How do you educate 13,000 people at the same time? Even for university students who are used to sitting in a packed auditorium for a 101 seminar, this thought might be daunting. But challenging times call for innovative solutions.


The technology industry is growing and changing at a faster rate than ever before.  In a world where technology is changing our everyday lives and the way that we do business, digital transformation is at the top of the strategic agenda in most organizations. Leaders are under tremendous pressure to harness today’s wealth of data and apply it to create value across the entire organization—even though time, skills, and budget might be limited. To keep pace and stay competitive, IT professionals need to learn continually about the latest trends.


NetApp University has one of the largest collections of courses and training available to enable learners to accomplish their goals. But to meet the evolving needs of our learners, we needed to scale up and out—fast. And we wanted to enable learners to learn on their terms—anywhere and anytime. Enter the Massively Open Online Course, or MOOC.


The first MOOC, an artificial intelligence course, was created by an MIT professor about six years ago. Although initially met with skepticism, the course drew nearly 40,000 students of all ages, from all over the world. It simply blew people away, and MOOCs have been growing in popularity ever since.


Naturally, as we tried to solve the problem of growing our learner base and delivering more content on a broader scale, MOOCs were at the forefront of the conversation. We set about creating our own MOOC on storage and data management. Our MOOC was created in partnership with the IEEE, which had developed a MOOC infrastructure through its partnership with edX. We leveraged that proven platform to launch our first MOOC.


Working with cross-functional subject matter experts around the company, we launched our MOOC in the spring of 2016. The six-hour course is delivered in 8-10 minute chunks, making it easy for learners to consume the content at their own pace. Rather than focusing solely on NetApp products, the MOOC is designed to teach core concepts of storage technology. Therefore, the MOOC is accessible to both entry-level learners and seasoned IT professionals.


The result? Our MOOC has turned out to be one of the largest course deliveries in the history of NetApp University, with more than 13,500 learners enrolled and about 90 more signing up each week. More than 50% of these students have a college degree, and almost 30% have an advanced degree. We have learners of all ages and cultural backgrounds, from middle school students to centenarians and from 177 countries around the world!


The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Although our course is intended to be an entry-level crash course in storage and data management, students have responded well in regards to the breadth and depth of the topics presented. We’re seeing an increase in follow-on learning in more technical, deep-dive courses. The average completion rate for most MOOCs is about 8%, but the completion rate of our MOOC has reached 14% in the short time that it has been available. And, as we continue to hone our content and presentation, we expect the completion percentage to rise.


It took a lot of work, but the numbers don’t lie. We’ve proven that training on this scale can deliver substantial ROI with impressive audience reach. In the future, we look forward to delivering additional MOOCs around topics like Data Fabric and hybrid cloud, giving students a new way to consume information that’s vital to their success as IT professionals. We’ve found the MOOC to be a truly innovative and effective delivery platform, and it’s got the legs to keep evolving at the pace of our industry.  Learn more about the story behind the NetApp University MOOC here. If you would like to experience the MOOC first-hand, click here to enroll in the  “Introduction to Data Storage and Management Technologies” online course.



The NetApp Academic Alliances Program: Education Innovation

MOOCs are just one of the many ways in which NetAppU continues to innovate in support of faculty and student learning. The NetApp Academic Alliances program partners with universities, colleges, and other institutions around the world to provide intuitive, industry-leading education for students of all ages.


NetApp Academic Alliances looks to the future by enabling anytime, anywhere learning on a global scale. In addition to the “Introduction to Data Management” MOOC, NetApp Academic Alliances supports a variety of other educational courses and programs:

  • The NCSA-HC (hybrid cloud) 28-hour storage certification program
  • Storage 101 web-based training
  • Storage management and ONTAP fundamentals virtual simulations and exercises
  • Advanced and custom curricula on topics such as cloud, big data, SDN, and data center transformation

Learn more about how NetAppU empowers learners to change the world with data by visiting our website.


For more information:

Eric Fusilero

Eric Fusilero is VP, Global Enablement and Education at NetApp. Leading organizations worldwide count on NetApp for software, systems and services to manage and store their data.

As VP, Global Enablement and Education, NetApp University, Eric is responsible for delivering timely, innovative and effective programs that accelerate sales and enable customer success. With industry recognized certifications and comprehensive learning solutions, he ensures that NetApp employees, partners and customers globally have the skills required to effectively build, deploy, and manage solutions that address their most challenging data needs now and in the future.

Prior to joining NetApp in 2009, Eric held multiple global roles in Engineering, Research and Sales Enablement in his 12 years at IBM.

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