HOST2HOST: DigiEduHack 2019 Anadolu

HOST2HOST: DigiEduHack 2019 Anadolu

Meet Dr. Nilgün Özdamar, co-organiser of the DigiEduHack 2019 Anadolu

In this series of interviews, we give the floor to DigiEduHack 2019 hosts so they can share their experiences, success, insights and give tips and tricks on the best ways to run a digital education hackathon. In this episode, meet Nilgün Özdamar co-organiser of the DigiEduHack 2019 Anadolu.

Hello Nilgün, can you tell us a bit more about you and how you got involved in organising a DigiEduHack event in 2019?

Hello everyone! My name is Nilgün Özdamar and I am an associate professor at the Open Education Faculty of Anadolu University, in Turkey. We have a huge virtual campus and we are the national provider for distance education here in Turkey, with a mission focusing on lifelong learning and higher education, all over Turkey. I have a PhD in computer education and instructional technology. I heard about DigiEduHack last year from a friend working for DigiEduHack organization, and I thought that this would be spot on for us! We decided to have an in-person event in order to benefit from the group emulation.

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Co-creation in action!  (photo: Numan Koca)

How did you organise the event and its preparation?

We had around 60 participants registered last year, all from very different backgrounds. Many of them had not met before. We decided to have a very concentrated event that would heavily rely on group dynamic to create an optimum ground for co-creation. We randomly divided the participants into working groups and we created small and functional collaboration units from scratch, starting the hackathon with very fast-paced, action-oriented team-building activities so the participants within each group would meet-and-do.

We had both extra-hack activities such as yoga, warm-up exercises, team competitions, and hack-related happenings such as super inspirational keynote speakers from Turkey. We had also workshops all the way where teams could jump in. We experimented a lost last year, as this was our first hackathon ever. We learned so much about this experience.

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Dr. Nilgün Özdmar on the floor  (photo: Numan Koca)

What are you going to change this year?

We are going to have an online event this year: it’s a whole different game! But we still can use some teachings from what worked and what did not work from our previous experience. This year we are going to have pre-hackathon events where teams will be made so that when the hackathon starts, teams will focus on the challenge and not on discovering team members. Times runs so fast in a hackathon that we know that we have to facilitate as many things as we can in advance, and building teams is one of these.

We will also give much more information and contextualisation of our challenge prior to the event, so all participants can acquire a solid knowledge on the topic beforehand and not on the spot. Am in-depth documentation of your challenge is crucial to level up participants to a point where they actually get an accurate, almost exhaustive overview of the topic they are going to work on.  We will also very much focus this year on sleep and rest management. Last year the participants really pushed their limits to an almost unhealthy point.

"We will also very much focus this year on sleep and rest management."

We don’t want to experience this again this year as it causes unnecessary stress and fatigue for participants that vastly impact their capacity to create great solutions. Finally, we decided to change a bit our recruitment for DigiEduHack 2020 with an increased focus on academic people, students, master and doctoral PhD students from all around Turkey. We established a wider and stronger partnership with major Turkish universities for that purpose. In a way, we actually use existing networks (laughs). And because we are organising an online event, it’s much easier to get people taking part.


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All the teams were 100% committed. (photo: Numan Koca)

What tools/strategies do you use to get participants signing up?

We are a really small team so we keep it super simple: we use social media and informal cross-universities networks. Like last year, our event is in Turkish and our recruitment material is also in Turkish so obviously, this is a kind of natural limit. We use also quite a lot of short videos to engage with future participants. Hackathons are still quite uncommon in Turkey, so we had a lot of attention from national and local media last year.

We hope that it will be the same this year! We target about a hundred participants, so we will be quite busy recruiting. We will try to broaden a bit the scope of our mentors and speakers beyond the academic world, with people coming from companies researching artificial intelligence for example.

"We felt connected with the world. We had this feeling that we were all working in the same, positive direction."



What happened to last year’s winning solutions?

Last year was quite an experiment: we tried to implement the winning solutions among the partnering universities, but somehow this got stuck mid-way. Our winning teams actually got crushed not to be part of the global finalists… They were so disappointed that this affected the further development of the projects and the possible implementation of the solutions.

This year, we plan to manage a bit differently the follow-up and the aftermath of the hackathon, being more active in implementing the solutions. Because this is all that DigiEduHack is about: impacting lives and making change happen!  

Would you like to add something?

We were really happy last year to be part of a global event. That means a lot to us. We felt connected with the world. We had this feeling that we were all working in the same, positive direction. This was such a motivation for our participants last year. They loved this aspect of DigiEduHack: being able to take part in a global event that aims to create and change. That was very important.

We are learning from each other and with each other: digital education is happening now, and it is such a change that it can be a bit confusing. DigiEduHack helped us not only to answer challenges but also to showcase that digital education is a positive and inclusive step forward.


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