5 Ways The Internet Of Things Is Changing The Game For Education And Learning

Geetika Shukla

There’s been so much buzz about the Internet of Things (IoT) lately – maybe not as much as for the U.S. presidential campaigns, but it’s pretty close. For today’s youngsters, the day will come when a computer is no longer seen as a separate object or device. With technology very much entwined in the basic fabric of everyday living, our children might feel offended if their obedient room lamp doesn’t immediately acknowledge their presence by switching itself on.

Over time, the IoT will be a mindset, rather than a steady stream of technology. Even though every other device in our home, workplace, or surrounding environment will be intelligent enough to connect and talk to each other, people will inevitably focus on the transformational possibilities for our world.

The realm of education is no exception to the IoT’s influence. Until now, educational technology has pivoted more or less around virtual conferencing and classrooms, online tutorials, and similar offerings. However, this is only the beginning. Here are five ways the IoT can transform education.

1. Connect academies all over the map

Some of the latest IoT artillery in this field includes digital highlighters, smart boards, and even smarter boards. This means your printed text could be digitally transferred to your smartphone or any other app at an incredible speed through tools like C-Pen and Scanmarker. Interactive boards can receive, acknowledge, and reciprocate information, simplifying and accelerating the overall learning experience.

Just imagine a scenario where students sitting in a classroom or at their desk at home can interact with their classmates, mentors, and educators scattered across the world. Now, let’s suppose the lesson of the day is focused on sea life. To give students a really exciting – and highly educational – experience, the teacher decides to access live information generated through sensors and live feeds monitoring a particular body of water.

2. Conserve and sustain to survive and flourish

With the aid of the IoT, a variety of options are possible in terms of environmental and energy conservation, ecosystem regulation, traffic, and transport, to name a few, that can help schools build up their budgets and offer better learning opportunities. For example, a school district in Pennsylvania saved a fortune on energy by using the IoT to support its energy monitoring and control program and reinvested the savings into its education programs. After all, living a green lifestyle is the way to go for all of us – we might as well put it to work so we can invest in more critical areas.

3. Win over students (and parents) with a safe and secure learning environment

The safety and security of students are paramount – whether you are a parent, educational authority, security official, or concerned citizen. With empowered sensors, RFIDs, cameras, and connected devices, monitoring and surveillance of entire buildings is possible. Instant notifications, alerts, and configured actions would be a significant addition to the security and safety of schools and other educational institutions.

4. Grant parity for all

The connected world of everything has a lot to offer students who need modified learning plans and exceptions. There are already a number of devices, tools, and apps that create appropriate learning experiences while bringing them on par with the rest of the class. One such example is the Lechal shoe project, which enables the visually challenged to better navigate the world through technology.

5. Turn learners into creators

The IoT indeed promotes and paves the way for creativity – and for children, there’s nothing better than learning the nuances and applications of hyperconnectivity firsthand. After all the predictions regarding the enormous number of connected communication and decision-making devices in the years to come, this is an excellent opportunity for schoolchildren to understand, build, and control such systems themselves.

The future trajectory of IoT-enabled education: Bumpy or smooth?

The IoT has the potential to strip away common barriers in education such as economic status, geography, language, and physical location. But once the initial glitz of being “super and hyperconnected” fizzles out, there are more important questions that need to be answered.

Converging education with technology is not just about bringing learning resources or making learning simpler and faster – it’s about quality, impact, and community acceptance too. Even with all the fancy resources and technology at our children’s fingertips, it is still a long and tough road ahead for the IoT to reform education in a path-breaking and everlasting way. Nevertheless, the seeds are sown well and the harvest appears to be promising.

Learning doesn’t stop when you graduate; if you want to be successful, it’s a lifelong endeavor. Learn How to Create a Culture of Continuous Learning.


Geetika Shukla

About Geetika Shukla

My association with SAP is eight wonderful years. I have a disposition for the latest technological trends and a fascination for all the digital buzz apart from the world of process orchestration, cloud, and platforms.

