Students Issue Report Card on MOOCs
Debates on the pros and cons of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) often overlook how these online sessions fundamentally change the dynamic of learning. I’ve been writing about the emergence of MOOCs in businesses like SAP as a flexible, fast option to teach developers about the latest technologies. While online surveys have yielded a significant amount of student feedback, I decided it was time to hear first-hand from some developers who have participated in recent SAP MOOCs, including Introduction Software Development on SAP HANA and Introduction to Mobile Software Development for the Enterprise.
Brenton O’Callaghan, a United Kingdom-based consultant at Bluefin who attended the introductory SAP HANA MOOC, was struck by the richness of the shared experience that spilled over to other communities.
“People were taking the conversation to the SAP Community Network (SCN), posing course scenarios and asking questions that I knew were from the MOOC. On Twitter, they were sharing feedback about the modules, and the instructors were posting course updates. I ended up encountering people in different communities, and realizing they had been in the course too. I thought that was good because it means that anybody doing the course on their own in the future would be able to search for this information and find it in the SAP developer community.”
Steven De Saeger has also participated in the SAP HANA and mobile MOOCs as a convenient way to stay updated on SAP’s latest innovations. Through his Belgium-based consultancy, Sedacrivity, De Saeger has 18 years of experience working within SAP landscapes for multi-nationals in a variety of
industries. Here’s how he summed up his rationale for signing up.
“I need to keep up-to-date as much as possible, and it’s hard to make time for official courses during the day. I made a decision to find out more about HANA and mobile and when I received information about the MOOCs, I thought, that’s perfect. For a busy professional like myself with a day job the format is ideal. You can participate when you have the time, downloading materials and reviewing them at your convenience. It’s free, and I’m very glad to have access to an opportunity to learn like this from SAP.”
All of these participants had high praise for instructor Thomas Jung. Echoing everyone’s comments, Peter Asigbetse, one of O’Callaghan’s colleagues at Bluefin, said, “Thomas is an exceptional teacher, both technical and engaging, which meant that you wanted to come back and not just let it lapse which is easy to do with these courses.”
Indeed the completion rate for the first SAP HANA development MOOC was 30 to 60 percent—that’s five to seven times higher than the completion rates of academic MOOCs, which average six to eight percent. Not surprisingly, SAP is repeating this MOOC, and has added Introduction to SAP HANA Cloud Platform starting October 28.
As for the future, the students I spoke with had a number of suggestions to make the SAP MOOCs even more valuable:
- downloadable podcasts of video content from courses
- easily searchable course discussion forums categorized by topic
- flexibility to earn a percentage of award points when exams aren’t completed on time—this would motivate participants who unavoidably miss sessions
- more detailed pre-requisites and preparation materials
MOOCs can be an excellent option for busy software developers to stay updated on enormous amounts of fast-paced innovation. And if the conversation extends into professional forums like the SCN, learning becomes a force multiplier for the enrichment of all.
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