Kiron organizes a Study Weekend focused specifically on Computer Science students

Through funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) via the INTEGRAL+ project, Kiron hosted its third on-site study weekend in Berlin. This time the focus was specifically on students in the Computer Science study track. The goals for this weekend were to give students the opportunity to improve their strategies for self-directed learning, try out new formats of learning, reflect on their own strengths and weaknesses in online-learning and, equally important, to foster a sense of community amongst students.

The Direct Academics department brought together sixteen students from all over Germany to focus on improving their strategies for self-directed learning in the fields of programming languages and techniques. The Kiron Computer Science department, together with several volunteer instructors, led self-paced, but also interactive sessions on different topics such as software version control with Git, object-oriented programming with Python, and web development with CSS and JavaScript. Additionally, students got an introduction to the importance and theory of encryption together with an interactive crypto party.

The workshop formats were partly self-directed, using a slightly different, more participatory approach than traditional MOOCs and therefore offered the students a new perspective on how self-directed learning materials can be used. The presence of several expert tutors for the respective topics was greatly appreciated by the students and highlighted the importance of similar support structures for online-learning formats. Within the INTEGRAL+ project Kiron is constantly working on improving and implementing more of such support formats through its Direct Academics program.

 

The entire weekend was embedded into an analysis of the students’ own learning strategies and behaviour through a reflective learning portfolio. Prior to the workshops, students were asked to locate their own learning journey in the field of Computer Science by identifying courses they are currently struggling with in their Kiron studies. After each workshop, students were then asked to reflect on the strategies they used for tackling similar difficulties within the workshop materials: When to ask a present tutor? How to formulate the right question for a given problem? Where to find help through the internet, exploring different support mechanisms such as interactive forums, subject specific knowledge bases or additional support material, e.g. on Open Educational Resource platforms. Through this learning portfolio tool, by the end of the weekend each student had tailored a personal strategy pool to take home and apply to their future online studies with Kiron.

Overall, student feedback on the sessions was very positive: “I liked the interactive courses.” “At the beginning was difficult but later was under control.” “I learned “python.”

But, the weekend wasn’t only about learning, community building was also an important aspect of the event. On Friday night, Kiron hosted a networked gaming party at its office with all sorts of games – from good old-fashioned role-playing sagas to online video games, there was something for everyone!  The weekend ended on Saturday night with a visit to the local Computerspiele Museum where they were transported back in time. Students put their gaming skills to the test with oldies like Pong, the original Mario, and PacMan. It was also interesting to see how gaming consoles have changed over the years, the earliest systems used tape decks which evolved to floppy discs and CDs and now memory cards. Some lucky students even took a trip into the future with the latest virtual reality video games.

All in all, the study weekend was a good mix of learning and fun. We are confident our students now have new energy to keep them motivated in their studies, have learned valuable skills and strategies for self-directed (online) learning, and have made new friends to encourage them. Based on the students’ feedback, we think we have succeeded.

“This is the best weekend I’ve had since moving to Germany.”

 

Article by Elyzabeth Simpson