Studying together in times of digital teaching

"Since we watch all the lectures together, the sense of community is still there"

Karl Christian Roß, Studierender der Allgemeinen Ingenieurwissenschaften im 2. Semester, berichtet in einem Interview mit dem ZLL wie es Studierenden an der TUHH gelingt - trotz physischer Distanz - gemeinsam zu studieren.

How has the digital semester at TUHH gone for you so far?

The digital semester is going relatively well for me. I am fully into the lecture schedule and also believe that my understanding of the lecture material is very comparable to the regular semester. I am satisfied with my productivity and my time invested, all things considered.

What is going well and where is the problem?

I manage to keep and work through the schedule every day through our collaboration on Discord. This works particularly well in lectures that are designed to be interactive, for example with quizzes. Here we can pause the video and also really have the time you need to talk through the question. The system also works well in normal exercises, because you can talk about tasks and other things without disturbing the others in the Zoom meeting.

It goes worse in “self-organized” exercises, where you do homework/problems without assistance. Here, of course, you can always write e-mails or ask in the forum, but this barrier and delay in answering already drives the motivation to ask questions far down. When no one knows what to do with a problem, we feel a little powerless, and that makes us more likely to simply abandon such tasks or not even try to do them properly. Lectures where only lecturing is done are also problematic in some cases, as it is easy to get distracted by others at home without being physically present.

How can you still study together without physical contact?

I think our organization is already really good. Since we watch all the lectures together, there is still a sense of community. Discord also has a text chat feature, which we use to have the fun “chit-chat” of normal lectures without actively distracting others, since everyone has the option to simply mute and ignore the chat if they are particularly focused.

In my opinion, this collaborative part of the lectures is also very important to keep morale up. That you still have the options to have fun with others over a funny debate or get upset over a complex formula, which is what happens normally in “real” lectures.

How do you organize yourself with fellow students?

We use a discord server on which we watch lectures together and do exercises together at agreed times. These times are also kept if someone is not there. Then he has to make up for it on his own. We are 5/6 people, which is a good size, that everyone can/must have a word, but that you can also drop out without dragging the whole group down. When questions are asked, we often use a random number generator that dices out who has to present their answer. We do this so that everyone has to explain sometimes and so that no one falls into the trap of “That’s how I would have done it” when they only hear the solution from others. For smaller questions that do not need to be discussed in detail, there is also often a quick answer in the chat. If someone doesn’t understand or has it wrong, you can talk about it afterwards. We also have a separate text channel for each module, where relevant information for the module and questions can be sent in.

Discord is a free online service for instant messaging and voice/video communication. Most of the time, Discord is used via servers created for free, which are divided into voice and text chats. There is also the option to organize video conferences or streams via screensharing or using webcams. We meet in our study group in a voice chat on our own server to study together. We do this during recorded/live lectures and also in the exercises. We also use the text chats if there is no good opportunity to talk, e.g. when a tutor is explaining something.

What tips do you have for other students?

Try to work together with others as much as possible! This forces you more to work at the agreed times, discussion promotes understanding and it is also better if you can be upset, happy, amused or suffer together.

What would you like to see from teachers in terms of the switch to digital teaching?

Trying to keep quick interactivity with students as high as possible. Lectures live at specific times, tutorials via Zoom with tutors, and clicker or quizzes during lectures. At the same time, it’s important that instructional videos are uploaded on time enough to keep schedules intact and events from falling out of time. It’s nice when lecturers want to tell more and go into more depth with more examples, but there are already enough things that take up time.

Thank you for the exciting insight into your current studies and all the best for your future studies!

Bildquelle: Karl Christian Roß

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