviews enable training participants to question selected experts in a given field. Cooperative brainstorming and mind-mapping tools can be placed at specific points in a course or activated spontaneously by students.
E-Learning: A Technology for the Future
SAP Learning Solution is the solution for the demands of internal education for our time. Knowledge management, continuing education, and the customization of these elements to business processes are becoming more and more important. In the future, software systems for the control of business processes, knowledge management, and learning will coalesce. In response, SAP Corporate Research has begun its own international research program to deal with specific issues of the learning technologies of the future and their practical application in the context of an enterprise. The results and insights of the program flow directly and continuously into SAP Learning Solution.