Lynton Howes

Digital evolution drives the future of SAP learning

This article is featured in the Inside SAP 2013 Yearbook - Page 42

Adapting to the New

Let me share with you a story about the first time I taught a room of budding SAP users who were aged almost exclusively under 25. I had a great set of training materials – brief but engaging slides, and realistic but not overly-complicated hands-on activities. Shortly after I walked into that room full of excited, boisterous, generation-Y trainees and commenced the learning, I sensed that I had to immediately adapt my delivery style if I was to survive the day. Almost instantly I noticed that they could not leave their smartphones alone, nor could they resist surfing the internet whenever there was a spare moment, yet somehow when I questioned them it didn’t seem to affect their learning or recall. They were lightning quick with the system, collectively chatty and relentlessly questioning me on topics other groups would typically just accept.

Let me also share with you some trends. Infographics are in; lengthy descriptions are boring. LMS2.0 is in; the old LMS format is dated. HTML5 is in; Flash is soon to be a relic. Hybrid learning is in; blended learning is old-school. And mLearning and social media-enabled learning platforms…well they’re just plain new!

Inside SAP

This article is featured in the InsideSAP 2013 Yearbook (p. 42) – Click to view

The Digital Age is whistling us along at a phenomenal pace, making it hard to believe that most of the technology we take for granted today was absent 20 years ago. And it’s offering up new tools to dramatically increase the effectiveness of SAP learning programs, just as quickly. This article will explore how these advances translate into the latest developments in systems learning, and how these can be applied to SAP learning programs to yield optimal learning outcomes, and hence maximum success and cost-effectiveness for the project.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

A teaching revolution is happening in our schools and universities, as the recognition that Digital Natives – those who have spent their entire lives surrounded by all the toys and tools of the digital age – actually think, process information, and learn differently (Prensky, 2001). They like their information fast and furious, are prodigious parallel-processors, prefer to scan than focus, and prefer graphics over text (think Instagram, Pinterest and infographics). This generation is now entering the workforce in droves, triggering a corporate learning revolution, as I experienced first-hand. If you’re a Digital Immigrant (someone who has adapted to the digital environment) and have a stake in delivering training programs, it’s critical to be aware of the requirements of this group and provide suitable learning offerings, in the same way that you must if you are catering to a group of more mature users. The key is choice – providing learning options so that users can gravitate towards those which they find most enjoyable and effective.

The eLearning Evolution – good and becoming excellent

eLearning materials – developed for the large screen (desktop or laptop) – are becoming more powerful and widespread learning aids, as software providers compete to make the development of rich, interactive materials easier (and cheaper) to develop. Realistic, natural-sounding avatars walk the learner through engaging content which emulates a personal training experience, and can include content branching based on the (real time) assessed level of the participant, customised feedback, and game-like quizzes for effective assessment (which feeds directly through to a Learning Management System). For SAP end-user training, the future is very bright for eLearning, as most organisations won’t be doing away with desktop computers any time soon.

The mLearning Revolution – a rising star, despite the challenges

Mobile Learning is where the real action is at, in terms of the latest developments and the potential for widespread adoption. The extraordinary advances in mobile devices in the last ten years have cemented their place in our digital future. We are at the very cusp of an mLearning revolution, due to the ubiquity of mobile devices (that is, tablets and smartphones), the fact that nearly everyone is “wearing” one at all times, and the huge potential they bring in terms of functionality. Think of apps for these devices, which make use of accelerometers, cameras, eye-tracking, geolocation, etc. and how the features of today’s mobile devices can be imaginatively applied to learning. They are allowing us to create entirely new ways of learning. This huge growth potential is the reason why software such as Adobe Captivate and Articulate Storyline is being rushed to market with new versions which can publish directly to HTLM5 (the latest version of HTML, which permits greater interactivity).

