Studying digitally and in a network: what students can expect from universities today?

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Even at most universities today, nothing works without the Internet: Whether Casting To find a place to study, register for an event, collaborative learning and even the exams themselves are online today! An overview of how such a networked student life could take place. Studying digitally and in a network: what students can expect at universities today Digital and networked study: What students can expect at universities today?

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Those who previously applied for a place to study, went first, for example, to study guidance and informed themselves personally about the study program. Subsequently, an application form was completed and submitted.

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It finally went off with the study, were often long queues in the matriculation unavoidable, finally, had to be much paper checked, stamped and filed. Much has changed:

vs. today…


To secure the study decision, participation in online self-assessments is possible (sometimes even required); Not infrequently, an online student advisory service is already being used eMail or counseling chat offered by the colleges. And the application for a university course also works via the internet. Registering for courses or exams - that too can be done online.

Also lecture documents and lectures can be found online. Meanwhile, it is even possible to take exams partly on the computer. shows what students expect at the university. How could such a networked student life in time-lapse actually work? An example:

Digital study preparation


Already in school, long before the beginning of studies, the future students can make their first experiences with the networked university: Peter visits the 12. Class and would like to study in his hometown of Berlin. For this purpose, he wants to find out more about theCourses offered by Freie Universität on the Internet. He finds an overview of theCourses offered and the study requirements in the network, compares examination regulations. He can also gain an overview of the contents of the course and the main research areas with a click of the mouse on the list of names and lectures, and compare them with other universities.

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As a next step, he carefully reads all the instructions for setting up a bachelor's program and also watches videos. He also has a few questions that he can clarify in the online chat with the General Student Counseling. Through the Internet, Peter also learns of the opportunities to get to know the Free University - eg as a guest auditor or through the inFU.tage, where you will be informed locally about study programs. The combination of information on the Internet and orientation events at the college will allow Peter to make his final decision during his final year of school: he will study economics.

Now it's time to get down to business: Peter informs himself on the university's website about admission procedures and application deadlines. For economics, he must first go through an online application process. The video learning modules help him with the preparation on the website of the university: He learns how the study and the Casting work and is successful: Peter gets the place and can enroll at the university.

"Enrollment must be in person or by proxy. Every student gets the access data for our online-system with the student card and can now make full use of the networked university "

explains Siegfried Engl from the General Counseling Service of Freie Universität Berlin. From now on, students like Peter have managed their entire course of studies with the Campus Management System themselves. At first, Peter is irritated by the many features and possibilities: But the college offers special training and online instructional videos, and he can always turn to a tutor.

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Campus Management: Student Life Online


Soon, Peter will be familiar with the system and will be able to register for all events and exams in the coming semesters, without having to queue up. He also does not have to collect notes and papers in the future. Rather, the electronic system with a note account for him keeps track of which courses he has already successfully completed and which are still needed. Peter can also call up the study certificates and information on the status of the feedback at any time he needs the information.

Peter finds it particularly convenient that he gets very accurate information about each event online: He can find out so quickly whether he meets the required conditions for a course. He learns how many places are still vacant and how they are assigned - for example, by lottery or by speed of registration.

"The introduction of bachelor's and master's degree programs has led to a study that today consists of many modules and therefore needs to be well organized - an electronic system is a great relief for the students. Only the students themselves and the staff in administration and examination office have access to the data - that has always been the case. The ProfessorOn the other hand, you can enter the grades for a course, but you can not view the entire study account because the corresponding access rights do not exist. The user rights and roles are clearly defined. We take data protection very seriously!"

calms Siegfried Engl.

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Mensa meal plans, libraries and exams - everything works online


But his student life can organize Peter online much better: He can check online, what is there in the cafeteria to eat today, sign up for university sports and see what other interesting events there are on campus - such as a lecture or a cool Concert. In the OPAC, the online catalog of the university library, he can research which books are available at the site. The Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog also shows him which books can be found in other libraries, where he can order them online via inter-library loan. However, Peter finds it particularly convenient that many journal articles and numerous books are now available as e-books - this saves the hassle of lending, carrying away and copying.

