Cloud curriculum prepares future engineers for the reality of the job market

Kiel University of Applied Sciences, founded in 1969 in northern Germany, has six faculties and 5,600 students. It has a reputation for innovative degree courses with intensive modularized learning in small groups, and is known to tailor their curriculum to meet industry needs.

In 2008, the university began considering ways to introduce practical workplace technologies into the curriculum for mechanical engineering. The Kiel University showed great initiative in thinking ahead and anticipating trends in the workplace in order to prepare the next generation for their future jobs. They considered cloud computing as a key technology trend that will change the way traditional business operations will be carried out in the future, such as sales management and procurement. In order to equip their students with the relevant soft skills needed in the industry, they decided to integrate the Microsoft Dynamics Customer Relationship Manager software into their curriculum for mechanical engineering students.  This initiative reinforces the need for the worlds of industry and education to come closer together to answer the needs of the labour market.

Prof. Dr. Rainer Geisler of the Department of Mechanical Engineering says: “By exposing our group of 80 students to technology they’ll later use in the workplace, they gain an advantage when it comes to employment—this was our primary objective.”

Kiel University set out in search of a major IT vendor that was willing to give undergraduates access to proprietary CRM software, which is found in the Microsoft Dynamics CRM software hosted in the cloud. They found the software easy to operate with little maintenance required and its ability to run in the cloud as well as in a physical environment ensured low costs for utilization. Moreover, using the Microsoft CRM platform also allowed the university to customize the design of case studies for their coursework according to their preferences; for instance, having control over results in assignments so the university can award grades depending on students’ level of attainment.

The successful implementation of the cloud solution was supported by Microsoft Dynamics Partner eCONNEX, put in touch with Kiel University by the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance (DynAA), which offers academic institutions no-cost ways to obtain Microsoft Dynamics products, support plans, and training materials—and to network with peers and Microsoft Dynamics partners.

Prof. Dr. Geisler says: “The positive response from Microsoft was a real boost to our morale after two years trying to interest other vendors. Within a couple of days, we were in touch with the Chief Executive Officer of eCONNEX to progress our plans.”

Kiel-based eCONNEX—that specializes in Microsoft Dynamics CRM—worked with the university on creating case studies for the students to work on using Microsoft Dynamics CRM 4.0 and Microsoft Dynamics CRM 2011 Online. Three separate case studies have been created by eCONNEX for the students, and eCONNEX plans to increase its collaboration with the university by allocating staff to give guest lectures on Microsoft Dynamics CRM.

The university is proud of having produced the first generation of graduates skilled in computerized sales and marketing techniques, and e-procurement. Prof. Dr. Geisler says: “This is good for our reputation as a teaching and research institution and could not have been achieved without Microsoft. Our feedback from local employers is that they want to recruit graduates with hands-on IT skills in CRM technology. eCONNEX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM have helped fill this gap in our curriculum.”

In the future, the university hopes to engage with Microsoft in providing content for its postgraduate courses.

In my view, it is certainly a reference best practice when we look to the New Skills for New Jobs agenda, and the bridge between education and employment that was at the topical forefront of this year European Employment Forum in Brussels!

Small & Medium Enterprises are the backbone of Europe’s economy. We work hard with governments and industry to ensure that SMEs get the most out of technology. Thanks to cloud computing that was pervasive benefits throughout the economy, SMEs can now exploit economies of scale, to rapidly expand their business and offer innovative solutions with less risk. This space on our website is dedicated to innovative European SMEs and the added-value of cloud computing to their businesses.

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