A key to SAP’s success in executing on its cloud strategy is to ensure skilled SAP practitioners are available throughout our ecosystem of customers, partners, and consultants. SAP Education contributes to SAP’s cloud strategy in a variety of ways – most recently through its cloud-based SAP Learning Hub platform built on SuccessFactors Learning and SAP Jam launched earlier this year.
Historically, SAP Education’s training and certification programs were based on SAP’s on-premise solutions. But SAP’s move to the cloud brings with it some fundamental changes to how enablement will be delivered to organizations and individuals looking to learn SAP.
In this interview recorded live on the show floor at SAP TechEd && d-code Las Vegas, Chief Community Evangelist Mark Finnern speaks with Markus Schwarz, SVP & Global Head of SAP Education discuss SAP Education’s strategy to take learning to the cloud with its cloud-based SAP Learning Hub platform, and the impact this will have on current and future learners of SAP.
Below is a transcript of the interview. You can also watch the replay on the SAP TechEd && d-code Online platform.
Mark Finnern: I am sitting here today with Markus Schwarz, who is the head of Education for SAP. It’s almost year since we sat here; [now we’re] a little bit more relaxed on the couch. Our theme today is education in the cloud, and SAP has brought out a solution called the [SAP] Learning Hub. Explain what the Learning Hub is, and where are we now a year later.
Markus Schwarz: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here. A year ago we talked about the need to change the education paradigm to reach many more people – not just the delegation that find their way into a classroom, but really a much broader ecosystem. We’re talking about 2.5-5 million people rather than the 400,000-500,000 we’ve been able to touch with the classroom model. So that’s one clear objective that we have. And also, with SAP being the cloud company powered by HANA, [it’s worth mentioning that] cloud solutions update 3-4 times a year. You need a different approach to learning and disseminating knowledge than asking people to attend a classroom. So that’s what the SAP Learning Hub is all about.
And we’ve seen great progress this year. Actually, I would say the year 2014 is the breakthrough year for the Learning Hub. Last quarter – Q3 – we had more than 800 new customers signing up for the Learning Hub. We are tracking now at 55,000 external users and we will reach the 100,000 mark by year-end. So it’s getting a great reception from the market. And I also just came from the Technology Services Industry Association’s annual event, and there the Learning Hub won the very prestigious STAR Award, which is an award which comes from peers in the industry. So that was really a very good day for SAP and the
MF: Congratulations! Anything new in the Learning Hub? I mean, how many courses are in there?
MS: When we talked this time last year, the Learning Hub was more or less a repository of all the [electronic] content that we have and it covers all of the [SAP Education] courses. What we’ve added in January [of this year] are learning rooms – like a mini-MOOC – where we blend the world of instructor-led training with the self-study model. So this is a social forum where people do some self-study, but then there are also subject-matter experts and moderators(comprised of SAP Education instructors as well as external experts such as SAP Mentors) who help [learners] get through their agenda. And it’s all asynchronous, so it’s not like a virtual live event which you have to attend at a certain time. The [learning rooms] are getting very good traction.
MF: So it’s a bit also of flipping the classroom, aka… that on a certain time, people are there to answer the questions, or is there a [regularly scheduled meeting time] where people can come to interact? Or is it always that [for example], I post a question on the forum and it gets answered over time?
MS: Yes, [the learners] are expected to do some self-study and preparation; that’s how it works. And then there are different events from the moderators, from the subject-matter experts. It might be a live event, it might be also something recorded, it might be also an interaction via the social forum; for this, we use SAP Jam.
MF: And at the end of this…mini…what did you call it?
MS: The mini-MOOC…the learning room…, yes, that’s one element.
MF: Do you get then a certification or something…?
MS: You can. Actually, it is the objective not just to disseminate information about SAP with the Learning Hub, but really create a means to prepare people for certification. So that is the expectation indeed; all the learning rooms are preparing or leading to a certification.
MF: Have you experienced any company saying that, [for example] “if you’ve done these kind of courses then I will hire you?” I mean, is that a way to get hired?
MS: Absolutely. Absolutely. The qualification in SAP skills, and a certificate in that [solution], is really important. It gets people to jobs, [especially] in many fast-growth markets. For example, we have a cooperation running with a private university [in Saudi Arabia], where they blend their normal curriculum
with an SAP certification curriculum with the objective to really grow the skillset in that market.
MF: That is interesting. Do you see a couple of years out that you may not even need a university?
MS: Well, I think the question is really, what should a university degree prepare [you] for? To perform a certain job, or a certain task or a sub-set of tasks?Actually, there are many examples where you can get a very job-specific preparation through other means than universities. But I personally believe that university degrees should create a basis for more than one particular set of tasks or job. You know what I mean? So, it should be a little bit broader and you might only use 20% of it later in your job but it creates many more options for you. And it broadens your horizons [so] that you can actually make the
right decision about what is it that you want to do with your future. It’s a very philosophical discussion.
