Bridging The Future Of Technology And Education

Taylor King

I wasn’t fully on board with technology when I first arrived at college in the sense that I still really appreciated the physicality of things. I still wrote all my notes by hand for every single course. Although my syllabi were online, I always printed all of them out. And while e-learning versions of my textbooks were significantly cheaper, I still opted to pay up to $50 more for each hard copy.

No matter how many hand cramps I got from note taking, or how heavy my back pack was from carrying books around campus all day, I still pushed on. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that my university was more integrated with technology than I was at that point.100whatifs graphic

Every paper I turned in class also required an electronically submitted copy. My first two businesses classes already required the purchase of online software in order to complete our assigned homework each week. And rather than handing out readings in class, it was up to us students to access them online (and decide whether we wanted to be the ones to kill a tree’s worth of paper).

Over my past three years at college I’ve adjusted my approach to learning. It is not that I’ve changed my educational values but rather I have come to learn what the power of technology can do for me as a student. With the capability to work at a far more efficient pace, I can maximize the content I learn in class from all different angles. I have come to realize that it’s not the content of education that changes, but rather the efficiency, accessibility, and accuracy with which I consume it.

Technology will never replace the human interaction that is so vital to learning, but instead can provide a wider platform for delivery consumption.  So I don’t necessarily need to sit in an auditorium to attend a presentation; I can join in via a web portal. But it doesn’t mean that you should only watch baseball on TV.  Sometimes you get more from sitting in the stadium.

So as I enter into my senior year of college, I now take a much closer look at the reality of the question: what if education was driven by technology?

When it comes to education, technology is much more than just about how the single student is affected.  Technology provides a platform to bring education to far more people than is possible on campus. I think the future of technology holds the potential to bridge the gap between the live experience and interactive one.

Online education is already taking steps forward to provide students with this combined experience. The SAP Learning Hub, Student Edition is a perfect example of interactive learning and virtual accessibility right at a student’s finger tips. Not only does it give students the flexibility to learn anytime, anywhere, but it also helps students get a jumpstart on potential future career path at SAP or any company that works with SAP technology. With the job market on every college student’s mind, this kind of technology creates an incentive for students to start learning about their future careers before they even graduate.

Technology changes the way we access information and volume at which we consume it.  Today’s first grader learns very differently than even I did. Technology will continue to influence the means and pace at which we learn with interconnectivity playing a large role.  But ultimately we need to constantly evaluate the balance of this pace to make sure that we don’t learn things so fast that we leave other important things behind—like growing up.


About Taylor King

Marketing Intern for Global Services going into her senior year of college. Join her in conversation @_taylor_king



Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


Educating Refugees: The Value Of Digital Platforms And Mobile Technology

Malcolm Woodfield

Natural disasters, racial and religious persecution, and wars take a great toll on humanity. Populations in affected areas often find themselves in untenable positions within their own countries. Too often, they have only one option to save their loved ones and themselves: to flee their homeland in search of a safer place.

The UNHCR reports that the war in Syria has displaced more people than ever. Currently, there are more than 50 million refugees worldwide, and that number is growing every day.

Education is essential for brighter prospects

Half of all refugees are children under the age of 18. Surveys show that most remain displaced for approximately 17 years. Moreover, their access to education is sporadic or even non-existent. This limits their potential to integrate into their new countries. It also reduces their employment opportunities. Knowledge workers are critical in developed countries and are becoming important in developing countries.

Of course, children aren’t the only ones who need education. Displaced adults also need to learn their host country’s language and systems. Those who are not skilled or educated need help acquiring marketable skills and knowledge, or they’re likely to end up on the bottom rung of society, with few prospects.

The difficult challenge of delivering quality education

Despite an increasing need for effective ways to deliver quality education to refugees, there are significant challenges. Education takes a back seat to more pressing concerns like food, shelter, and safety. And though there are millions of refugees in camps, millions are also on the move. Classroom teaching is impossible while people are transient. Yet abstinence from learning takes a toll on refugees’ development.

Another serious challenge has always been lack of funds. Books and other learning materials are expensive. Bringing in teachers, often from overseas, to work in refugee camps is also costly, but today we also face different challenges.

Digital platforms and mobile technology offer innovative solutions

More than 6 billion of the 7 billion people on our planet have access to mobile phones. Even refugees, who often leave almost everything they own behind, can usually afford inexpensive smartphones. That means they have access to knowledge, as long as they have an Internet connection.

Exciting new educational opportunities for young refugees

A 2014 survey that examined the use of mobile phones in a Syrian refugee camp found that 86 percent of the young people in the camp owned a mobile phone. More than 50 percent accessed the Internet one or more times each day. Most were looking for news and information.

Despite the mobile network coverage, the camp often lacked electricity, which hampered computer and tablet use. The camp’s vocational center, however, offered limited Internet access, which enabled more than 100 young refugees to graduate from an IT certificate program. This will greatly enhance their employment options.

Smartphone use and easy access to the Internet forms the core of most new education initiatives. The Financial Times reported that Save the Children wants to provide wi-fi and technology for refugee children.

Libraries Without Borders provides an “Ideas Box,” which offers a power source and a portable media center to refugee camps and other underserved areas. Assembly takes approximately 20 minutes and yields a 1,000-square-foot space. Reconfiguring the packaging provides desks, and computers, screens, e-readers, and other educational equipment are also available.

