1 Berlin School of Economics and Law (GERMANY)
2 Berlin School of Economics and Law / Technische Universität Dresden (GERMANY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2023 Proceedings
Publication year: 2023
Pages: 6531-6539
ISBN: 978-84-09-55942-8
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2023.1627
Conference name: 16th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 13-15 November, 2023
Location: Seville, Spain
This paper addresses the experiences of creating, planning, organizing, and conducting a Day of Computer Science at a university of applied sciences in Germany. An extracurricular activity to foster community building and exchange between undergraduate students, alumni, scholars, staff, and even partner companies, this event included keynotes, an alumni panel, an award ceremony, workshops, and student presentations of their ongoing research projects, among other activities. Such events, although challenging to organize, promote student-student and student-staff communication, show current work and successes, support critical thinking when solving complex problems, and let new ideas flow.

The Day of Computer Science we refer to in this paper was the first in our Computer Science (CS) department since its foundation in 1993. The original idea sought to bring together different generations of learners to discuss CS and learn from each other. That is why it was essential to involve learners in its planning and organization: alumni and students from all three years currently studying the CS career contributed with their ideas, coordination, and active participation.

In evaluating whether to celebrate the event a year later or not, a short survey was prepared and administered to the undergraduate CS students (whose email addresses were available to the organizers and who were contacted at different times during the organization). For instance, they were asked to provide their feedback on the individual sessions and to suggest ideas for improvement. While a few students did not find some of the event sessions appealing (mainly those outside their interests or cohort generation) or were very critical of the organization (running a perfect event might be utopian), most were very positive about the activities and their content. Although students’ opinions were constantly asked during the preparation phase, there still were comments addressing the unsuitability of some of the sessions. Nevertheless, participants in the survey who attended the event agreed to celebrate it again.

Drawing on our and others’ experiences before, during, and after the event, and on the collected participants' feedback, we present the lessons learned and guidelines that may be considered for such an extracurricular activity. For example, even when the venue is booked with enough time in advance, it can still happen that an unexpected final exam is planned to take place in the same room at the same time the event is running. We suggest having a “Plan B” at hand for those aspects that might be critical to the event’s success and never trusting “Plan A” completely. Such a conclusion may seem evident, but the occurrence of such eventualities is often underestimated.

Enhancing the undergraduate experience beyond the required CS study program, which might be challenging and time-consuming enough for both learners and educators, requires dedication, good preparation, time, and material resources. Yet, although extracurricular activities are neither part of the teaching load nor the study plan, they are very rewarding when they both bridge generations of learners on common goals and enrich their education and experiences.
Alumni, community building, extracurricular activities, outreach activities, student networks, student research projects, undergraduate education.