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Teaching Business Intelligence In China

Increasingly I am getting invited by universities to assist with different aspects of their SAP curriculum.   I am currently supervising the final BI exam of students at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics (SUIBE).  I am responsible for developing the BI curriculum and teaching the course and thought it is an appropriate time to document the experience in this blog.

SUIBE is one of the 7 universities which form part of the new the Songjiang University Town in an outer area of Shanghai.  The Songjian University Town caters for more than 100,000 students.  It is a modern environment with gardens, parks, lakes and buildings representing a range of architectures.  While the universities compete for students in their various programs they cooperate through the sharing of elective courses, and facilities such as libraries, computer laboratories and sporting fields.

SUIBE in an attempt to provide a truly international experience to its students, offer many of its courses in English and where ever possible employ foreign lecturers.  The university has been involved in the SAP University Alliance Program (UAP) since 2009 and offer 4 SAP related subjects (Introduction to ERP Systems, Business Process Integration, Business By Design and Accounting).

Early in 2013 they decided to incorporate BI into their undergraduate program as an elective course and invited me to assist.  This involved developing appropriate curriculum and delivering this curriculum to approximately 100 students over a 5 week period.

I have taught overseas many times but not for such a prolonged period using new curriculum that relied on a number of software solutions and conducted lab sessions with more than 50 students concurrently.  The course consisted of:

• Introduction to Business Intelligence

• SAP Business Intelligence

• Reporting Best Practices

• Dashboards

• Data Warehousing

• Predictive Analytics and Big Data

The theory covered in these lectures was reinforced by using a number of BI tools; Microsoft Excel PivotTables, Business Objects Explorer, Crystal Reports, Dashboard Design, and BW.  The assessment tasks included analyzing a data set with Business Objects Explorer to answer a range of questions and a multiple- choice exam. I taught 2 groups of students over a 3 hour period at night twice a week for 5 weeks.  The students initially struggled with my accent and humor especially the sarcasm.


The students work very long hours.  In Australia, a business student would study 4 courses totaling approximately 12 hours a week per semester (12 weeks).  There are 2 semesters per year.  In SUIBE the semesters are 18 weeks (2 per year) and they study 9 courses for a total of 24 hours per week.  On some days the students arrived in my class (6:00pm) after already studying for 8 hours.  I had to continually convince myself that it was their workload that was causing some of them to fade during the class rather than my teaching style.

When it came to the practical work the students perked up and energetically embraced the exercises.  I tried to convince the students that the SAP skills and knowledge that they achieved throughout their studies make them very employable and is unique in China.

I have suggested including Web Intelligence and Universe design next time this class is offered. I also presented to SUIBE staff about future IT trends and associated SAP solutions, teaching curriculum and future opportunities.  I also presented to staff and students at Donghua University IT trends and SAP.

Reviewing the teaching initiative overall I believe it was very successful.  Students gained unique skills, the university staff have gained access to curriculum and tools which can be taught in the future and I enjoyed Shanghai for over a month.   We are already investigating how Victoria University students and students from SUIBE can collaborate on SAP related activities in the future.

It was interesting coping with no access to Facebook or Twitter but on the bright side SCN is now available in China.

Teaching workshop exercises and datasets will be available at  on my return from China.

I would like to thank Josie Guan from SAP and Professor Guo Xinshun from SUIBE for organizing the initiative.

Paul Hawking

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