One of the featured guests for the popular SAP TechEd Live interview series broadcast on the show floor at SAP TechEd Las Vegas 2013 was Markus Schwarz, Senior Vice President and Global Head of SAP Education. Markus was interviewed by Mark Finnern, Chief Community Evangelist and leader of the SAP Mentor program.
The theme of the interview was “From Mobile to MOOCs: The Flexible Learning Revolution”, and in the lively 17-minute discussion that followed, Markus covered a wide range of topics: from the growing popularity of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and SAP’s response to this trend to the ways in which people are consuming learning content on tablets and other devices, as well as such positive changes to SAP’s certification program as crowd sourcing to create a larger pool of questions from the certified community.
Below is a transcript of the interview. You can watch the replay on the SAP TechEd Online platform: From Mobile to MOOCs: The Flexible Learning Revolution.
Mark Finnern: Where is education going at SAP? And what’s coming [next]?
Markus Schwarz: Education is really an exciting topic these days, because I think we’ve seen all the advances in technology that allow us to be much more creative in reaching many more people than ever before. There are MOOCs (massive open online course), electronic learning, online learning – – this is a huge opportunity. “Massive” means you can reach hundreds of thousands of people with your courseware, so there is no limitation as in a classroom with numbers of seats. “Open” means that people can register for a course, so they don’t have to go through special procedures to have access to the knowledge. And “online course” means that it tries to give the same end result – but not necessarily the same experience – as classroom training.
We have done this at SAP [with openSAP]. What were the results?
The normal observation in the market when you look at MOOCs is that there are a lot of people registering and there is a lot of curiosity. But when you then look at the numbers of how many people actually complete a course, it’s really fairly low; it’s about 6 or 7%. In SAP’s case, for example with SAP HANA, the completion rate has been much higher. So we’re really happy about that. We also have an offering in the market called SAP Learning Hub which is similar to a MOOC, where you get access to all of SAP’s electronic knowledge and people subscribe to it. There, the completion rate is close to 90 or 95%. That’s what we want at the end. I don’t care how many people register; I need to create skill sets in the market so that SAP can grow further.
Any idea why there’s something like a 25% completion rate [with openSAP courses]?
I think it’s the popularity of SAP HANA. That helps a lot. That is very good. Then the next course was Mobile. This course has not yet concluded but we expect similar results. It’s actually the popularity of the topics, and that’s good news for SAP.
I also think what they hope to get is a leg up in the job market. You finish your degree at a university, and then whom does a future employer choose? A MOOC might help you get a leg up. So, you were talking about a subscription [to SAP Learning Hub]. How much is that subscription?
From a pricing point of view, that really depends on how big of a package a customer buys. So far, we actually sell SAP Learning Hub packages to customers and partners, but we will open it up to public registration on January 1, 2014. That is the first step. And the price points range from about US$600-700 for a complete year of access to all of the knowledge. That’s really an attractive price, and it’s ending at around US$2,500 – which is actually two classroom courses. So it’s really an attractive offering for a company that wants to keep their people up to date. There’s the issue of skills leakage going on, so SAP Learning Hub is like an insurance policy –call it a baseline, foundation, or a repository that you always have available to you.
So how does Mobility change education?
We want to leverage technologies to make education available to people anytime, anywhere. By definition, that requires accessibility on a mobile device. So that is part of it. Everything we do needs to be consumed on a mobile device or pc. I have doubts about how far it can go on a mobile phone, to be honest, but it absolutely works on a tablet.
Do you like the Khan Academy model? What is happening in that regard at SAP?
The Khan Academy is just fantastic, and I use it with my children. The ultimate purpose of the Khan Academy is to provide a means to make knowledge available to people who might otherwise not have the privilege of taking courses in a physical classroom environment. So it’s more of a corporate social responsibility type of initiative. What we at SAP really need to do is build finished skill sets. Khan Academy has many useful components but it doesn’t actually lead to a degree. What it does do is help you to augment whatever education you’re pursuing to reach a degree. What we’re trying to do at SAP is get to the end goal of a person who can implement, use, and operation SAP solutions with the online course alone.
In that subscription model [for SAP Learning Hub], is there a chance for someone who does a great course outside of SAP to participate in that model?
