By Peter Graf
8272, 8273, …, I keep hitting the refresh button on the main course page for “Sustainability and Business Innovation” and smile.
Only one day before the start of our online course on April 29 and the number of registered learners continues to grow. Michaela Laemmler, the dean of openSAP University, was right: At the end of October 2013, she suggested we should “record SAP’s first ever business MOOC” and that she “preferred sustainability as a topic due to its growing relevance in business.”
What’s a MOOC?!
As usual, I turned to Wikipedia for support: “A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web. In addition to traditional course materials such as videos, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs provide interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs are a recent development in distance education.“
A-ha. Somewhat embarrassed I also found out that MOOCs have been around for quite a while, the term was coined in 2008. Since then, millions of people have participated in MOOCs around the world. When it started, MOOCs usually were done by educational institutions. Now, companies increasingly rely on them. And that got me thinking: Why would people participate in a sustainability MOOC by SAP? And why would SAP invest into producing an online course that is free to participants and creates zero revenues?
Okay, SAP enjoys a fabulous reputation around its own sustainability performance, but that alone is not enough. For a MOOC to be interesting, we would have to share the experiences we’ve collected in thousands of customer engagements. In the end, we helped companies in all industries and of all sizes to make the business case for sustainability. How else could we convince their management to invest in SAP’s sustainability software?
But the question is how? How do people craft a sustainable strategy, get it approved by management and then embed sustainability across their business? For anyone interested in sustainability our MOOC is a compelling way to learn: You will hear about both SAP and customers’ successes and failures along the way. Okay, there really is a very compelling reason for students and professionals to check out our MOOC!
But why would we produce it?
Well, first of all, 90 percent of U.S. graduates are actively seeking out employers whose corporate responsibility commitment reflects their own (Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers). Young people increasingly seek purpose, not just a job. So, this MOOC helps people live their values at work and makes SAP a more attractive employer.
Second, while we do not promote any SAP solutions in the course directly, many people will understand that SAP is selling sustainability software to customers. This course will create more awareness about SAP’s strengths in this market, so they may turn to SAP when the need for sustainability solutions arises.
Third, we want to create a learning culture at SAP. That’s why the course is targeting both external parties as well as SAP employees. Because this is a MOOC, it is by definition free and open to anyone with an internet connection making it easily accessible. We also believe it’s critical that employees understand how and why business is changing fundamentally, in regards to sustainability. This ongoing education partly explains why 89% of all SAP employees agree that sustainability must be a strategic priority to the company – according to our annual employee survey.
So, Michaela and I eventually decided to produce SAP’s first-ever business MOOC. The 6-week course starts on April 29 (it is ok to join later as well!), with assignments being distributed for an entire week at a time. This allows people to learn whenever and wherever they want. Learners will need to invest about 4 hours per week to complete the course. Upon successful completion, participants will receive a record of achievement from SAP!
I invite you to find out more about the course content and to register online here.
And now, let me go back to my favorite activity: 8311, 8312…
Peter Graf is chief sustainability officer at SAP AG. This story originally appeared on SAP Business Trends.