Anne Kayem: “…It was kind of an outer-body experience for me…”

Dear openHPI community,

A few days ago, the openHPI MOOC on Social Media – What No One Has Told You About Privacy came to an end. More than 4,000 participants joined the international learning community. Today, we asked the teacher Anne Kayem about her experience with giving a MOOC for the first time.


openHPI: What were your expectations before the course started? Were they fulfilled?

Anne Kayem: I was very excited to be teaching the course mainly because of the opportunity to reach a very large audience globally. It w

as also a thrill to teach a topic centered on my research interests, in a way that is accessible to people without a background in Computer Science. Some of the material was very difficult to simplify and required creative thinking about ways in which I could teach it. Yes, to a great extent my expectations did come true. The participants seemed to be as excited as I was about the course. Topics such as ‘Password Security’ and ‘Social Network Graph Anonymization,’ which I had anticipated would be difficult to grasp, generated lots of discussion. It was great to see the different answers, questions and comments.

openHPI: Did difficult aspects come up during the course?

Anne Kayem: The wording of some of the s

elf-test questions and assignment appears to have been a problem for some participants. However, I would say this is to be expected since English is not the first language for many of the course participants. I don’t think this was an obstacle though.

openHPI: Was it a big difference for you to give a course to an online community instead of teaching at university?

Anne Kayem: Yes. I wasn’t quite prepared for the effect of having to pre-record the videos and then watching them afterwards (during the editing process). In some ways it still feels a bit like an outer-body experience. The main difference that I noticed was the loss of the opportunity for real-time interactivity. This took a while for me to adjust to, as did  engaging naturally with the content of the lectures. In some ways it requires thinking a lot more about the participants, anticipating possible questions and structuring the presentation to provide answers concisely.

openHPI: Would you give another MOOC and if yes, what would you change next time?

Anne Kayem: Absolutely. I was excited to teach the course and enjoyed the experience. It is something I would be open to doing again. There is always room for change. I would break up the more difficult material into smaller lectures and support these lectures with a wider variety of self-test questions.

openHPI: In MINT subjects like Computer Science we often observe that only very few girls and women take part. What do you think is the reason for this and what would you like to say to those reading this?

Anne Kayem: Oh, yes, you are talking about a very important point: the gender sensitivity could be better in our technical environment. It begins with the language we use, the role models we see in certain professions and the way we are brought up from a very early age. Girls playing with dolls and following creative hobbies and boys doing all that technical stuff like programming and so on. In my opinion girls and women would be much more attracted by Computer Science and motivated to learn a MINT subject if it were presented differently in terms of gender sensitivity. This is my call to everyone listening: “Think of female computer scientists like Ada Lovelace, Grace Hopper, and Fran Allen, and know that the road to doing better than them begins with just one step forward. Try one of the next MOOCs and you will see that you will learn quickly. The nice part is that you can take advantage of being anonymous to ask lots of questions without the fear of being judged”.

openHPI: Thank you very much for the interview.

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About openHPI

openHPI is the educational Internet platform of the German Hasso Plattner Institute, Potsdam. On openHPI you take part in a worldwide social learning network based on interactive online courses covering different subjects in Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

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