That’s an excellent point. I think one thing we realized is that we as SAP are probably not the only ones who can create good learning content. So what we will do is include partner content. And “partner” is a broad definition here – -it could be individuals. And this “third-party content” can be checked in and published. We will add this to SAP Learning Hub later on, so it won’t be part of what we will introduce in January. Technically, it’s actually already possible. What we haven’t figured out yet is the liability piece; how to ensure that it really is adequate content and really increases quality in the ecosystem.
I think that by rating and commenting you can get that. But what about the revenue share? Will the partners get money back [for their contributions]?
Absolutely. Otherwise, they probably wouldn’t do it. It’s absolutely clear that there must be a revenue share. We are not yet done with the financial model, and actually that’s something that can be done quickly; there are several precedents in the market. What worries us a little bit is the process — how to ensure the quality. For example, we don’t want to have a situation where a crowd-sourced e-learning causes a customer escalation or bad quality implementation. You can do this partly with ratings, as you mentioned, but I think we need to go a little bit deeper. Maybe how Apple is doing it, with third-party applications. We need to establish a framework and ensure that the baseline quality is being maintained.
There’s another thing I would like your opinion about. [With] SAP creating these great education possibilities, do you still need to go to college?
Yes. You definitely need to go to college, because what you learn there is probably much broader – and should be much broader – as a foundation for your life, and not just a specialization. So these options and offerings we’ve been discussing cannot replace college. However, we are working very closely with colleagues in our SAP University Alliances program to make sure that SAP learning content is embedded in the specialization tracks of university programs. That makes absolute sense. But we will never be able to cover the entire education piece.
There are so many opportunities now to put your own education together with MOOCs, as well as by learning and doing and just being in life. You don’t need to have that structure that at the end gives you a certificate. I would love for SAP customers see that all the certifications are done through that system and have that quality trust in it, and therefore [can state] “I have the person [I want] and I don’t care if there are other credentials. because this is what I need from that person”. So what about certification?
Certification [in SAP skills] is certainly important, because with the proliferation of means to acquire knowledge – and it actually shouldn’t matter which means people pick to acquire that knowledge – but at the end you need to establish a standard where you can say, no matter how people have acquired [the knowledge], they have reached a certain point and acquired a certain skill. That’s all the more important now, with all the new solutions SAP has brought to the market over the past three years, people are not able show in a resumé that they have 10 years of experience with SAP HANA implementations; it just doesn’t exist. So these proof points and certification become all the more important, and we clearly see that as we track the numbers of certification growth. We’ve seen a signification growth in SAP certifications – it’s about 30% year over year – and I think that’s because of the wealth of innovation that’s being released to the market.
With all these new technologies, are you seeing an improvement in certifications – in other words, doing better certifications?
Yes. One thing we are doing is make more efforts to take care of the community of people who are already certified. That’s something I think we’ve neglected in the past, and we will take care of that. And it’s all about the validation of certifications as well. Customers want to know whether a particular person is certified, so that’s one thing. The other thing is, the quality of certification also depends on the pool of questions that you have. SAP Education has started a crowd sourcing effort to engage the community in helping us to build the certification. That’s a very important element of our strategy. And this is a big change for us: community management and crowd sourcing of certification questions.
We’ve covered a lot of space, but is there something you wanted to bring across that you’ve not yet talked about?
I just want to reiterate the SAP Learning Hub. This is an offering which has seen really great traction. We have 12,000 people [from partner and customer organizations] subscribed to its learning content, and we will make it available to individuals in the New Year. It will be a big change. We’ve waited a little while to do this because we needed to get one thing done which is a prerequisite, and that is systems and labs access. If you sell 200 [classroom] seats, people want an environment in which to train. Now, if I sell one seat, I need to be able to provide a training environment for that person by the hour with flexible scheduling. This is something we are putting in place right now, and which we will have in January [for SAP Learning Hub].
So with SAP Learning Hub you subscribe but with that subscription you also get access to an SAP system, but that’s extra?
That is extra, but you only get access to systems if you are a subscriber to SAP Learning Hub.
That’s great to know. How can people find SAP Learning Hub?
There will be a broad communication in January, and there will be a URL.
So check out SAP Learning Hub everyone. You heard it first at SAP TechEd Las Vegas!
* SAP Education extends heartfelt thanks to Mark Finnern for conducting this interview!