E-tools in teaching at German universities

Female student in the computer room

The digital revolution reached higher education long ago. It is opening up new opportunities for teaching: online formats facilitate individual support, cultural exchange and virtual mobility irrespective of time or location. International students also benefit from this.

E-learning with flexible tools

Vocabulary learning, conversation exercises, exam preparation, specialist subject discussions and direct access to materials: digital learning aids are now being deployed as versatile learning tools. This could also be described as “Using information and communication technology (ICT) to learn”, in contrast to “Learning to use ICT”, which involves training to use digital media as a goal in itself – for example, using an office application. An essential prerequisite for digital learning is either stationary computers or mobile end devices, which can be used in very different ways.

Didactic-methodological approaches

In the case of purely digital learning measures, such as massive open online courses (MOOCs), the main emphasis is on self-regulated learning. These free courses complement the existing instruction offered by universities and present content in multimedia form. (only in German) also offer online knowledge dissemination – for example, using video lectures as a means of preparing for or . Blogs, wikis and social media enable social and collaborative learning. , on the other hand, relies on the integration of digital content in classroom teaching – in other words, a combination of online and offline phases. This makes it possible to achieve a variety of methods in teaching – and complements the social aspect of personal communication using electronic tools. This should be differentiated from the optional and specific enrichment of face-to-face instruction, for example, with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation. E-assessments and e-examinations facilitate digital exam preparation with fast feedback and even actual examinations and assessments. Forward-looking projects promise artificial intelligence, the integration of playful elements (gamification) and 360-degree videos.

Media use in German higher education

A look at practical teaching shows that a are found at German universities. For the most part, online offerings complement traditional face-to-face instruction. Accordingly, students prepare for seminars with videos, for example, complete self-study programmes during a classroom session or produce group presentations with the aid of digital media. Many universities are not yet making use of available potential here, as a comparison with one of the German pioneers in the field of digital learning, , shows. The university is promoting the entire range of blended-learning formats in all departments. As a result, teaching and learning videos, virtual laboratories and interactive study platforms, among other things, are now part of everyday student life.

The has also initiated a systematic digitalisation process in teaching. In 2015 it was honoured with the German Employers’ Education Prize for its excellent , which it has developed into a . The university aims to use information and communication technologies to improve degree courses and make studying and teaching flexible – and provide all study programmes with e-learning elements by 2020. In addition to campus-based degree courses, the UDE also offers distance-learning programmes and part-time degree courses; furthermore, podcasts and numerous e-learning tools are used. This holistic approach also includes an advisory service for university teachers and e-learning workshops.

Advantages of digital learning

Digitalisation promises didactic innovations: e-tools contribute to flexibility, methodological diversity and the motivation to learn. Another advantage, especially for international students, is the independence it provides with regard to location and time. Online formats are accessible from all over the world, and chatrooms and forums encourage virtual mobility and intercultural exchange. It is also easier to overcome language barriers with e-learning modules if they can be made available in different languages. In addition, digital learning prepares students for the world of work, which is increasingly characterised by digitalisation.

Dhoch3 for teaching German as a foreign language (DaF)

The DAAD is providing important international impetus in the academic training of German-language teachers with its programme. This innovative platform was developed to the highest academic standards by DaF experts at German universities and is organised in eight modules on practice-based subjects, such as German for Professional Purposes, Subject-based Language Skills and Learning with Online Media. This digital offering is available to universities free of charge – with virtual classrooms, a comprehensive database and full-text access to specialist literature. and students at can access the exercises, texts and methodological and didactic teaching materials wherever they are and then discuss them in online chatrooms and forums.