Integrating E-Learning Content into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Curriculum

Article excerpt


Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems are modular application software that helps businesses increase the productivity of such mission-critical components as human resources, finance, parts purchasing, inventory control, supply chain and customer relationship management. ERP systems are enterprise-wide and claim to incorporate best business practice that replaces legacy systems and current business processes.

In a recent study of 92 Australian organisations, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems were identified as the information technology project which delivered most value to their organisation (Bajkowski, 2003). While there have been a number of widely publicised ERP systems implementation failures (Calegero, 2000), ERP systems are considered by many organisations as an essential IT infrastructure. A survey of 800 U.S. companies showed that almost half of these companies had installed an ERP system and that these systems were commanding 43% of a company's application budget (Carlino, 1999) while research into U.S. Fortune 1000 companies found that over 60% have implemented an ERP system (Piturro, 1999; Stein, 1999). The market penetration of ERP systems varies considerably from industry to industry. A report by Computer Economics Inc. stated that 76% of manufacturers, 35% of insurance and health care companies, and 24% of Federal Government agencies already have an ERP system or are in the process of installing one (Stedman, 1999). The global market for ERP software, which was $16.6 billion in 1998, is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 32%, reaching more than $66 billion in sales by 2003 (Carlino, 1999) and is estimated to have had 300 billion dollars spent over the last decade (Carlino, 1999). The major vendor of ERP systems is SAP with approximately 54% of the market (McBride, 2003). In Australia a recent report (BRW, 2002) identified the top 100 IT companies by usage; this was then compared with the SAP customer list. It was determined that 9 out of the top 12 IT users were SAP customers and 45% of the total list were also SAP users.

Many universities have identified the value of incorporating ERP systems into their curriculum. ERP systems can be used to reinforce many of the concepts covered in the business discipline (Becerra-Fernandez, Murphy, K. & Simon, 2000; Hawking, Shackleton, & Ramp 2001). The vendors argue that their products incorporate "world's best practice" for many of the business processes they support making them an ideal teaching tool (Watson & Schneider, 1999).

Even though the value of including ERP systems in the curriculum has been identified, there are a number of barriers preventing this from happening. One significant hurdle is the limited knowledge and experience of academic staff charged with the responsibility of integrating ERP curriculum into their courses. ERP systems are complex and the time required for developing curriculum is far in excess of what staff have experienced for curriculum development in other areas. Those who develop the necessary understanding of a particular ERP system to develop curriculum can be lured away from the university into lucrative jobs in private industry. The shortfall of academic skills and experience is further compounded by the limited access to relevant ERP professional development activities and the continual upgrade of the ERP software. Another significant barrier to the use of ERP systems in universities is the perceived need for students to gain "hands-on" experience to master the concepts inherent in these types of systems (Watson et al, 1999). In the past, if a university decided to incorporate a major software product into its curricula, it would have purchased the software and set up the necessary infrastructure to support it. ERP systems themselves are expensive but there are the additional associated costs of hardware and professional development for the computer support staff together with the necessary incentives to retain these people once they are skilled. …