The pandemic has undoubtedly provided a boost to digitization in German classrooms and lecture halls.

But it was a digital transformation with a crowbar, because very few educational institutions were able to fall back on sophisticated didactic concepts or a well-developed server infrastructure.

The open source learning management system Moodle is widespread with almost 300 million registered users and 38,000 course rooms worldwide. To install the software, PHP and a database system such as MySQL or PostgreSQL are required. Each virtual course can be configured in such a way that only registered participants can attend it, that guests are permitted or that a password is required to participate. Most federal states offer Moodle centrally for schools, which then have a different name depending on the state.

The individual offers of the federal states are similar in their basic principle.

In a cloud, teachers and students can store teaching materials and assignments online.

Checked applications from third-party providers can also be accessed via links.

Direct communication within the class takes place in group or private chats.

Most platforms also allow digital teaching via video conferencing.

So much for the theory.

"In practice, the educational offerings of the federal states compete with digital solutions that individual schools launched on their own at the start of distance learning," says educational researcher Antonia Köster from the University of Potsdam.

Universities in Berlin communicated on four different platforms

From “A” for Antolin app to “S” for Spotlight, the training program for learning English: the range of apps, tools and platforms in the digital classroom is as large as it is confusing. How well the individual educational offers can be integrated into everyday teaching depends not least on the equipment of the individual schools. Only 24 percent of schools offer all teachers digital work equipment. This bottleneck means that nine out of ten teachers have used their private devices for teaching purposes in the past few months. Personal and professional are mixed up on one screen. The best apps and tools only come into play if the students have the appropriate digital devices available. In the pandemic, the proportion of schoolchildrenwho could take tablets or laptops home for study purposes increased from 15 to 55 percent.

Unlike schools, universities could assume that all students had access to notebooks, tablets or smartphones. However, very few institutions could count on their own video conferencing tools. Therefore, at the beginning of the pandemic, licenses were bought from established providers. Microsoft Teams, Zoom Business or Cisco Webex are the most common applications. The difficulty: The universities in Berlin alone were now communicating on four different platforms.

Self-hosted open source solutions are the ideal solution, as they promise the best possible sovereignty over your own data. Students from Darmstadt and Karlsruhe run the “Senfcall” project in their free time. Based on the open source system “BigBlueButton”, they offer free video conferences that respect data protection. Many other universities have meanwhile followed suit and, in addition to their own learning environments, also invested in the infrastructure. An investment that should pay off even after the pandemic, even if some university servers were overloaded in the early weeks of distance learning.

Martin Rademacher, “Hochschulforum Digitisierung” project manager at the University Rectors' Conference, is hoping for a sustainable boost in digitization. “Purchases of hardware and software are only one side of the coin. It also needs technical support, high-performance data centers and teaching staff who are familiar with the technology. "

Education experts see the future of learning together in the didactic concept of the flipped classroom.

The learning content is self-determined at home.

Lecture recordings that are made available digitally can then be rewound as often as required and processed at your own pace.

Face-to-face meetings only take place for targeted coaching and exchange.

"I recorded my lecture as a podcast and offered digital consultation hours and I don't see why that should change after the pandemic," says Sascha Friesike.

He teaches at the University of the Arts in Berlin - as a professor for the design of digital innovations.

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