In 2013, SAP started openSAP to provide free SAP-related courses online to the public for free. Each course consists of about 90 minutes of video lecture content, and weekly assignments, requiring an expected total commitment of 4-5 hours a week for 4-6 weeks. So far, openSAP has provided the following courses:
This is a notable effort as SAP is one of the early companies that have utilized MOOCs to provide free training to those who are interested. This helps to increase the knowledge of the developer base, while not taking the place of more detailed training. The courses have been successful, with tens of thousands of enrollments each, and with more being planned. Currently, these MOOCs are offered on the openHPI platform.
Class Central got in touch with Michaela Laemmler, Dean of openSAP, and Clemens Link, who helped start openSAP in 2013, to ask some questions about the motivations for offering MOOCs, and their future plans. An interview excerpt is below:
Class Central: How did the idea for openSAP originate?
September 2012, Prof. Dr. Hasso Plattner delivered the first Massive Open Online Course on openHPI, In-memory Data Management, and there was a much larger than expected interest in the course. The topic is closely related to SAP HANA and we realized that the topic was attractive to a much larger audience than we could ever have imagined. At SAP, we started to think about the interest in this format and decided to offer similar courses on SAP topics, in a business context, to reach a large audience. Of course, we had watched MOOCs growing throughout the academic world and thought about complementing our existing SAP education with MOOCs but it was after Hasso’s first course that we really thought about taking action to become one of the first companies to deliver business education in MOOC format on our own platform.
Class Central: Did you evaluate other platforms besides openHPI? What advantages are there in offering your courses using openHPI?
We were under time pressure to start sharing knowledge using the MOOC format and we didn’t have an existing SAP MOOC platform. We researched other offerings to see how we could best deliver our content and we moved quickly to deliver. We had good experiences using openHPI as students so it made sense to continue with openHPI. openHPI has a nice look and feel and is easy to use; it’s a tried and trusted platform which was also an important factor. Our goal is to move to an SAP MOOC platform in the future, based on SuccessFactors Learning.
Class Central: Is the OpenHPI platform similar to the major platforms like Coursera, Udacity, and edX? If not, how does it differ?
openHPI is similar to other MOOC platforms, however, other platforms are established longer and have made some advances in their offerings. In 2014 our platform will be enhanced with many improvements for our users. Additional features will include collaboration within groups and much more
Class Central: What are SAP’s goals in offering these courses?
Our goal is to support the mass innovation adoption of key SAP topics at scale. We want to extend our developer base and become more attractive in the market. openSAP makes this possible by reaching people that we couldn’t before with our traditional education offerings. We aim to educate anyone interested as early adopters on key SAP topics during their studies or business for preparation in the SAP Ecosystem. openSAP makes our learning available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Class Central: What are the medium- or longer-term goals for openSAP? What courses will be next?
We plan to extend our courses, not only to developers, but to a wider target audience. Virtual learning plays an important part in education globally. Not only are MOOC a growing popular format, we have seen them to be effective in transferring knowledge virtually. Some topics which we can share for 2014 are: SAP Business Suite powered by SAP HANA, Sustainability and Business Innovations and much more. In addition to our Enterprise MOOC’s, we are also working on a flexible format to enable further collaboration. More details will follow soon.
Class Central: Are the courses similar to other training offered by SAP or its partners?
The format is different but the content is similar. After completing an openSAP course, there are additional offerings where interested students can continue their education with SAP and dive deeper into the topics provided by openSAP.
Class Central: Who was the initial target audience for the MOOC? Did this differ from the actual audiences?
Initially, we wanted to reach as many developers as possible. Our actual audience is a much wider base than just developers, ranging from students to working professionals. We found that students are both experienced and new developers. Our students range in age from just 14 and up to 80 years old, with 30-35 the most common age group. This year, with a broader course portfolio, our target audience will also broaden to include additional roles.
Class Central: How much value do you think a record of achievement should have compared with other available certifications?
The Record of Achievement is similar to any other online certificate. As MOOCs become more common, students will of course hope that they will be beneficial when applying for jobs. Although these certificates are a good addition to your resume, we are aware there is the opportunity to cheat. We don’t see this as a major challenge as, for instance in a job interview, it’s easy to tell if the candidate really understands the content from the course or if there is a possibility that they cheated.
The Record of Achievement and SAP Certifications from SAP Education cannot fairly be compared as they are completely different. openSAP courses are two days in total which provides a good insight and overview but does not have the opportunity to dive deep into the content. SAP Education courses with certifications are often 15 days duration, delving much deeper into the content and afterwards, students will have a much deeper knowledge of the content.
Class Central: What are some of the surprising things you’ve found in running the courses? Are you planning any adjustments based on this?
Our students love personal contact to the team and experts. One of the surprising things is how much students love to help each other in the discussion forums. Often, questions are answered in a short space of time and sometimes before our experts get the opportunity to answer. We have found that our students also like continuity and would like the schedule similar for each course. For future courses, we are definitely taking this on board and we will provide the course materials and run weekly assignments over similar schedules for each course. The most surprising thing is definitely the positive feedback from our students. It’s been overwhelming and very motivating to the entire team.