Coping with a seven-hour time difference between Rolla, Mo., and Amsterdam, Netherlands, is one of a number of challenges facing students enrolled in Missouri University of Science and Technology’s Strategic Enterprise Management Systems (ERP 348) class this semester.
“Our students are teaming with a class from another continent,” says course instructor Dr. Bih-Ru Lea, associate professor of business and information technology at Missouri S&T. “They will use a variety of technological tools to simulate a working team experience while forecasting financial results for a case company in South America.”
This partnership with students from HES (Hogeschool voor Economische Studies) Amsterdam is part of the SAP University Alliance. SAP is the leading Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software used for real-time business processing. The University Alliance provides tools and resources to help universities teach students to use technology to integrate business processes and strategic thinking. Missouri S&T is one of 190 schools in the U.S. to participate in the program, and the first university in the U.S. to collaborate globally on such a project.
Lea says working with HES Amsterdam is a good fit for Missouri S&T. “They have a similar philosophy to ours,” she says. “Our department doesn’t teach technology just for the sake of it – we use it to make business decisions.”
The logistics of the collaboration is coordinated by Missouri S&T’s Video Communications Center and a comparable group at HES. Students will meet face-to-face with their partners in Amsterdam via video conferencing. They will also use Blackboard course management software, a live virtual classroom environment called WIMBA, text chats and voice chats.
The HES students understand some English, but none of the S&T students have been to the Netherlands. Both groups are expected to benefit from the experience as they work with a culture that differs from their own, while making use of the latest technologies.
“Even if for some reason this experiment fails, it will still be a learning experience for all of us,” says Lea.
The team’s case study is a pioneer user of SAP, called Embotelladora Andina. The company is a Coca Cola bottler located in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Students are using the company’s public data from the last decade to forecast financials and budgets for the first quarter of 2010.
The team has complete access to all of the company’s public records from various databases, which is provided by S&T’s library and HES Amsterdam. An additional challenge for the group will be determining which of SAP’s massive functionalities gives them the information they need for their projections.
Students will compare their forecasts with the company’s actual results when Embotelladora Andina releases its first quarter financials in April.
In May, to conclude this virtual workplace team experience, Lea’s students will give their final in-class presentations. While the S&T students’ presentations begin at 4 p.m., their partners across the world can view them live online, beginning at 11 p.m., their time. The S&T students will be dressed in professional business attire. Considering the late hour, the HES Amsterdam students just might be in their pajamas.