TU Wien Informatics

20 Years

IT Courses for Ukrainian Refugees

  • 2023-06-21
  • Education Outreach
  • Public Outreach

Welcome.TU.code offered two IT courses in web development for refugees from Ukraine, with overwhelming response.

IT Courses for Ukrainian Refugees
Picture: Theresa Aichinger-Fankhauser / TU Wien Informatics

On June 21, 2023, welcome.TU.code celebrated this semester’s course participants with a graduation ceremony. More than 20 successful participants completed a basic and advanced course in web development offered by the initiative. The participants, who had established careers in Ukraine, embarked on the workshop program to expand their skill set. Specifically, the advanced course participants aspired to break into the IT industry, seeking new opportunities and professional growth – with two participants now taking the entrance examination for informatics at TU Wien.

The masterminds behind the initiative are Nysret Musliu and Reinhard Pichler from the Research Unit for Databases and Artificial Intelligence, who work together with student tutors and students of the course IT-Projects for Youth. As part of the informatics curriculum, students at TU Wien Informatics develop & run the classes. Alina Schärmer, a long-standing tutor at welcome.TU.code, took the initiative to tutor the beginner’s web development course students on basic programming and WordPress, designed to be accessible to individuals with no prior knowledge of web development. Timo Zikeli, who just finished his Bachelor’s in informatics, single-handedly organized the advanced course on web programming, with introductions to HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. “Web development entails skills that unlock numerous job prospects. In Austria or elsewhere, you’re in high demand,” Zikeli is certain. Especially if you have to move to another country and restructure your whole life, IT skills will likely help with this transition, bridging language and cultural differences.

Navigating language barriers and varying levels of skills required creativity and flexibility from the informatics students holding the courses. They continuously adapted their teaching methods, breaking complex concepts into digestible pieces and incorporating practical exercises to reinforce learning. The students have little to no background in teaching, coming from different fields like data science, software engineering, and logic. “The skills we learned from teaching will undoubtedly influence our careers, from presentation know-how to effectively communicating complex concepts,” they are sure, “we are students ourselves. Our goal was to bridge the gap and create an environment where we could learn together as a team.”

Stadt Wien, Fonds Soziales Wien, Diakonie and Tralalobe greatly supported the team with promotion, translation and networking. Special recognition goes to Olha Denisova and Ivan Ishchenko, whose support was crucial for the participants. Denisova, Project Assistant at the Research Unit for Security and Privacy, actively engaged the Ukrainian community in Vienna. She provided valuable information through various channels, addressed concerns, and answered questions – ensuring that interested people were informed and could overcome potential hesitations. Ivan Ishchenko, who participated in the courses himself, selflessly dedicated his time and efforts to bridge the language gap, facilitating effective communication between the participants and instructors. The efforts paid off, with over 100 people attending the info sessions before the courses in February. Unfortunately, the team’s capacities were limited this semester, “that’s why we’re planning another course for the winter term. We’re currently looking into demands and topics to cover, and are thrilled by the overwhelming response,” says Reinhard Pichler.

About welcome.TU.code

Welcome.TU.code started as an education project in 2015, offering free courses in informatics to unaccompanied adolescent refugees. The program has developed since then and now caters to all people from migrant backgrounds, mainly refugees and asylum seekers. Welcome.TU.code offers basic informatics workshops, an introduction to software and hardware, and programming. The project paved the way for a further initiative in cooperation with WUK WORK.SPACE and Sprungbrett: The course “IT-Projects for Youth”. As part of the informatics curriculum, students at TU Wien Informatics develop & run IT workshops for young users with different backgrounds.

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