UNHCR reports on a 2014 initiative between the Vodafone Foundation and the Learn Lab that established 13 Instant Network Classrooms in a refugee settlement in Dadaab. The classrooms were in six primary school and three secondary schools. Four vocational training centers also established classrooms. The classrooms each received a backup generator, solar-powered batteries, a set of tablets, and a mobile network. Finally, they got a suite of content and online resources, as well as training options for coaches. Refugee and humanitarian organizations have applauded the system, which allowed teachers to focus on the subject matter rather than IT issues.

Adult refugees benefit from smart apps and online education

When it comes to educational programs for adult refugees, there are two groups to consider: adult refugees with an education who need to integrate into their host country, and uneducated adults who need an education to improve their employment opportunities.

CourseTalk and USAID recently launched a new initiative that will bring online education to displaced young adults as well as those in the developing world. Massive online open courses (MOOCs) are a key part of this initiative, offering free information to anyone with Internet access.

According to The Atlantic, Germany has seen an influx of Syrian refugees in the past year. To help them integrate, the German government is developing German-language smartphone apps. Private companies are also developing apps that offer information such as how to find housing or apply for refugee status.

Online digital platforms are powerful tools for refugees

Humanitarian and government organizations acknowledge the vast potential of digital platforms for educating refugees. Easy access to knowledge has the potential to transform the refugee experience. Better language skills and improved labor market potential will make integration much easier.

To learn more about digital transformation, see Higher Education and Research: Reimagined for the new economy.


Malcolm Woodfield

About Malcolm Woodfield

Malcolm Woodfield is the Global Vice President, Head of Industry Business Unit Education & Research, at SAP. He manages a global team accountable for the overall business, market, customer, and revenue success of the Higher Education / Public Services portfolio (including all Applications, Analytics, Mobile, HANA, and Cloud) globally.

The Digital Surge In Higher Education

Malcolm Woodfield

Science fiction fans will remember the 1960s television series “Lost in Space,” which featured a talking robot—very unusual in 1965. Robbie the Robot was a sensation.

In 2016, things that are not alive but that can talk are no longer science fiction. Voice recognition software is very common, and we no longer simply talk into our phones—we talk to them, asking questions and getting answers.

Similarly, higher education today has gotten more sophisticated. It is no longer limited to just books and lecturers, and the college scene includes much more than just students and instructors. University life is now all about digital connectivity. Devoted to student success, colleges and universities are also complete communities. Beyond the people, they comprise facilities, buildings, and many other assets that support education. And while today’s buildings may have little else in common with Robbie the Robot, they can talk to us.

Most competitive campuses are now networked and digitized. Of course, this includes books and learning materials, but today’s technology revolution also includes much more.

Campuses are communities

A modern college campus is like a small town, with everything from restaurants and libraries to roads, sports facilities, and security forces. It is not unusual for today’s campuses to even have their own fire departments.

All of these features and amenities require repair, maintenance, security protection, and eventually replacement. Digitization makes all of these tasks easier and more timely. It offers accurate information in real time, to those who need it when they need it.

The task of a college is education, but a college is still a business. Every business has secondary objectives, which include the protection and maintenance of its assets. Digitization can streamline these tasks.

Smart buildings that can talk to people in real time are becoming increasingly common. Buildings can remind us of repairs, maintenance, and other important tasks that need to be done. Today’s networked campus can also reveal the behavioral trends of students, faculty, and staff. In many ways, a completely networked campus behaves more like a living thing than an institution.

Devices worn by students can tell us about their health and their learning patterns. This information, in turn, can help us create new and better education processes to help students learn more effectively. The campus will then achieve its student objectives while more efficiently protecting its physical assets.

Education is a business

Any successful business must keep its facilities up to date. Running a campus community is expensive, and maintaining all its buildings and assets is a complicated process.

Any homeowner knows there is plenty of  maintenance and upkeep required, and a college campus has many more buildings to maintain. According to U.S. News and World Report, homeowners spend, on average, between 1 to 4 percent of a home’s value annually on maintenance and repairs. That is a small fraction of the expenses for maintaining all the buildings of a modern college campus.

Because of the recent economic recession, many colleges have put off some needed maintenance and repairs. This “deferred maintenance” only adds to the growing problem of paying for this upkeep. Noting that his school had to spend $150 million over five years, Brian Hutzley, vice president of finance and administration at New York’s Colgate University, said, “If you are constantly delaying [maintenance], you’ll have more emergencies,”  Each dollar of deferred maintenance becomes a $4 expense later.

The business of education is expensive, and cutting costs through digitization makes good business sense. Smart buildings cost less to maintain and repair, as they help staff members recognize maintenance issues when they first occur, when repairs are least expensive.

Today’s universities are helping to cut the expense of education by adopting a business model based on the networked campus. Each building is becoming, in a sense, a talking Robbie the Robot, offering information on student and staff activities and trends to power the campus more efficiently.

The networked university campus speeds processes and facilitates communication for better efficiency. From funding to campus organizations to education delivery, advances in information technology are changing the way universities work.

For more information, please visit Higher Education. Reimagined for the new economy.


Malcolm Woodfield

About Malcolm Woodfield

Malcolm Woodfield is the Global Vice President, Head of Industry Business Unit Education & Research, at SAP. He manages a global team accountable for the overall business, market, customer, and revenue success of the Higher Education / Public Services portfolio (including all Applications, Analytics, Mobile, HANA, and Cloud) globally.