From MOOCs To YouTube: Free Digital Lessons Fuel Lifetime Learning

Rob Jonkers

Some commentators feel that the acronym “MOOC”—which stands for massive open online course—is an unfortunate name for a powerful higher education tool. Give the acronym a hard “C” and repeat it in a staccato way: “MOOC-MOOC-MOOC!” Sounds like an alien chicken clucking about tasty insects.

But MOOCs and learner websites are far from chicken feed in the world of digital education. Elements of the expanding world of digital distance learning, MOOCs are part of a grand experiment about increasing access to learning through free college classes and work training.

Well-known professors at universities worldwide, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Seoul International and the Sorbonne, offer classes via MOOC. Some universities even offer college credit at minimal cost for some of their MOOCs.

Even though most of the classes are free, MOOCs have the potential to earn significant amounts of money due to their massive enrollments. The same is true for digital learning based on videos that viewers access for free or for a small price online.

MOOCs and distance learning history

Juliana Marques explained the history of MOOCs in a 2013 article in MOOC News and Reviews. Marques notes they are an updated form of distance learning, which was first known as correspondence courses. These classes became possible as postal mail service improved in the 19th century. For example, students in Australia took courses offered at the London School of Economics by mail.

Radio, television, and videos later expanded distance learning. Some colleges provided blended “telecourses,” in which students watched videos of television education shows and then met with professors for guidance.

According to Marques, the biggest problem with these distance techniques is lack of interaction with teachers and other students. She contrasts this with the way digital tools make more interaction possible.

Marques describes how MIT professor Eric Landen teaches beginning biology to students in the classroom while simultaneously instructing MOOC learners. As he teaches, Landen responds to students in the classroom, stopping every now and then to look at a camera and ask MOOC students if they have questions or comments.

MOOCs also offer students forums and online study groups to make learning more social.

Early MOOCers and shakers

Marques credits two University of Manitoba educators, Stephen Downes and George Siemons, for designing the first massively open online course in 2008. They based it on a college class they taught called “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge.”

Since MOOCs or online videos are either free or inexpensive to view, many college classes and professional training courses use this approach. Here are some other early leaders in free, massive online learning:

Khan Academy and YouTube

According to The Guardian, MIT and Harvard graduate Sal Khan started a revolution in education. It began when he tutored a younger cousin struggling with math via video lessons he posted on YouTube. Soon many of Khan’s relatives started accessing his tutoring sessions. Then the world was at his digital doorstep.

 Coursera and Career Services

In 2011, two Stanford professors launched Coursera to offer free higher education classes. EdSurge reports that Coursera gained 10 million students worldwide and $85 million in venture capital by 2014. One early monetization model involved helping businesses find skilled employees. In exchange for free classes, students post learner profiles at Coursera.

edX university consortium

Harvard University and MIT opened their nonprofit edX program in 2012, connecting users to universities worldwide. College credit is finally becoming available for some undergraduate level edX classes; for example, the University of Arizona now allows students to take all their freshman classes via edX. business and web training

Although not a MOOC, the website educates many people in business and Web design skills. Subscribers access all the company’s videos for an annual fee that costs less than a community college class.

Lynda Weinman learned Hollywood special-effects animation on the job, finding few learning opportunities for digital designers. So Weinman started with her husband, Bruce Heavin, in 1995. Last April, she and Heavin sold their e-learning enterprise to LinkedIn for $1.5 billion.

Enterprise education via MOOCs

When Downes and Siemons created the first MOOC, they did not have a single digital platform on which to reach students. Marques notes that they used Facebook groups, Wiki pages, blogs, forums, and other resources.

These days single digital platforms such as SAP HANA are powerful enough to reach massive numbers of online students, and many corporations provide employee training through MOOCs. One example is our openSAP system for free training about SAP digital tools.

