Athens University of Economics and Business, the oldest business and economics school in Greece, needed to improve its graduates’ employment prospects by equipping them with the business software skills expected by local industry. The university deployed Microsoft Dynamics™ NAV, to create a learning environment that teaches students the IT proficiency needed to find jobs when they graduate.
Athens University of Economics and Business was founded in 1920 in Athens, Greece. With 6,000 students and 500 staff, the university offers undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in business, finance, computer science, economics, and banking.
The university has a strong tradition of achievement in research, but also wanted to focus on student expectations of employability after graduation. This posed two challenges: Employers want graduates to have practical knowledge beyond theoretical business practices. Even students studying non-technical subjects are expected to be proficient in the software used to run organisations. Secondly, few technical training resources were published in Greek.
To address these issues, the Department of Management Science and Technology at Athens University of Economics and Business deployed a number of enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Students used the ERP software to gain first-hand experience of finance, operations, customer relations, distribution, and e-commerce business solutions.
But these applications were often unwieldy and did not adapt well to an educational setting. George Ioannou, professor in the Department of Management Science and Technology, looked for a better way to instruct students in business management software. “We needed a solution that was easy to integrate into a teaching environment and provided students with real experience in business applications,” he said.
In 2004, Microsoft offered the university the opportunity to form a strategic relationship as part of the Microsoft Dynamics® Academic Alliance programme. This gave the university access to the latest Microsoft Dynamics business management software, and advice and training from Microsoft. The alliance also gives the university the opportunity to attend Microsoft conferences such as Convergence EMEA, an international conference for customers of Microsoft Dynamics.
Ioannou immediately saw the benefit of incorporating Microsoft Dynamics NAV into a learning environment. “IT must be an integrated, natural part of teaching, since it’s an integrated, natural part of business. That’s why Microsoft Dynamics NAV is a good choice. It is easy to use, easy to install and can be customised to any industry,” he says.
Microsoft Dynamics NAV is designed for small and medium businesses, so it is an especially good choice for Athens University of Economics and Business. “Small business enterprises make up 90 per cent of employers in Greece, so the majority of our students will need to know about this type of business application. Microsoft Dynamics NAV is an obvious choice,” says Ioannou.
When Ioannou started to develop the course Enterprise Resource Planning Systems, he arranged Microsoft training for five of his PhD students so they could assist him with instruction and research. Once the post-graduate students had achieved certification in aspects of Microsoft Dynamics NAV—including supply chain, accounting, and manufacturing—Ioannou started teaching the course that is now required of the majority of undergraduates in the Department of Management Science and Technology at Athens University of Economics and Business.
Students also benefit from being able to work on their own computers, anywhere with an Internet connection. They can work from the centralised system run on Terminal Services, technology that provides access to a server running centrally stored programs. If students want to save work into their personal files, Academic Alliance licensing gives them the ability to download the program onto their own computers.
During implementation, Ioannou decided to address the lack of teaching materials on Microsoft Dynamics NAV written in Greek. “With the support of Microsoft, I transformed the teaching notes I developed into a book, Enterprise Resource Planning Systems with Applications using Microsoft Dynamics NAV,” says Ioannou. The textbook, which includes a set of transparencies and PowerPoint slides for instructors, has now been adopted by other Greek universities that offer courses using Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
Participation in the Microsoft Dynamics Academic Alliance programme and funding from Microsoft increased opportunities across the university. Access to curriculum on Microsoft Dynamics NAV gives students skills that are immediately applicable in local industry. Microsoft Hellas and its partners continue to strengthen these links with industry by attending classes, attending career fairs at the university, and hiring students who have completed Microsoft Dynamics NAV training. Instructors also benefit, strengthening their technical skills and networking with Microsoft representatives and other IT professionals at Microsoft Convergence EMEA conferences. Ioannou has been invited to share his expertise at several conferences and business technology events in Greece, raising the profile of the university. “Our relationship has been very fruitful,” he says. “It has been one of my best experiences with enterprise technology.”
- Graduating students have enhanced job prospects
- Students receive education reflecting business requirements in Greece
- Students get hands-on learning in the latest business management software
- Faculty staff have more opportunities to participate in high-profile events and conferences
- Ioannou’s textbook has also raised the university’s status as a leading provider of hi-tech business education
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