'I felt the connection with the real world was lacking'

Community Engaged Learning
Photo: Ivar Pel

'What am I even doing? Why am I learning this specific theory?’ Eliza Hobo, Artificial Intelligence student, had been thinking these thoughts for a while. During the second year of her Bachelor’s, Eliza really began to feel dissatisfied that her programme of studies was so theoretical. ‘I did find the content interesting, but I felt the connection with the real world was lacking,’ she recounts. So she went in search of courses that were more practically oriented and she discovered Data School.

Learning from each other

Data School combines academic research, communicating with a client, developing a product and at the same time taking practical problems into account. Students learn about the tools they need in practice and apply them directly with a project group. Together with three fellow students from various disciplines, Eliza is working to develop a sustainability monitor for the Municipality of Nieuwegein. ‘Everybody has been doing what they’re good at, we’ve involved each other in our activities and we’ve learned from each other by doing so.’

What am I even doing? Why am I learning this specific theory?

Eliza Hobo, Artificial Intelligence student

The challenge of collaboration

‘It has been incredibly refreshing to get my nose out of the books and to go out into the real world. We always enjoyed our visits to the town hall: a cup of coffee, a chat and then providing an update. I was afraid that they would have a better idea for how to solve the problem than we did. But after a few visits, it became clear that they were actually totally open to our input and critical questions. This has helped them think about what sustainability means in concrete terms, how you can measure this and what data you need to complete the picture. Even if they ultimately don’t use our end product, our contribution has certainly led to some results.’

At Data School, students investigate big data on the instructions of companies, non-profit organisations and government authorities. Eliza Hobo, student of Artificial Intelligence, took this course in 2019. Together with the Municipality of Nieuwegein and three fellow students, Eliza worked to develop a sustainability monitor.