And finally, exams at Freie Universität are now partially online: Peter logs on to the campus mangement system online for each exam. If a test is then held on the PC, it means "E-Examinations". These examinations take place under supervision in a special PC pool of the Free University. 300 students sit here at the same time and use the keyboard to answer questions that you find on the computer. In so-called open-book exams, students are allowed to use books and their own recordings (analog and digital) in the exam, because this is where synthesis achievements to learned knowledge are tested. For closed-book exams, however, students are prohibited from using books or their own records. As a rule, this variant is aimed solely at querying factual knowledge

"At the moment we can test 300 students in permanently installed PCs and their own laptops at our E-Examination rooms. The advantage: the data is immediately transferred to our system and the lecturer does not have to decipher the manuscripts first - this saves a lot of work and the results are much faster. At the moment we are also optimizing our concept for exams on our own laptop. These the test specimens then connect to a special docking station, so that only the test program can be seen on the computer, which can only be completed by handing over the test. We could test a lot more students at the same time. The problem with this development, however, is that students naturally use different operating systems. Currently, it works for Apple computers only partially. "

explains Prof. Dr. Nicolas Apostolopoulos, Head of the Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS). CeDiS is the competence center for e-learning and multimedia at the Free University and is responsible for all topics of digital teaching, learning and testing.

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Online cramming: eLearning


To pass his exams, Peter uses the Free University's eLearning offer, which accompanies most of his courses. Blended Learning is the technical term for supplementing the presence teaching through online elements. For this purpose, there is, among other things, a central learning platform called Blackboard at Freie Universität. Peter can access the materials and scripts for his lectures and seminars online at any time via this Internet-accessible platform. In addition, multimedia-enriched animation, video and sound materials illustrate complex issues that Peter can better internalize. He can even download sound and video documents and listen to them on the go while on the phone. If he needs help, there are many video tutorials online and he can contact the support hotline at CeDiS where the learning platform is managed daily.

"The learning platform, for example, replaces many copies and scripts that used to be distributed in the seminars: students often find them online before the event and can thus optimally prepare themselves. But the way, how the ProfessorUsing the Internet is very different: some transfer their entire lectures to the Internet or offer their students special learning software, others find accompanying material such as texts, images and sound documents, some Professoren open discussion forums and again others only provide literature lists online or no material online. It depends very much on how enthusiastic the university lecturer is ",

clarifies Prof. Dr. Nicolas Apostolopoulos.

But even if many of his events can be found online and Peter could look at them comfortably on his home computer: So far, he has never come up with the idea to miss a lecture. Far too important for him is the direct contact with his Professorand fellow students. Because just because he always has his laptop with Internet access, he can provide articles that the Professor mentioned during his lecture, also investigate immediately on the spot and ask specific questions. This opens up completely new possibilities for him to discuss directly in the lecture.

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Well connected with fellow students and Professoren


And the learning platform also helps him to do this: Because this is an excellent way of communicating with fellow students and university teachers, as Peter thinks. This way, Peter can quickly and easily find out via the central learning platform whether an event is taking place at all or, for example, due to illness of the lecturer. After all, teachers can inform their students about short-term changes via online announcement or via easy-to-use mail functions. In addition, Peter can chat with fellow students in working groups, discuss in forums, send messages or exchange files. A calendar function facilitates the appointment for regular meetings of the study group. Together, the fellow students can thus work out and understand the material better. Even the tutor, an older student who accompanies the events, is always available in this way.

Lecturers and tutors also distribute "homework assignments" in the working groups or conduct tests and exams. The latter is particularly important to Peter: He immediately receives feedback for his work and can thus find out very quickly whether he has internalized the learned material or where there is still a need. Thus there is no bad surprise at the right exams. But the benefits of learning online go even further: when Peter sits at a homework or lecture, the other group members can make literature suggestions and comments on his theses. Peter gets quite different results in this way than if he would brood alone in the quiet little room. But he also notes in his lectures that the fellow students bring a much greater interest in his subjects and discuss his remarks lively. It's fun to learn!

"We have actually found that eLearning increases motivation. Example statistics - this is usually a horror event for many students. However, we use the specially developed learning software "Statisiklabor" to let students solve real statistical problems on the computer. To do this, we ask them about certain things and then ask them to evaluate their own data. Result: The students have more fun, the diarrhea rate has dropped significantly and the statistics event has been voted the most popular event on several occasions. "

reports the CeDiS manager.

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Peter completes several internships during his studies and spends one semester abroad. But even throughout his absence, thanks to the learning platform, he can get in touch with his fellow students, his Professorand tutors. He can watch and discuss the lectures - in other words, even in the distance, Peter always knows what's going on at home. However, he also notes that he already lacks personal contact with the people.

"ELearning can complement and deepen present events very well, but not replace them. We have found that the dropout rates in pure online distance learning programs are much higher. This is partly because people also want to see each other personally and exchange ideas. Learning always has a social component and must be fun. That is why Freie Universität places particular emphasis on the concept of blended learning, in which online and classroom teaching are mixed and complement each other. "

shows Prof. Dr. Nicolas Apostolopoulos set the boundaries of digital networking.

