GETup – Getting to know your fellow PhDs

19 Mai

The Joint European Summer School on Technology Enhanced Learning is an annual get-together of PhD students and experts in the field of social, educational and computer science. This years Summer School takes place in Limassol, Cyprus in it’s 9th edition. More information on the topics and the programme can be found on the official website.

Due to the different backgrounds of the participants, the densely packed programme and the variety of disciplines problems arise, that counteract the establishing of new contacts and collaborations. Anecdotal evidence shows that at the end of the Summer School, PhDs only know about 3 to 5 new PhDs and their research topics. Often, they also forget about the new connections pretty soon, as they are not made in realistic collaboration settings but during dinner or the like. Moreover, after the Summer School participants often loose the connection to their freshly made contacts. The GETup system tries to reduce these problems by helping the participants to find relevant people and to get in touch with them in a more meaningful way.

The overall goal is to connect the participating Summer School PhDs in order to make them aware of each other, their respective PhD projects and potential overlaps in their work. The aim is to provide a technological framework in which the participants can track with whom they interacted, in which they can give feedback on others‘ ideas and ask for input on their initial paper, slides or PhD project. Moreover, it aims to recommend ’similar‘ PhDs to each other. This is achieved by implementing different aspects known from Social Networks and the emerging research field of Gamification.

SOCIAL NETWORKING On the one hand, the system provides the user with the key features of a social network that supports the work and participation in typical  Summer School activities. Based on the self-provided user profiles, and detailed information on their research projects, registered users can browse the information of other participants and, through a Twitter-like principle, add them to their contacts. Using the website and the mobile client, participants can log meetings with other users and access this information again during or after the Summer School. Building up on these user-provided and other data, the underlying software reflects the social graph of the Summer School participants and calculates user-to-user recommendations. Furthermore the software enables users to organize their own events and make them available to all other participants. This feature is particularly interesting for workshop organizers, as it supports automatic grouping that takes into account the results of the recommender system.

GAMIFICATION On the other hand the incorporation of typical game elements addresses the motivation of the participants to continuously use the system. This includes among others the integration of Mozilla Open Badges, an XP based point system and, as the main element, the so-called Investment Game. This element is based on the idea behind well-known crowd funding websites and allows the participants of the Summer School to invest in the research projects of other PhD students. Every day registered users receive a certain amount of money which they can donate to their preferred projects. With each investment, a personal feedback, in form of a comment and a rating, can be issued.

These briefly described measures should help to create a closely knit network of PhDs that know about the strengths, research domains and PhD projects of each other and try to make the connections last over the end of the Summer School.

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