Providing free classes is about democratizing education. But it also prepares workers for an ever-changing workplace. Consider, for example, the anonymous father who blogs at Hacker-Dad. Having studied advanced math and science at Oxford and Stanford, Hacker-Dad does not need any more degrees. But, he writes, he does need to learn more about his profession. So he takes MOOCs from MIT and other research universities.

The digital degree

In 2014, The Economist noted that universities are now responsible for training and retraining workers throughout their careers. MOOCs and other digital distance-learning tools are flexible for this purpose. Their flexibility, however, does not mean these courses are all introductory topics, or that they are easy. Whether free or tuition-based, they require effort from students. To succeed, participants need access to the digital world.

To learn more about digital transformation for higher education, click here.



Rob Jonkers

About Rob Jonkers

Rob Jonkers is a solution director for Higher Education & Research (HER) at SAP. He is responsible for enabling and driving the HER cloud solution portfolio.

Education And The Digital Economy: Strategies That Lead To Success

Dave Landry

The digital economy has been described as the economic activity that materializes due to billions of online connections each day among people, companies, data, and devices.

While it may seem natural to focus on the business implications of the digital economy, it will also have a profound impact on education. So if you happen to be an undergraduate, graduate, or MBA student, you owe it to yourself to understand not only the digital economy, but also how your education will prepare you to make the most of the opportunities that present themselves.

One thing’s for certain. When it comes to education and the digital economy, your odds of success will largely depend on the information and communications technology (ICT) skills you develop during your academic career, both as part of the curriculum and as part of your own initiative to pick up necessary skills, because you’ll fall behind if you’re found lacking.

According to OECD’s Skills and Jobs in the Internet Economy research paper published in 2014, workers more and more need generic and specialized ICT skills in order to properly complete their tasks in the workplace as the World Wide Web becomes increasingly “ingrained in work processes.”

Read on to learn about strategies that will lead you to success as you eventually transition from your studies into the workforce.


Learn your ICTs

It goes without saying that if you want to succeed in the digital economy, you’ll need strong ICT skills.

The OECD report states that young adults, people who have a post-secondary education, and people working in skilled occupations are more likely to possess ICT skills and computer experience than those who don’t fit any of the three aforementioned criteria. The report adds that it’s important for policymakers to integrate these sorts of technology skills into the education curriculum rather than make them course-specific.

In order to position yourself for success in the digital economy, you absolutely need ICT skills. Otherwise, job opportunities will pass you by as others who are more prepared take advantage.

According to Cisco, post-secondary institutions need to teach and empower students to succeed in a workforce where technological change is creating – and destroying – new employment opportunities at approximately “the same rate.” The company adds that there are challenges inherent in preparing students for jobs that might not even exist yet. You can therefore see that colleges and universities have their work cut out for them.

Study employment trends

According to the OECD report, students, educators, and others require data on workplace trends so that people have the skills they need to succeed in the digital economy. This is something that can’t be stressed too much. Without information about trends, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

Some skills require a significant investment of time to acquire, which means that policymakers need to grasp employment trends now so that policies can be developed to help people position themselves for upcoming job opportunities.

While it’s not as easy as it might sound to predict skills that will be highly sought after in the future, the OECD report says that a program launched by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, which collects information on almost 1,000 jobs, provides a look at “worker attributes and job characteristics.” You can use such information to chart a career path in an industry poised for strong growth.

Proactively acquire skills

You need to be proactive about acquiring any skills you believe will help you to succeed in the digital economy, and that is why it’s important to have accurate and up-to-date information about ICT skills needed. While your school will provide you with the opportunity to pick up some ICT skills, you will need to figure out exactly which skills you will need in the workforce. That way, you’ll be able to fill in any gaps as required.

For more information about the future of work, see the infographic Robots: Job Destroyers or Human Partners?



