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How to survive uni: What it's like to be part of a learning community

Date:10 October 2022
Oskar Gstrein
Oskar Gstrein

Everything we do is datafication, and in the new bachelor study called Data Science and Society (DSS), you can study data from different perspectives all in one program. We interviewed Oskar Gstrein, the program director of DSS, to learn more about this intriguing program and, in particular, how students can become members of the ‘learning community’ at Campus Fryslan (CF). 

What makes the bachelor Data Science and Society at Campus Fryslan different from other bachelor studies?

DSS is a unique programme since it combines data-science related skills (e.g. programming, data visualisation, machine learning) with questions relating to decision-making and governance, as well as societal and ethical aspects. It is truly interdisciplinary and covers emerging issues such as algorithmic discrimination, AI ethics, income inequality, or how data creates different social classes. Students learn how to ask the right questions when it comes to these subjects, how to use data to develop fair and sustainable solutions, and how to communicate with different stakeholders with different cultural and professional backgrounds. This way, Oskar explains, a learning environment for a good learning community will be developed, which is critical for the students.

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Why did you decide to start teaching classes at Campus Fryslan?

Originally at CF, my role was more focused on research. But I believe in the power of combining research and teaching, and CF as a faculty is the place where we focus on emerging and complex issues that are difficult to approach with a mono-disciplinary mindset. It is also a faculty with a very strong teaching ethic and culture, which means it is a great place to develop your teaching skills. Everyone of the colleagues takes teaching very seriously and is dedicated to create inspiring learning experiences for students. For me it is great to be part of such a committed community.

How do you feel about the student-lecturer relationship at Campus Fryslan? Do you feel connected to your students?

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The aspect which stands out most for me is the ‘learning community’. That is also an aspect we very strongly emphasise in the new Bachelor programme. As lecturers we bring our knowledge, know-how and experiences to class, but students have an equally important role in knowledge creation. To use a very simple example, I do not use TikTok. But most Bachelor students will use it quite regularly, and they will have a different perspective on social media and what matters there in comparison to me. Different walks of life matter when approaching a subject, we just look for different things, and have different priorities. We can learn from each other just by sharing our perspectives. That also influences my work and research.

At Campus Fryslan, participation in class is very important. Do you have some tips for students that are struggling with this?

Oskar recommends working in smaller groups, because you participate the most then. Just because you get more attention from the lecturers and colleagues. It is also easier to express yourself without feeling embarrassed or nervous. However, sometimes students have to deal with a lot of new content in a short amount of time. I think it is important to take a step back and discuss with the group whether they find the topics and material relevant for them, or what they think about it. If you can relate to what you learn it is also easier to engage.