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Studying digitally & networked: What can students expect at universities today?

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.
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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.

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 can find out more about admission procedures and application deadlines on the university's website. For economics, he must first go through an online application process. The video learning modules on the university website help him prepare: he learns how the study and application work and is successful: Peter gets the place to study and can enroll at the university.

„Die Immatrikulation muss persönlich oder durch einen Bevollmächtigten erfolgen. Jeder Studierende bekommt mit dem Studentenausweis die Zugangsdaten für unser Online-System und kann von jetzt an die vernetzte Hochschule voll nutzen“

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.

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.

„Die Einführung von Bachelor- und Masterstudiengängen haben dazu geführt, dass ein Studium heute aus sehr vielen Modulen besteht und daher gut durchorganisiert werden muss – da ist ein elektronisches System eine große Erleichterung für die Studierenden. Zugriff auf die Daten haben auch nur die Studierenden selbst und die Mitarbeiter in Verwaltung und Prüfungsamt – das war schon immer so. Die Professoren, on the other hand, can enter the grades for a course, but cannot view the entire study account because they do not have the appropriate access rights. The user rights and roles are clear definiert. Datenschutz nehmen wir sehr ernst!“

calms Siegfried Engl.

Mensa meal plans, libraries and exams - everything works online

But Peter can also organize his student life much better online: he can check online what is being eaten in the cafeteria, register for university sports and see what other interesting events are taking place on campus - e.g. a lecture or a cool one Concert. In the OPAC, the online catalog of the university library, he can research which books are available at the location. The Karlsruhe virtual catalog also shows him which books can be found in other libraries, where he can order them online via interlibrary loan. However, Peter finds it particularly practical that many magazine articles and numerous books are now available as Ebooks are available - this saves the hassle of borrowing, carrying home and copying.

Und schließlich funktionieren auch Prüfungen an der Freien Universität mittlerweile teilweise online: Peter meldet sich im Campus Mangement System zu jeder Prüfung online an. Wenn eine Prüfung dann am PC abgehalten wird, heißt dies „E-Examinations“. Diese Prüfungen finden unter Aufsicht in einem speziellen PC-Pool der Freien Universität statt. 300 Studierende sitzen hier gleichzeitig und beantworten per Tastatur Fragen, die Sie auf dem Computer vorfinden. Bei sogenannten Open-Book Klausuren dürfen Studierende in der Prüfung Bücher und eigene Aufzeichnungen (analog und digital) verwenden, denn hier werden Syntheseleistungen zu gelerntem Wissen geprüft. Bei Closed-Book Klausuren ist es den Studierenden hingegen untersagt, Bücher oder eigene Aufzeichnungen zu verwenden. Diese Variante zielt in aller Regel auf das reine Abfragen von Faktenwissen ab

„Derzeit können wir in unseren E-Examinations-Räumen gut 300 Studierende gleichzeitig an fest installierten PCs und ihren eigenen Laptops prüfen. Der Vorteil: Die Daten werden sofort in unser System übertragen und der Dozent muss nicht erst die Handschriften entziffern – das spart eine Menge Arbeit und die Ergebnisse liegen viel schneller vor. Wir optimieren derzeit auch unser Concept ABC School Joke Oud für Prüfungen am eigenen Laptop. Diesen schließen die Prüflinge dann an einer speziellen Dockingstation an, so dass nur noch das Prüfungsprogramm auf dem Rechner zu sehen ist, das nur durch Abgabe der Prüfung beendet werden kann. Damit könnten wir weitaus mehr Studierende gleichzeitig prüfen. Das Problem bei dieser Entwicklung ist aber, dass die Studierenden natürlich unterschiedliche Betriebssysteme nutzen. Derzeit klappt es für Apple-Rechner nur teilweise.“

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.

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.

„Die Lernplattform ersetzt zum Beispiel viele Kopien und Skripte, die früher in den Seminaren verteilt wurden: Die finden die Studierenden nun oft schon vor der Veranstaltung im Netz und können sich so optimal vorbereiten. Doch die Art und Weise, wie die 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 eröffnen Diskussionsforen und wieder andere stellen nur Literaturlisten online oder gar kein Material online. Das hängt sehr stark davon ab, wie internetbegeistert der Hochschullehrer ist“,

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 Professors and fellow students. Because precisely because he always has his laptop with internet access with him, he can Items, the 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.

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.

Dozenten und Tutoren verteilen in den Arbeitsgruppen auch „Hausaufgaben“ oder führen Tests und Klausuren zur Probe durch. Letztere findet Peter besonders wichtig: Er bekommt sofort ein Feedback for his work and can find out very quickly whether he has internalized the material he has learned or where there is still a need. This means that there are no nasty surprises with the right exams. But the advantages of online learning go even further: When Peter is working on a term paper or a presentation, the other group members can suggest literature and make comments on his theses. In this way Peter comes to completely different results than if he were brooding over in a quiet little room. But then he also noticed in his lectures that his fellow students were much more interested in his topics and were lively discussing his statements. Learning is fun this way!

„Wir haben tatsächlich festgestellt, dass eLearning die Motivation steigert. Beispiel Statistik – das ist in der Regel für viele Studierende einen Horrorveranstaltung. Wir jedoch lassen die Studierenden mit der eigens entwickelten Lernsoftware „Statisiklabor“ am Computer reale statistische Probleme lösen: Dafür befragen wir sie zu bestimmten Dingen und stellen ihnen dann die Aufgabe, ihre eigenen Daten auszuwerten. Ergebnis: Die Studierenden haben mehr Spaß, die Durchfallrate ist erheblich gesunken und die Statistikveranstaltung wurde mehrfach als beliebteste Veranstaltung gewählt.“

reports the CeDiS manager.

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 kann Präsensveranstaltungen sehr gut ergänzen und vertiefen, nicht jedoch ersetzen. Wir haben festgestellt, dass die Studienabbruchraten in den reinen Online-Fernstudiengängen viel höher sind. Das liegt u.a. daran, dass die Leute sich auch persönlich sehen und Austauschen wollen. Lernen hat ja auch immer eine soziale Komponente und muss einfach Spaß machen. Deswegen setzt die Freie Universität vor allem auf das Konzept Blended Learning, in dem Online- und Präsenzlehre gemischt werden und sich gegenseitig ergänzen. „

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.

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.

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 studies also require a lot of self-discipline: Those who spend a lot of time online run the risk of being distracted by the many fun offers. So be careful that you don't accidentally hit Facebook Keeps hanging.
  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.

An der Freien Universität Berlin kommen beispielsweise das „SAP Campus Management“ und Blackboard als eLearning-Plattform zum Einsatz. Die Freie Universität war damit erste deutsche Universität, die mit integrierter IT-Unterstützung modulare Studiengänge abbildet.

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.

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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