Expo­nen­ti­al Learning

Digi­tal Talents of Tomor­row Stu­dy­ing at the XU University

Digi­tal com­pe­tence is important – that’s some­thing mil­li­ons of Ger­mans are curr­ent­ly expe­ri­en­cing in their home offices. Even school admi­nis­tra­ti­ons or public aut­ho­ri­ties are sud­den­ly having to set up new digi­tal struc­tures and rea­ching their limits here. Is the coro­na­vi­rus pan­de­mic a much-vaun­­ted cata­lyst for digi­ti­sa­ti­on in Ger­ma­ny? That has yet to be pro­ven. Howe­ver, what it does show very cle­ar­ly is that digi­ti­sa­ti­on has per­me­a­ted socie­ty and we are facing pro­ces­ses of chan­ge from one day to the next. In order to keep pace with deve­lo­p­ments and dri­ve inno­va­ti­on, we need the right frame­work and, abo­ve all, the right sup­port for digi­tal talent.

The XU Uni­ver­si­ty, Germany’s first uni­ver­si­ty for digi­ti­sa­ti­on and tech­no­lo­gy, has dedi­ca­ted its­elf to future-ori­en­­ted tea­ching at its loca­ti­on in Pots­dam: “A new time needs a new uni­ver­si­ty” is how its slo­gan goes. XU stands for Expo­nen­ti­al Uni­ver­si­ty - for expo­nen­ti­al chan­ge, expo­nen­ti­al lear­ning and action - as Adri­en­ne Fischer, the University’s Mana­ging Direc­tor, explains. “The­re is a need today for digi­tal know­ledge in almost all pro­fes­sio­nal fields. The­re are new pro­fes­si­ons emer­ging and others dis­ap­pearing. But, most important­ly, the­re are pro­fes­si­ons that are chan­ging. We the­r­e­fo­re have to pro­vi­de the com­pe­tence to accom­pa­ny the­se chan­ges. Stu­dents are given the right metho­do­lo­gies and the neces­sa­ry tools to do this.”

The bachelor’s and master’s degree pro­gram­mes such as Digi­tal Busi­ness, Digi­tal Mar­ke­ting and Social Media, Coding and Soft­ware Engi­nee­ring, Data Sci­ence and the master’s pro­gram­mes (Digi­tal Trans­for­ma­ti­on Manage­ment, Data Sci­ence) prepa­re stu­dents for the real-life requi­re­ments of the digi­tal eco­no­my. To ensu­re that this is as prac­ti­cal as pos­si­ble, the XU University’s didac­tic con­cept is based on the prin­ci­ple of “prac­ti­ce first, then theo­ry”. This means that the stu­dents are asked to pro­gram­me their own small app in the first two weeks. The app does­n’t have to be per­fect, but it’s more about get­ting to know the chal­lenges of prac­ti­cal work so that they have the neces­sa­ry pri­or know­ledge befo­re start­ing on the theo­ry. Many pro­fes­sors who pass on their know­ledge in such are­as of exper­ti­se as coding and soft­ware engi­nee­ring come direct­ly from the free mar­ket eco­no­my. They are suc­cessful entre­pre­neurs who mana­ge their own start-up or work for well-known com­pa­nies in the digi­tal and tech sec­tor. Coding and Soft­ware Deve­lo­p­ment Pro­fes­sor Dr. Moham­med Abu­Ja­rour work­ed for many years at SAP befo­re taking up his pro­fes­sor­ship at the XU University.

In addi­ti­on, the uni­ver­si­ty draws upon an exten­si­ve net­work of part­ners. Guest spea­k­ers are regu­lar­ly invi­ted to the semi­nars to pro­vi­de prac­ti­cal know­ledge and insights into real-life cases from their digi­tal com­pa­nies. Stu­dents beco­me acquain­ted ear­ly on with digi­tal busi­ness models and orga­ni­sa­ti­on theo­ries, and learn how design thin­king can be inte­gra­ted into day-to-da working life. “The major skills shorta­ge is a chall­enge for the next gene­ra­ti­on. This isn’t a place whe­re you should be exten­ding the trai­ning peri­od inde­fi­ni­te­ly with intern­ships and trai­nee­ships becau­se it’s more about alre­a­dy pre­pa­ring for your job direct­ly during your stu­dies,” Fischer explains.

That’s why XU Uni­ver­si­ty enters into sel­ect regio­nal coope­ra­ti­ons. Tog­e­ther with the Stadt­wer­ke Pots­dam and under the direc­tion of Pro­fes­sor Dr. Bou­teil­ler, third semes­ter stu­dents deve­lo­ped con­cepts for the Kramp­nitz Inno­va­ti­on Quar­ter. A new urban dis­trict for living and working is being deve­lo­ped on the site of for­mer bar­racks to the north of Pots­dam. Its goal of being sus­tainable, citi­­zen-fri­en­d­­ly and for­­ward-loo­king includes, for exam­p­le, a digi­tal infra­struc­tu­re, car-free zones and street lamps with 5G trans­mis­si­on masts. The stu­dents con­cen­tra­ted in their pro­ject on such sub­sec­tions as the use of the Inter­net of Things or the use of ele­va­ted gara­ges in an expan­ded func­tion as mobi­li­ty hubs. The stu­dents also took on the asso­cia­ted pro­ject manage­ment processes.

Adri­en­ne Fischer points out that the uni­ver­si­ty also atta­ches gre­at importance to inter­di­sci­pli­na­ry work. While the mar­ke­ting stu­dents also gain a basic under­stan­ding of coding, the coders in turn learn how to prepa­re a busi­ness plan. The cour­ses take place in small groups on up to four days a week. One day off is also part of the weekly rou­ti­ne so that stu­dents have time to pur­sue prac­ti­cal pro­jects and work.

You don’t have to have pro­gramming skills or be a mar­ke­ting expert in order to enroll in a bachelor’s degree pro­gram­me. But you should be curious about wan­ting to help shape an ever-acce­­le­ra­­ting world - using future tech­no­lo­gies. The XU Uni­ver­si­ty also sup­ports stu­dents’ own moti­va­ti­on in expan­ding on their edu­ca­ti­on. Stu­dents can take cer­ti­fi­ca­te cour­ses in agi­le working or, thanks to lear­ning plat­forms, access first-hand mar­ket exper­ti­se and use new lear­ning and tea­ching for­mats. The­re are hard­ly any clas­sic lec­tures on the sche­du­le; stu­dies are sup­ple­men­ted by inter­ac­ti­ve lec­tures, hacka­thons and sprints. After all, working metho­do­lo­gies are just as neces­sa­ry qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons in the digi­tal world of work as spe­cia­list know­ledge is.

With regard to tools and plat­forms, the XU Uni­ver­si­ty regards its­elf as a cura­tor of the most up-to-date know­ledge available in the mar­ket. In con­sul­ta­ti­on with the pro­fes­sors, it is then pre­pared for use in teaching.

Stu­dies still take place on-site in Pots­dam despi­te all the digi­ta­li­ty: the Uni­ver­si­ty was estab­lished in the midd­le of the Media City at the Babels­berg Film Stu­di­os and the­r­e­fo­re right at the cent­re of Media­Tech Hub Pots­dam. This means that the nea­rest col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve oppor­tu­ni­ties for prac­ti­cal work can be found in the imme­dia­te vicinity.

By Chris­ti­ne Lentz

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About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.