Successful educational collaboration between DT-ITS’ Public Cloud and the University of Pécs

Public Cloud OTC has made success stories from many challenges last year. One of them was the education project together with the University of Pécs. This was the first time, when they had the opportunity to teach a compulsory course that introduced cloud technologies, moreover it was directly a course before the final exam. A bonus pleasure, that not only colleagues from OTC participated, but colleagues from more areas of PC, giving marketable knowledge to the next generation. Obviously, the participants took the task very seriously. Here they talked about their experiences with the project.

How did the idea of this training come up?

Zsolt Kiss: We have a relationship with the University of Pécs that goes back to years. We did our first class there in 2017, then only as an elective. At the summer of 2020 HR sought me out, as the last person who taught at the university. We were in the autumn semester of 2020, because there was a Cloud Technologies subject in the Engineering specialization of the 7th semester Computer Science Engineering curriculum. In the end, we undertook the courses in the full-time training program.

Viktor Molnár: The topic of the collaboration with the university was always similar. There was a time when we taught Openstack, other times the name of the course was “cloud-based technologies”. The difference from that, that these were 2 credits worth electives, we progressed now, because this was a compulsory course for Computer Science Engineers.

Our advantage in this area is that Openstack is not taught in many places, and we can talk about it as someone who works with it in practice in the industry. And we were really happy about the request.

Who were the colleagues who participated in this project, and how?

Zsolt Kiss: From the OTC team, Viktor Molnár and András Haas were the first ones, who joined the project. Viktor has already taught an elective course at PTE and András had already done something similar in another university. The aim was, not to teach Open Telekom Cloud products, but standard Cloud knowledge based on Openstack, and to this task mainly colleagues from OTC came forward. Of course, there were guest lecturers during the semester, Norbert Putz and Szabolcs Meier, who introduced the AWS and GCP clouds to the students. Initially, we held the lectures personally, 4 x 45 minutes at every Wednesday, but as the COVID situation worsened, we transitioned to online education, had the lessons on Webex.

Viktor Molnár: I already taught at the university from 2017, since the collaboration started, so it came naturally that Zsolt asked me. We could see it from the beginning that this was going to be a course of bigger importance and volume, so we needed backup. And also, because the topic was not strictly connected to OTC, but to Cloud itself, we asked guest lecturers from other parts of DT-ITS, so students could get knowledge from more perspectives.

We worked out the materials of all lessons together, and we split up the syllabus depending on work and free time. We had to concentrate on two parts during the 4 x 45 minutes, a theoretical and a practical. We usually illustrated the theory with concrete examples from the industry.

How was the feedback from the students, the university? How was the experience for you?

Zsolt Kiss: I was the one was in contact with the university, I did the background work, discussions and coordination with them. We shared the lesson materials, the midterm and exam tasks transparently, which could have been a help for the part time training program. I’m proud to say, that we organized the lessons and harmonized them with our everyday work well, only one lesson was cancelled because of illness. At the end of the semester, we got some positive feedback from Mr Péter Iványi, the head of the department, they would need us in the future.

András Haas: We noticed that students were interested in the topic, and everyone attended the lessons. There were opportunities at the end of some lessons, usually a practical solution to a problem, and one or two students always completed them. By the final results we can also conclude, that they were interested, even though getting a signature and a good grade wasn’t easy. It also happened, that we postponed a test for a week because they asked, so all in all and I felt, we made a good impression.

Viktor Molnár: Obviously, for some people it was only another compulsory course, but there were some who were really active, asked a lot. I think a lesson is good, if we talk about a topic together, there is a conversation. One has to shape the given topic to the students, with examples they find interesting. In the seminars you could feel that they tried to work on the exercises outside the lessons, tried to practice. The other pleasant surprise was, that from the two methods one could solve the task (a graphic interface or typing in the command line), many of them took the command line approach even at the first lesson.

All in all, this project was a really positive experience for me, education is close to my heart, I’ve always had something to do with it alongside work, and I enjoy it.

How did you manage the COVID situation and the distance learning?

András Haas: The restrictions came by the time of the first test, so because of this, it was a bit more complicated to transition to digital education, but consulting the students, we agreed, that the first test is going to be written personally, but after that we continue the lessons and the tests on Webex if the restrictions remain. Now we know, they did, but it wasn’t a problem neither for the students nor for us to transition. Only online examination was a bit weird for me, because when I graduated – some years ago – that would have been unthinkable.

Viktor Molnár: Our original plan was to have one half of the exam as a practical part, but due to the COVID situation, we had to change the lesson topics and the exam system as well. What helped, that from the beginning we had planned the course independently from the university. Every student got an Openstack environment run in Cloud, so it was accessible remotely.

What do you think, why is this education project worth it to the participants?

Viktor Molnár: Our perspective is not a secret, here we can see from the beginning, who are performing well, before they could get to the job market. We can offer them trainee positions or student jobs, and later they can get into the team. Obviously, this is just an opportunity, but it could be useful for the students’ careers. We have colleagues who started as trainees from the previous courses, and now they work with us full time.

Additionally, Openstack is not really taught in Hungarian universities, and the absence of operational knowledge is not favourable for us. So in this course we had the opportunity to share knowledge with the students, that is useful and relevant. An experience like this is positive for the team, too. In order to teach something confidently, we have to look up details that we’re not confident in. We also could improve our presentation skills that could serve us even in work situations.

All in all, we have a pretty good collaboration going on with the university, and I hope we can continue it in the future!