How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.


qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)



Sherry Turkle: We Need to Talk

Stephanie Overby

reclaiming-conversation-sherry-turkle-200x300MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle on why we need to talk to our colleagues

Human beings are communicating more often and with more people than ever before, thanks to the digital devices we are all but tethered to. But the art of conversation is in decline. MIT psychologist Sherry Turkle, who has devoted her career to examining the impact of technology on human interaction, lays out some worrying consequences in her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age. Overreliance on digital communication has not only affected our ability to have effective face-to-face exchanges but has also diminished our capacity for empathy and intimacy. In addition, digital discussions are often less productive and effective than in-person interactions.

We talked to Turkle about the value of human interaction that is unmediated by technology, when to choose talking over texts and e-mail, and how corporate leaders can revive conversation in the digital workplace.

Q: The big trend in business is digital transformation. A major goal is to automate and digitize interactions. What are companies losing in the bargain?

Sherry Turkle: When you want to build trust, when you want to get to know someone new, when you want to seal a deal—these are not moments for transactions, which are fairly blunt and objective instruments for communicating information. These are times for conversations, which are subjective and emotional and enable greater understanding. Good managers need to know when they are dealing with a moment when a transaction is appropriate and when it is a moment for a human exchange. If you try to be transactional when you need a conversation, you are on your way to frustration, disappointing results, and—most often—the need to do it all again.

Q: How has the increase in digital communications affected our ability to talk to each other?

Turkle: We find ways to not have the conversations that count. We would rather keep communication on screens. As one young man told me when I asked what was wrong with conversation: “It takes place in real time, and you can’t control what you’re going to say!” Of course, that is what’s “wrong” with conversation. But, it is also what’s profoundly right with conversation. It is a place where intimacy is born. The link between face-to-face conversation and empathy is strong. There has been a 40% decline in empathy among college students over the past 20 years, with most of that decline happening in the past decade.

Q: Why is face-to-face conversation important in business? Can’t that  effectively be simulated using technology?

Turkle: We are creatures designed for broadband, rich, nuanced exchange through our voices and faces. We are inventing new languages on the screen, and we are doing that with invention, wit, and nuance. But in business (as in friendship and love), we are misunderstanding each other—badly. And we are sending 10 e-mails where a brief call would do.

I am a pragmatist. When you need a video link or a call, use these tools. But what I see is people avoiding presence when it is possible.

Q: How can managers make a business case for talking?

Turkle: Research shows that conversation is good for the bottom line. People are more productive, creative, and engaged with their work when they have time for face. to-face talk. Sociologist Ben Waber had employees wear “sociometric badges” that measured their conversational patterns. When people were given coffee breaks together, performance improved. One CEO I interviewed instituted a breakfast meeting for his team. It gave them all an opportunity to share ideas and talk freely. Group productivity increased, and they needed fewer formal meetings.

One “easy” change is to eliminate devices from in-person meetings. The research is clear: devices distract. They diminish conversations and the relationships among participants. Make meetings shorter if necessary. Offer breaks. Designate one employee to notify attendees if an emergency arises. A meeting is a time to meet.

Q: What else can leaders do to encourage conversation amid the pressure to digitize?

Turkle: Make it clear that in your organization being online is not how you show your loyalty. Instead, show that what is valued is an employee who picks up the phone. Visit your colleagues in person. If you talk, others will talk. Also, design the workplace for conversation by creating device-free spaces that encourage it. Help employees work through their terror of real- time conversations by making it clear that revealing your thought process is valued. Finally, be less transactional. Begin an answer to an e-mail by saying, “I’m thinking.” It’s a powerful message. Complicated problems require thinking and then time to talk.

Q: We conducted this interview electronically to accommodate our schedules. What did I miss out on? How about you?

Turkle: We missed out on the chance to know each other better. What we had was a transaction. I took the time to lay out some of my ideas. But you and I are not closer for it. In business, this would not put us in the best relationship to move forward with a project. Now would be time for conversation!