A Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance Member Educational Institution and Microsoft partner, sa.global, have worked together to build the first class focusing on Microsoft Dynamics AX at the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater, exposing students to Microsoft Dynamics in the classroom and career opportunities.

“I want students to understand how technology and business need one another and relate to each other. These are the future consultants that I will be working next to, hiring, or maybe working for. I love demystifying Microsoft Dynamics AX. It’s all we do [at sa.global] so we want to help expand the use of Microsoft Dynamics AX.” Jon Stypula sa.global Engagement Manager

The IT program at the UW-Whitewater is unique because it is rooted within the College of Business and Economics, explained Sara Deschner, a lecturer at the University.  “So graduates come out of the program as business professionals with an IT skillset.”  However, when Deschner came to the University with a background as an IT Manager, she found that students were not getting hands-on experience with Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, which they were going to see when they started their careers.  In 2013, the UW-Whitewater joined the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance after deciding to use Microsoft Dynamics AX to add ERP experience to its curriculum.  “From working with ERP systems, I saw this as an opportunity to give students not just server experience and not just business experience, but also to give them hands-on experience in an actual integrated business system,” explained Deschner.

Building a Successful Course

In the beginning they faced some challenges with setting up the installation of the software, which is when the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance connected UW-Whitewater with Jon Stypula, Engagement Manager at sa.global.  Stypula and his colleague, Jacob Roder, stepped in and came to Deschner’s rescue. “We fixed the technology hurdles so she could focus on teaching ERP,” explained Stypula.  As a veteran of the industry, he was eager to work with an educational institution to expand Microsoft Dynamics AX, so building a mutually beneficial relationship was easy.  “When you find the right school to work with, it just clicks,” said Stypula. sa.global was able to assist by providing a laptop equipped with a virtual instance of Microsoft Dynamics AX.  Stypula and Roder provided Deschner with training and helped her find the best configuration for the class.  This gave Deschner the opportunity to test out the software, learn it and develop her curriculum.  To build the class material, she started with curriculum that she had developed, selected a text book and added in free curriculum materials available to Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance members.  The course lectures, class discussions and case studies focus on real business examples and how they are demonstrated through Microsoft Dynamics AX functionality. Deschner’s first “Enterprise Systems and Business Process Integration” class is just finishing this spring 2015, with 18 students from all different backgrounds and majors in the class. She quickly realized that having one computer set up with the program was not enough for the class, so she worked with Stypula and Roder to roll out Microsoft Dynamics AX on six machines that students could share.  This allows the students to have their own instance of the software to experience. The goal of the class is to give students an understanding of what ERP is, its benefits and resource requirements for an organization.  “I don’t think you can truly understand what an integrated system [like Microsoft Dynamics AX] looks like without seeing it and using it,” said Deschner of the importance of using Microsoft Dynamics AX in the classroom.  “The goal is to give the students a holistic understanding of how a business works, so they are well-rounded graduates.  And, also to show them how forward-thinking companies can use ERP to strategically plan for growth.” “This is exactly the type of class that I wish I would have had in college and exactly the type of experience that people I’m looking to hire should have,” said Stypula of the class. “I want students to understand how technology and business need and relate to each other.  These are the future consultants that I will be working next to, hiring or, maybe, working for.  I love demystifying Microsoft Dynamics AX.  It’s all we do [at sa.global] so we want to help expand the use of Microsoft Dynamics AX,” said Stypula. Stypula and Roder also enhanced the students’ learning by speaking in three of Deschner’s classes about the benefits of ERP software and about careers in the industry.  “Students were receptive to them.  They came up to me afterwards and said, ‘that’s what I want to do—work with a company to solve their systems issues,’” said Deschner of the impact of Stypula and Roder’s visit.

Looking Towards Growth

The “Enterprise Systems and Business Process Integration” class is only the first step for Deschner.  Next semester, she will be expanding and solidifying the class.  The next task will be to set up an environment that different departments at UW-Whitewater could use for their classes.  “Several people all over the college are now interested in adding it to their courses,” said Deschner.  Once the physical environment is set up for expansion, Deschner thinks that Microsoft Dynamics could be added to several existing courses, as well as adding new classes that go more in depth into the software. sa.global is a Microsoft partner that provides consulting services to support successful implementations and strategic management of Microsoft Dynamics AX solutions.  They design, implement and maintain business ready Microsoft solutions with strict compliance to standard functionality and upgradability.  They have offices in Chicago and New York. The University of Wisconsin – Whitewater is a Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance member located in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  The University provides students a competitive advantage in the job market through classroom experience with the latest Microsoft Dynamics software used every day by more than 350,000 organizations and thousands of Microsoft partners worldwide.  Find out more about the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance by visiting http://www.microsoft.com/dynamicsaa.