Wednesday, July 30, 2014

...in Times of War

For us Western Europeans, war always seems to be far, far away in some other country (or some distant times in the past). Usually, we read about it in the newspapers or see the pictures in the media. But, we are not concerned directly. This also includes me as a researcher. Of course, we also have students in our institute who come from countries or regions in crisis. But, they are here and the crisis is there... elsewhere.

As you might know, I recently finished my OpenHPI online course 'Knowledge Engineering with Semantic Web Technologies'. The course was rather popular with a total of 4,623 enrolled students from all over the world. 611 students took part in the final course exam and 450 students have finished the course successfully (yeah!!).

Of course the means of interaction with the students are limited in an online course. You follow the stream of discussions in the OpenHPI platform, answering a question here and then. Sometimes you also receive email from one of the course participants...

Today, I have received email from a course participant in Gaza, Palestine. He wrote me about his appreciation for the OpenHPI team to offer courses like this and about the projects he carried out during his University studies. Unfortunately, as he wrote, due to the current situation in Gaza, infrastructure has been destroyed including power outages as well as network failure. Of course this makes it difficult next to impossible to continue the course (not to speak about all the other major problems for the people that arise from this conflict). I am deeply impressed that in a situation like this, people still continue their efforts to invest in their education...and their future.

And yes, war has finally also knocked on the door of our small island of the fortunate...

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