AZUBIT Nov 20, 2020

My dual studies in the digital city Karlsruhe.

The fan-shaped city of Karlsruhe consists of a new one from tradition and modernity ...

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Maximilian Bickel
Dual-study programm: Bachelor of Arts – BWL Marketing Management

Who am I?

My name is Maximilian Bickel and I’m 25. I’m in my fifth semester studying business administration with a major in marketing management at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW). During my practical semesters, I support the marketing department at Bechtle Karlsruhe in all things Modern Workplace.

What’s it like having to study online?

What should people expect from a DHBW course? That’s different for everyone, but I’ll try to give you an insight into my experiences.

During the practical semesters, I work in the system house getting to know the various business processes much like a trainee.

The theory part of the course sees me commuting between where I live in Karlsruhe and Mannheim. Driving 70 km one-way takes a good 50 minutes and wasn’t really a viable long-term option as a student due to the costs, so I switched to taking the train. Every student has a timetable of lectures with two 2.5 -3.5 lectures a day per subject and a 30 to 60 minute lunch break. I’m normally done by 4:30 pm at the latest and then it’s a two-hour trip on public transportation to get home. At least, that’s how things were until this year....

Unusual times – The new normal. The COVID-19 pandemic has been keeping us in check since the beginning of the year and, since spring, we have been increasingly confined to home. But what has changed for me as a student?

Nothing much has changed with the timetable, but our lectures have taken on a new form which has taken a bit of getting used to. The DHBW is using the Moodle learning platform and the Blackboard collaboration tool. I have to say I was quite sceptical about it all at the beginning, but I’m definitely a fan now. Students and staff can be assigned different roles and rights meaning that even a student can share a screen and present. We have all the standard features such as video and mic connections, but there is also the possibility to “Raise a hand” when we have a question. If I use it, my name gets pushed to the top of the participant list and an icon indicates that I have a question. It’s a great way to signal to the lecturer that you’d like to interrupt. There’s also the possibility to split students into working groups with the course rooms being available around the clock so that we students can meet to discuss different aspects of the class even when the lectures are over. All you need to be able to take part is a computer, an internet connection and a microphone and, if possible, a camera. At the start of the last semester, Canon launched an app that means I can use my SLR as a webcam, so now I have a camera with 1080p, a depth of field and optical zoom instead of my 480p resolution webcam. To make sure my desktop was up to speed in the audio department, I ordered a small Lavalier microphone and printed a 3D clip to attach it to the monitor. When the same person is constantly having reliability and sound issues, it can quickly cause frustration for the lecturers and students alike.

In theory, online lectures should be great, but in reality, they cause all sorts of issues. Even if the lecturer gives us a short break every hour or so, I find it quite hard to get motivated and stay focussed staring at my computer screen, which means I can find myself drifting off into my own world in the middle of a lecture. Unfortunately, it’s nigh on impossible to catch up because there were only recordings made in one subject last semester. When it comes to exams, most lecturers add questions on their oral comments, besides what is written in the script, but if you didn’t hear what was said, you’re stuck.

To help you out, I’ve put together a few tips on how to get through online lectures.

  • Make sure your workspace and living space are separate. If I’m in bed during a lecture, there’s no way I’m going to feel motivated and it won’t be long before my eyelids start getting heavy. Make sure you have a desk set up and USE IT!
  • Double up. If you have a second monitor, you can follow the lecture on one and make notes on the other.
  • Stay hydrated and get some fresh air. Make the most of your breaks by refilling your water bottle, grabbing a (healthy!) snack and airing the room. This’ll reduce the number of headaches you get and encourages motivation.

Living and working in Karlsruhe.

Karlsruhe has so much to offer! Here are a couple of my favourite locations:

Karlsruhe Palace was built in 1715 and is located right in the heart of the city. From mid-August to mid-September, the façade is used as a giant, 3D screen for the annual illuminations. It’s a unique backdrop for some very impressive animated projections and this year the whole event was streamed online.

They city has an excellent public transport system which will soon be complemented with what will perhaps be the world’s smallest underground system. It also has access to two motorways, an inland port and an airport and is home to an excellent community spirit.

Last but not least, there’s the CyberForum, which is a non-profit organisation connecting start-ups, international corporations, research institutions and universities as well as cities and municipalities. This is all in a city that is full to the brim with technical students, making Karlsruhe a dynamic, young and technological city which has never lost sight of its roots.