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Author's profile photo Sarah Detzler

Predictive Analytics Hackathons Earn High Marks from Students and Teachers

Does Learning Need to be Dull?

One of the first things you learn when studying educational science is that teacher-centric teaching is not the best and most effective approach. So why are most of the trainings still built like this, then?

With the idea in mind to make learning more effective—and a lot more fun—some of our SAP Analytics & Insight consultants made a bold move. They came up with a whole new learning format they called “Predictive Hackathon.” The concept was introduced last year in Germany. Participants and trainers were so enthusiastic about the format and had so much fun that it was rolled out globally this year.  The target is to have more than 170 colleagues trained in predictive analytics by the end of 2018.

What’s So Special about the Predictive Hackathon?

What sets the Hackathon apart from other trainings is the focus on real life use cases and the extensive hands-on sessions that make the participants use the tool on their own as much as possible. For this the participants are split up into teams where they work to master three challenges.

The first one is a real customer use case picked by the trainers. For the others, the participants are free to come up with their own ideas and use some freely available data sets. In these challenges, the participants have come up with some great and innovative ideas.

They didn’t play it safe by going  for the “easy” cases. We saw the prediction of prices, the recommendation for the next vacation location, and an analysis of Twitter tweets to mention just a few.

Of course, the focus is on learning and having fun, but on the last day all teams present their results and the best teams receive fabulous prices from the limited Predictive Hackathon collection. Why do we make it competitive? Well, let’s be honest—we are all more motivated and organize ourselves better in teams when we expect a reward at the end.

Did Participants Get Lost?

Well, maybe they would have, but don’t worry, the teams at our Hackathons are not left on their own.  Trainers with different backgrounds like consulting, Center of Excellence or presales shared their knowledge, project experience, showed different perspectives and approaches as well as presentation methods.

In the daily expert session, the trainers gave the teams a quick overview of different functionalities of the tool. These sessions were purposely kept short (with a maximum duration of one hour) because most of the time was given for the actual HACKING. The trainers were then available at all times to support, answer questions, discuss use cases and help to overcome the occasional frustration because the data didn’t look quite as perfect as in our demo scenarios.

My favorite part as a trainer was always to discuss the unexpected with the teams, like when the results they were getting didn’t turn out the way they expected. This is also very common in real live projects when we have to think about whether we should collect more data, or enrich it, or when we have to realize that we did not get the results we expected but gained some other great insight from the data that help us with our business understanding.

And Where Was the Fun?

We had the most fun during the hands-on session and by getting creative in the challenges. In addition, there always was an evening event with pizza (what else for a real hackathon?!) for networking purposes where the teachers shared their experiences from past and ongoing projects in an easy-going atmosphere. This was an open discussion about things that went well and challenges on the way and how to overcome them.

What the participants liked the most was the Hands-On and Hacking Time and the unstructured explanatory learning.  As I said before, learning doesn’t need to be dull.

I am looking forward to more innovative trainings of this type and I would be more than happy to join as a participant or as a trainer. Stay tuned here, and to our SAP social channels for news on when our next Predictive Hackathon will be coming near you.

Learn More

I want to extend a BIG Thank You to Daniel Gerdes, the inventor of the Predictive Hackathon, the program manager for the global rollout and hackathon instructor. Without his ongoing commitment, creativity and hard work these events would not have been possible. We are looking forward to our next Hackathon experience with Daniel!

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