From June 6-8, 2018, Kiron Open Higher Education held its first ever double study weekend – a very special opportunity that brought students from four of our five study tracks together for two and a half days of learning about Kiron’s programs and transfer to university, building student community, and of course, studying, studying, studying. The event was hosted in seminar rooms in the Neues Deutschland building at Franz-Mehring-Platz, thanks to our friends at Media Residents!

Introduction to Business students during a session with RWTH Aachen

Half of the group – 10 students – were in preparation mode for an exam in their Introduction to Business (Einführung in die Betriebswirtschaftslehre) course with our INTEGRAL+ partner, RWTH Aachen. The students are currently enrolled in the corresponding Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on edX, made up of six units covering basic concepts and terms in business and economics, which culminates with an offline exam in August. Upon passing, students will be awarded ECTS points that are recognizable by offline universities. Two RWTH Aachen Introduction to Business teachers, Hannah Fabry and Valerie Starke, were present at the weekend to lead interactive, student-centered study sessions that emphasized learning through activity as well as personalized feedback for each learner. “The quality of the sessions was quite high, really enlightening and motivating,” stated one of our EBWL students at the end of the two days.

Hannah Fabry of RWTH Aachen

Holding this study weekend a couple months ahead allowed students to not only kick start studying for their exam, but to form a learning community offline that has since moved online through a live tutorial. Hashtag blended learning! Our volunteer tutorial instructor, Torben Stoffer, called in via Skype during the weekend to greet the students at the event and lead the first session virtually. Now students meet with Torben weekly online via Google Hangouts to go over content from the MOOC and get direct answers to their questions, organized by Kiron’s Direct Academics team.

Social Work students discussing further study and career opportunities in Germany

The other half of the study weekend was dedicated to 10 of our Social Work students and focused on orientation to Kiron, preparation for their introductory modules, and information about further study and career options. Students participated in interactive study sessions with Sociology and Psychology volunteer tutors Rakaya El-Kasaby and Alice Rollini, learned about Kiron’s prep program with Dr. Vera Loureiro de Assunção and the Social Work study track with Maria Bloecher, and had an informational session with Silvia Oitner of Alice Salomon Hochschule here in Berlin, one of Kiron’s partner universities.

Additionally, the Kiron team organized a panel with current social work students from Sudan and Syria to give our students insight into what it’s actually like to study social work at an offline university in Germany and what the current challenges are in the field. The same students will join Direct Academics online tutorials for Sociology and Psychology in the coming months to continue working through their MOOCs. One of the Social Work students who was newly-enrolled at Kiron shared the following heartening words for our team: “Kiron is the first light of hope for me in Germany. I am taking with me a really lot of motivation for study”.

Students and Kironista Maria Bloecher enjoy the Spree boat ride

Together, the two study weekend groups enjoyed shared social events like a boat trip along the Spree and an outdoor evening celebration with Kironistas as well as common meal and snack times to get to know one another in a bigger circle. Students fasting for Ramadan took the chance at meal times to discover the city, for instance a short excursion to the nearby East Side Gallery, an open-air gallery consisting of murals painted on a former stretch of the Berlin Wall. Additionally, the students joined together for Kiron-focused sessions such as learning about our mentoring program with Kironista Valeria Ruf and getting informed about what they need in order to transfer to an offline university with our very engaged transfer team.

Students and Kironstias get to know one another at the study weekend celebration

Kiron Study Weekends are funded by Germany’s Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in the scope of our INTEGRAL+ project in partnership with RWTH Aachen and FH Lübeck. They continue to be a very rewarding and helpful experience for both Kiron students and staff, who otherwise only have the chance to communicate virtually. Only a couple days of in-person interaction can greatly enhance a student’s understanding of Kiron and increase their motivation for online study, as well as help Kironistas better understand the value of their work and for whom they doing it. “It strengthens the connection to Kiron. We learned so much new information! I really enjoyed getting to know the Kiron team! And I thought it was great being in Berlin. I won’t forget it,” shared Ismaeil from the Social Work study track after returning home from the weekend. Neither will we, Ismaeil!

→ Interested in volunteering at Kiron as an online instructor? Wonderful! Check out our Volunteer page and click on “volunteer instructor (remote)” for more information, or contact the Direct Academics team at da-support@kiron.ngo.

→ Learn more about Kiron’s INTEGRAL+ project with the BMBF here (article in German