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Mobile and global: how digitization changes the way of studying

Interview with student Caroline Stamm. By Mareike Thuilot.

Lying under palms on an Indonesian beach and collaborating with fellow students back at home – Caroline Stramm (23) knows how students study in mobile and global ways in the age of digitization. Stramm is studying for a teaching degree in French and History in Cologne but enjoys travelling frequently. She spent last semester in France and then went on to travel around Asia for two months.

In an interview with the Center for Teacher Education, she explains how digitization is changing how we study, its benefits and the places where there are still room for improvement.

How do you use digital tools and media abroad for your studies – for working, learning, or for collaborating and communicating with fellow students and professors?
Student Caroline Stamm wants to become a teacher. According to her using digital platforms during her studies represents a major benefit. Foto: Maximilian Woyda Fotografie

While I am abroad, I use many different digital tools. It's incredibly useful that I can be reached by email from any place in the world and I can access my documents and e-learning platforms.During my semester abroad, I got to know many Erasmus students through Facebook groups and also used the site to find cultural and private events and read up on questions frequently asked by other students. It’s a great place to share useful information such as searching for accommodation or the best value mobile networks. I gained a lot from the experiences of other students and uncomplicated networking. Using Ilias [the UoC e-learning platform] and online sources, I was able to write my term paper while I was abroad. I uploaded all my important documents to Dropbox before going abroad and I could access my data from anywhere. There are many useful websites which can help with translation. I also used the Quizlet app to learn vocabulary on the train.  Digital media and tools really made my semester abroad much easier.


How important to you are digital tools and media on a daily basis when you are studying in Cologne?

Google, translation tools, reference sites, tutorials, video clips, and other digital resources help me to study more effectively. For research in secondary literature, it is extremely practical to be able to access a wide range of content online and search through it easily using keywords.
There are many groups such as “Uni Köln Bachelor Lehramt” for discussing course organization or general questions. Students also discuss experiences with lecturers, which I find very useful. On the Facebook pages of university institutions such as the Center for Teacher Education (ZfL), I can find current information and helpful answers to questions from students in the comments.
For group presentations, we often use a WhatsApp group to keep in touch. Documents that are relevant to the group can then be shared via Dropbox or email.
Lecture contents are uploaded to Ilias. This is very convenient when lectures overlap or cannot attend lectures due to family commitments or other reasons. However, I would like to see more lecturers and tutors using Ilias. Although it’s more of an exception, some – particularly older – lecturers don’t upload everything or don’t use Ilias at all.
Working without Facebook, WhatsApp and other tools is still possible but I feel it makes communicating easier and all the information is stored. Nevertheless, I could not imagine studying online completely. I enjoy attending lectures and seminars and benefit from face-to-face interaction.

What digital skills are required from you as a teaching degree student, and how do you learn them?

I think you learn a lot simply by trying things out. Otherwise you ask a fellow student, lecturer or search the internet for information. For older people, such as guests auditors who come to lectures with pen and paper and may not be as familiar with the internet and social media, learning these skills is a potential hurdle.

What kind of digital media opportunities and skills would you like to see for studying at home and abroad?

While I was abroad, I would have liked the opportunity to attend more online lectures at the University of Cologne. Ilias already replaces the need for compulsory attendance but important information on the examination is given in the first or last sessions. The feasibility of an online exam depends on the course, but it would also be a good opportunity for more flexible study.

Do you see digitization as a risk or an opportunity as a future teacher?

Digitization in the classroom is a good thing in principle – but teachers and students need to be prepared for it.  It offers an enormous number of opportunities but also risks – personally, I think the positive aspects outweigh the negative. At the Center for Teacher Training (ZfL), I attended events that gave me an insight into the future of teaching environments. I am sure that digitization for schools is a real and unavoidable way to make teaching and learning more individual, diverse, location independent and accessible.