There are challenges, though – not all features of HTLM5 are supported by even the most modern browsers. Apple devices, which represent 35% of the smartphone market (Sadauskas, 2012) and 75% of the tablet market (Griffith, 2012), do not support Flash, meaning that shockwave (.swf) files, a common publish format from screen capture software, will not work – hence the rush towards HTML5.

Critically, mobile learning content must be created for mobile devices – it cannot be simply converted from eLearning content. From a technical perspective, this is due to screen resolution variance, the different interaction methods between mouse clicking and finger-tapping, and the size of finger tap areas. More importantly, mobile learning is a different learning experience, suited for shorter sessions which yield small chunks of information, accessed at the moment when it is required. It permits untethered, anywhere, anytime learning – perfect for recapping concepts while waiting for the bus or just-in-time quick reference on the job.

Social Learning – more pull, less push

While eLearning and mLearning are opening up new possibilities for training effectiveness, there is one key ingredient missing – other people. Informal learning, or social learning, is about the learning that goes on outside of formal learning, and involves reading, listening, watching, or talking to others. A good example of this is when you receive an error message when using SAP, and ask a colleague for help, to try to quickly resolve it. If a colleague is not available, you might Google the error message. The logical extension of this is to use the new tools available, such as wikis (for knowledge bases), Twitter or discussion forums (for information sharing and problem solving), or a dedicated social media platform, such as Elgg, to enable a more participative, social and collaborative learning ecosystem. New generation Learning Management Systems, dubbed LMS2.0, which are learner-centric, rather than provider-centric, integrate well with the tools mentioned above.

It’s about moving away from the classical “push” approach towards more effective “pull” learning styles, and empowering users to create support content and organise learning groups themselves. When this occurs, user engagement and adoption follow.

Bringing it all together for maximum benefit

Yet, nothing can enable and empower the learning experience like a great trainer. The technical tools and devices deepen the learning experience during delivery, and cultivate the learning once the classroom training is complete, but a great SAP trainer bridges the gap between people and systems, interprets all the information that’s ‘out there’ and contextualises it clearly.

At Adapt2 Consulting, we believe that there will always be a place for human interaction in training, especially SAP training, where the learning of particular transactional tasks is typically integrated with complicated processes.

Using great trainers AND the latest educational tools delivers more rewarding, engaging, efficient and truly hybrid learning experiences, as well as catering for a range of learning styles. This ensures engagement and adoption of the system by users, so that the capital investment delivers a prompt return on investment. If you are investing in the latest SAP features, such as HANA, portal-based ECC access, mobility solutions, and Business Objects, shouldn’t you be looking to complement that technology with the very latest in learning methods? Alternatively, you may be looking to run your Business As Usual training more efficiently. In either case, maximum benefit will be realised by those who can adapt to these new tools quickly and effectively. Adapt to the digital evolution.

Works Cited
  1. Griffith, C. (2012, March 20). The Australian/AustralianIT. Retrieved from The Australian
  2. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon.
  3. Sadauskas, A. (2012, May 17). smartcompany/industry. Retrieved from smartcompany

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6 Responses to Digital evolution drives the future of SAP learning

  1. Christel Derrien October 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Most interesting! :)

    • Lynton Howes
      Lynton Howes October 11, 2012 at 4:15 am #

      Thanks for your comment Christel, glad that you found it interesting.

  2. Karen Marsden October 11, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    What a fantastic article Lynton.
    This is a great, quick read summary of present v’s future training that can be easily presented to management to ensure your learning platform is geared to the future.

    • Lynton Howes
      Lynton Howes October 11, 2012 at 4:19 am #

      Thank you Karen, I really appreciate the feedback and am glad you found it useful.

  3. Lee S December 20, 2012 at 12:47 am #

    Interesting and highly digestible Lynton – the twin pillars of effective communication in my opinion. If more training material was written the way you’ve written this, the world would be a smarter place. Well done.

    • Lynton Howes
      Lynton Howes December 23, 2012 at 1:46 am #

      Thank you for the kind words Lee, glad to hear that you found it interesting.

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