DWZ Cairo highlights the benefits of university-community outreach
Science and research is never an end in itself but rather serves as a platform for connecting with the broader community. In a globalised world with new technical solutions this means not only serving the nearby community but to operate across state boards. A perfect example is given by the FU Berlin Ilajnafsy project by providing web-based psychological interventions for traumatised individuals in the Middle East
The German Science Centre Cairo (DWZ) provides a platform for German-Egyptian exchange in the fields of Science, Technology and Research, which deepens the, already excellent, cooperation and partnership between the two countries. Together with its member organizations (TU Munich, TU Berlin, FU Berlin, Philipps-Universität Marburg, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Orient-Institute Beirut, DAAD, Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Zentralstelle für Auslandsschulwesen) it is established on a basis of intensive collaboration that has persisted several decades and saw a remarkable peak in the most successful Egyptian German Year of Science and Innovation in 2007/2008. Since its opening in 2012 the DWZ contributes to the synergy of scientists in Germany and Egypt, bringing together experts from academic institutions, researchers and representatives of industry and government.
As one of the official partners of the eLearning Africa Conference the DWZ organised a session and took a closer look at „Online Applications for University Outreach into the Communities”. Therefore, Mrs. Eva Poxleitner from Fraunhofer Academy gave interesting insides into her field of work. As an intermediate between research institutions and the broader community Fraunhofer Academy offers a unique opportunity to transfer knowledge from Fraunhofer research projects directly into the community. „Providing the user with effective tools to engage with state of the art research and therefore increase engagement and productivity” is central to Mrs. Poxleitner’s work. Gamification is one methodology to enhance ‘self-motivated practice of skills’ in a non-game context, by taking advantage of human’s psychological predisposition to engage in gaming.
In a different context a web-based psychology research project was presented by Prof. Dr. Christine Knaevelsrud from Freie Universität Berlin. Thereby, she illustrated the far-reaching social benefits that can be generated by making use of the vast potential of technology enabled communication.
Prof. Knaevelrud cooperates with colleagues in Alexandria, Egypt to offer web-based psychological interventions for traumatised individuals in regions of violent conflicts. Since several decades, the Middle East and parts of North Africa are repeatedly shaken by political riots and violent conflicts. The enduring war and violence experiences influence the physical and mental health of the population in the long term. High prevalence rates are reported especially for depressive symptoms and posttraumatic stress disorders.
Simultaneously, the medical and therapeutic care in these regions is insufficient. The access to psychotherapeutic and medical treatment is limited, so that many affected people cannot make use of the needed psychological support. However, by the increasing spread of the Internet in the Arabic-speaking region new possibilities in the humanitarian care arise, especially in the psychotherapeutic context. “Internet provides the opportunity to ensure on-site psychological support, without the therapist and the patient being at the same place necessarily” explained Prof. Knaevelsrud.
The eLearning Africa Conference was an ideal platform for both German experts to reach out to new collaborations and partnerships on the African continent. Connecting German expertise and innovation via the Egyptian hub with an entire continent was indeed a unique opportunity for the German Science Centre. Making German eLearning competencies more accessible will further be a priority for German research and higher education organisation.