MF: Well yes, but it’s also a very practical discussion because in the US [for example], you have four years of university [and at the end] you have a debt of on average $33,000 which is a big chain on your leg. And there are the 12-week academies and you finish, and you have a job. And then yes, you should continue your education on the side but with other opportunities you are able to get a broader foundation. So I think that’s quite attractive for young people.
MS: Yes, it might be attractive for a lot of folks but I believe it’s a patch for more fundamental problems. I just said that it might be that you can use only 20% of your university education to do the job. However, the problem is that many university curricula give you zero preparation for the next job. And then
these add-on academies are like patching a system that’s not going in the right direction. I believe that we – the [tech] industry – should work with universities to blend in much more job-specific education, especially at during the last leg of getting your degree. We see in Europe many people leaving university completely unprepared [for today’s job market], and that’s not right.
MF: On the other hand, you were saying that cloud software is so fast…how is a university even able to keep up to date with what is happening? So I think that SAP or other companies who are playing in that field have to step up and do that, and I think SAP is doing that.
MS: Absolutely. That’s our job, but we still believe we can insert also parts of our [SAP] curricula into the university curricula, because that’s where I think the skill sets need to be created. It cannot be left all to the industry. You know this 70:20:10 [theory] of learning, right? […whereby people learn] 70 on the job, 20 informal, 10% formal, and university and also classroom training covers the 10%. I believe that we should be looking for ways to cover all of the learning needs…the complete 100%. So, one specific course to learn a certain skill set might prepare you for the next 10 months, but then you need something where people have an ongoing update of knowledge, and that’s what we intend to do with the SAP Learning Hub. It’s like a club membership.
MF: Right, and I think that’s a great model but I still question….[the way] I see the future [is that] you don’t necessarily need university degrees. You do a 12-week jump-start, immersive SAP [course] and then you join the Learning Hub and continue to be up to date. There, we have a philosophical slight difference.
MS: You are from Europe originally, so you know the dual system that we have there. So, what we do for example in Germany – but also many other countries – is we have this dual education, where people work with a company, on the job but also part-time [to] get a good theoretical foundation. That works very well. I believe that to make everything dependant on a university degree is creating a lot of dissatisfaction with the learners.
MF: Very much so. So, a little look into the future – – where is the Learning Hub going, in terms of functionality?
MS: Well, the original target audience for the Learning Hub was project teams, or the hard-core experts – – the independents, partners, and also customers. We will be thinking very hard about how we can get much closer to the end-user – those people who work with our [SAP] systems every. And that is essential – especially in the world of cloud, where [solution] adoption is really important. Because if you don’t have adoption you really will have a hard time getting customers to renew their subscription. So we are preparing a version of the Learning Hub that really caters to the needs of end-users and which also then allows companies to modify the content, make it more specific to their particular processes to really get closer to the end-user and not just the experts.
MF: And can you tell us a little bit about the pricing of the current model, and if it will change then with [this move to] get closer to the end-user?
MS: The pricing of the current model which is more for the project teams will not change. We will introduce a new version with new pricing, because it’s a
completely different target audience. The current pricing that we see – the average price for a Learning Hub subscription per seat is EUR 400-500 and for
the end-users it will be a fraction of that; probably a factor of ten less.
MF: I see. Sounds cool. Any comparison to the openSAP MOOCs – massive open online courses? How are you working together?
MS: We’re working very closely with openSAP. The Learning Hub’s objective is really to prepare people for certification [in SAP solutions]. The objective of openSAP is to spread knowledge about SAP innovation to a very broad audience, even to people who might not work with SAP. And that’s really the difference in terms of intent. However, we have included openSAP courses in our curriculum, and when you go to openSAP you will also see the cross-reference to the Learning Hub. This way, people can really build on the knowledge that’s provided through the different platforms.
MF: That’s good. Anything that we haven’t covered that you wanted to talk about?
MS: You’d asked me about certification, and certification will also have to change in a cloud world. Because if a solution updates three, four times a year, a
one-time certificate doesn’t do the job, right? Because the knowledge might be outdated nine months down the road. So what we will be introducing is also a subscription model for certification so that people do it not only one time, but also then that [their] subscription entitles them to renew that qualification maybe three, four times a year to cover the lifecycle again.
MF: For every release. That’s interesting.
MS: That’s something that we will be introducing for SAP’s cloud solutions in the next year.
MF: You heard it here first! Thanks for joining SAP TechEd && d-code Live, last one for today. And what is the short URL for the Learning Hub?
MS: Just Google it – SAP Learning Hub. No problem to find it.
MF: Thank you.
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