Become even digitally active


Back at home, Peter no longer wants to consume only the digital offer of his university, but to pass on his digital knowledge to younger students. He therefore chooses a one-week course in e-tutoring, which consists partly of online self-learning units. Here he now gets to know the learning platform even better: Among other things, he learns how teachers can use the system or how to create digital learning materials. With this knowledge, he applies as a student assistant and is hired immediately because of Professor Urgently needs the help of a student who is familiar with the eLearning system.

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During his studies, Peter has also become increasingly involved with the Web 2.0 offerings of the university. Together with his fellow students, he has built up a wiki to collaborate on texts. He also writes his own blog about his experiences abroad, which the Free University offers him for free. A successful idea for him is also the online exchange fuelundfriends, in which students can exchange eg teaching materials. The good thing about it: here, teachers have no access.

Study digital - networked study


But Peter does not only publish at the university on his blog or in discussion forums: Thanks to the recommendation of his ProfessorAt the end of his studies Peter can publish his bachelor thesis on the university document server of the university library: Here, scientific papers of members of the Free University can be published free of charge according to the principle of Open Access. Open Access does not mean anything other than making specialist publications accessible and usable online. Peter just has to upload his work - and it can be read and received worldwide.

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10 Tips for Digital Studies


Computer Cracks or Newbie: What kind of knowledge should new students bring who nowadays want to find their way around a digital university? gives tips to find your way around the online jungle.

  1. Important is a certain affinity to computers. Anyone familiar with the use of computers or the Internet from school and leisure should not have any problems at the university.
  2. Many people know the Internet as a communication medium, eg through the student's club, or through games. If you want to study online successfully, you need to understand that the computer is more than just a fun and game device: it has to understand the computer as a work, learning and information device.
  3. Fears of the computer, as parents or teachers often have, especially with regard to data protection, are inappropriate: It is important to learn how to handle the medium responsibly.
  4. You do not have to be a nerd yet to use eLearning offerings; However, if you want to get more involved with the functionality of the offers, you need to go deeper.
  5. Online learning requires independence and self-responsibility: you have to teach yourself a lot through onlineCourses and trial and error. But: Support is always within reach.
  6. Students who bring their own laptop at the university have significant advantages: for example, because they can research material directly in the lecture.
  7. Current software is also an advantage because it is more likely to be compatible with the digital offerings at the universities.
  8. But digital self-discipline also requires a lot of self-discipline: People who are online a lot are in danger of being distracted by the many fun things they offer. So be careful that while surfing during the lecture, you do not accidentally get stuck on Facebook.
  9. Beware of copyright: Even though information is now freely available on the Internet, that does not mean that you can simply copy chores or call sources. Here care is still required.
  10. The speed of the information invites inaccuracies. But be careful: the ability to research carefully, to argue well and to write longer texts is still in demand and should be practiced accordingly.

Facts about digital studies in Germany


In the meantime, similar to the example of Peter, studies at many German universities are discontinued. Reliable figures on how far the digitization of studies in Germany has so far progressed are not yet available. This is also because universities use different IT systems that have similar functions but make comparisons difficult.

At Freie Universität Berlin, for example, "SAP Campus Management" and Blackboard are being used as eLearning platforms. Freie Universität was thus the first German university to map modular courses with integrated IT support.

HIS Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH is also currently developing HISinOne, an IT solution for administration and study organization at universities. The special feature here is that the software is being developed together with 15 pilot partners who are currently testing the system during operation. The pilot universities include the universities of Bonn, Mannheim, Freiburg and Siegen, as well as the RHTW Aachen, the Humboldt University of Berlin or the University of Applied Sciences Flensburg.

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In addition to the eLearning software Blackboard comes at German universities also Moodle used - for example, at the University of Duisburg-Essen. In contrast to Blackboard, which is sold commercially and is therefore subject to a fee, Moodle is open source software under GPL license. Everyone can download the software freely and use it freely.

More and more universities also offer virtual study counseling, web-based aptitude tests or self-assessments. In this way, the universities want to arouse applicants' interest, but at the same time find out if the prospective students are really suitable for the subject. Here, too, there are major differences depending on the university: Some procedures are purely aptitude tests, in which only the existing (specialist) knowledge is queried and the applicants receive a recommendation at the end. Others help as a self-assessment to make a decision for or against a field of study. One example is the University of Applied Sciences (HAW) in Hamburg. The so-called HAW navigators, which were developed by the Hamburg-based Cyquest GmbH especially for the HAW, show in different modules with texts, pictures and videos which content, requirements and perspectives on the job market the future students expect and test their knowledge with small tasks , In the end, the applicants get a recommendation.

One sees: The networked student is no longer a vision of the future - and quite in a positive sense. Although digitization costs a lot of time and money during the introductory phase, it saves colleges and students a lot of time and money in the long term. It will be interesting to see what the digital development of the next few years will bring with it.

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