Programming made easy with the zdi course “CyberSecurity”

A year ago, Nils Reuter from the zdi student laboratory at the Hamm-Lippstadt University of Applied Sciences started giving online courses. The format has now established itself and its courses are attended by a loyal community. He even offers weekly well-attended programming courses. What makes his offers successful? A look behind the scenes of the online course "CyberSecurity".

Nils Reuter managed last year what many course providers wish for: Despite all the restrictions during the pandemic, he regularly organizes and implements programming courses, is in close contact with young people and has a reliable community with which he can work on MINT topics. Every Friday afternoon, young people can get a little closer to the world of coding for two hours. 

The students work in Discord.

After more and more courses had to be canceled due to the corona pandemic, Nils decided a year ago to only offer his course online in the future. Fortunately, this was easy to implement: The programming professional can easily transfer topics such as hacking or coding to the online world. Since then, the participants have been meeting weekly with Nils on the specially created Discord server. So far, Discord has been known primarily as a communication medium for those who play online games together. Nils has now used the platform for his programming courses - and has had great success with it.

The current project: cyber security

The young people's current project turned out to be not so easy. They are currently programming a code that should be able to crack a password. Sounds very tempting at first. The large number of students who are regularly part of the course think so too. In order to be able to try out the created code later, sample passwords were created beforehand. With the help of the screen sharing possible in Discord and the programming language Python, which the entire course uses, everyone works together towards the common goal. The fact that Nils Reuter's screen is permanently transmitted means that the students can cooperate well. Commands are entered together and tinkered with, several test runs are started and the resulting errors are corrected together. The course is designed to be interesting week after week thanks to the good mix of practice and theory and the various gadgets that Nils regularly uses on his device. For example, important topics or information are handwritten on a kind of blackboard. Nils attaches great importance to the students completing the tasks together with the lecturer. There is no such thing as sitting around and listening in his online course either. The students are asked many questions that encourage interaction, but the actual program is also often interrupted at short notice as soon as someone asks a question of understanding or counter-question.

Room for friends: Private worries are also shared

Topics independent of programming and coding are also well received and discussed in detail. Especially at the present time, when social contacts have to be reduced to the minimum, it is important to be able to talk to someone about current topics and feelings.

The students can report on what is going on in their lives at the moment, to what extent the pandemic is affecting the lives of the students, what a typical school day looks like now and what the respective club sport is like. You quickly notice that there is a solid core in this course, which is not sitting together for the first time.

Joint problem solving in the online course.

Flat hierarchy, great togetherness

For some of the students, programming is a real hobby. They spend a lot of time writing their own code or dealing with the topic in general. Therefore, the students bring a basic understanding from which even the lecturer can benefit. He is also not above asking the students for advice if they have any questions or forwarding questions to students who volunteer. There is a very flat hierarchy, you don't get the impression that you are in a course where the lecturer wants to tell the students a wide variety of things through frontal teaching. It's more like being part of a large group of friends who get together every Friday to pursue their hobby together. This and the fact that the topics discussed are explained in a simple and interesting way are the reasons why the course is so popular with the students and regularly enjoys great approval. Newcomers are warmly welcomed and no one is too bad about explaining things that are already familiar to the newcomers again.

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