Achieve study goals better with digital assistants? BMBF funds Higher Education Research at Osnabrück University with almost two million euros

As part of the “Innovation potentials of digital higher education” funding programme, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research is funding the joint project “Individualization of Study through Digital, Data-Driven Assistants” (SIDDATA) starting November 1, in which Osnabrück University is involved in a leading role with three institutions from the disciplines of Business Information Systems, Cognitive Science and E-Learning/University Didactics.

“We see the project as a contribution to more responsibility in the study. Students should be able to make more use of existing data on courses, content and their own achievements and make informed decisions for their individual education”, explains project coordinator Dr. Tobias Thelen from the Center for Digital Teaching, Campus Management and Higher Education Didactics (virtUOS). At the center of the project is the development and testing of a digital study assistant at Osnabrück University and other universities, according to Thelen. The project is closely linked to the research profile “Cognition: Human-Technology-Interaction”, which is particularly supported by the university as part of the strategy process.

“In a globally connected world, students expect higher education to offer more than what a given local curriculum encompasses. The question is: How can universities respond meaningfully to this? Prof. Dr. Uwe Hoppe, Department of Business Studies/Organization and Information Systems, one of the basic questions of the project. The project is based on many years of experience in the exchange of courses between universities and aims to develop models for how more open study programs can arise.

The SIDDATA joint project also relies on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to provide custom-fit wizards. “The system has to understand students’ freely formulated study and educational goals, for example, to link them with data from course and examination systems and to make recommendations,” Prof. Dr. Kai-Uwe Kühnberger from the Institute of Cognitive Science (IKW). These recommendations could refer to courses on-site or at coorperating universities, to additional free educational resources or to contacts with fellow students with similar goals, as Prof. Dr. Gordon Pipa from the IKW adds.

“But the learning processes themselves are also part of the project,” explains Prof. Dr. Peter König, also from the IKW: “The assistant should also be able to help with understanding and improving one’s own learning behavior with additional hardware.” However, there were also ethical questions that are also dealt with in the project, such as PD Dr. Uwe Meyer (IKW) emphasizes. Accompanying the project, information and reflection offers are to be developed that encourage students to critically and constructively deal with their own data and digital assistants.

The joint project SIDDATA will be carried out together with the Leibniz University Hannover, the University of Bremen and the HIS-Institut für Hochschulentwicklung e. V. (HIS-HE) for a period of 3.5 years and can be extended for another 2.5 years if successful. The funding totaled 3.9 million euros, half of which, 1.95 million euros, will go to the Osnabrück University.

Project Coordinator Thelen emphasizes: “In this very broad research project, a unique product is being developed that we can develop and test in the next few years and help the students in their own individual way of education. At the same time, we want to better understand what is happening to students in the face of new opportunities for digitized and connected education, how to make better use of existing data, and how universities can meet their challenges. “

More information for editors: Dr. Tobias Thelen, Osnabrück University, Center for Digital Teaching, Campus Management and University Didactics, Heger-Tor-Wall 12, 49069 Osnabrück, Tel. +49 541 969 6502, E-Mail: tobias.thelen@uni-osnabrueck.de

Source: Press release on the website of Osnabrück University, Nr. 223 / 2018

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