Digital and Tangible Connections

Green Networking & Cloud Computing (GENIAL) is a unique international Masters course that envisions cleaner networking and computing technologies, leading to sustainability in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). GENIAL is delivered by the University of Lorraine, Leeds Becket University and Luleå University of Technology.

Author: Brianna Swan, EMJMD GENIAL student. See contributors page

Immersed in a new country, culture, and learning environment each semester, I am able to connect with and learn from my GENIAL colleagues and professors, as well as the local communities I have become part of. Accelerated by the demands of navigating a pandemic, the digital world has facilitated the prosperity of online learning. Surprisingly enough, it has also fostered a newfound sense of human connectedness from the comfort of a screen. In my first semester I participated in a virtual hackathon. Two of my teammates and I were hacking away from my kitchen in France, while the two remaining teammates worked tirelessly from Sweden. With a mix of online platforms, group projects are no longer feared, and people can attend
conferences, events, and even virtual hackathons from across borders. Though the world is large and vast, the digital environment can make it feel smaller, and more familiar. This manufactured sense of connectedness is what drives me to further appreciate each face-to-face interaction.

My semester in Leeds was hybrid—we travelled to university two days a week, while completing labs and watching pre-recorded lectures from home. As such, most of my classmates lived scattered about the city and suburbs. Additionally, this allowed for an increased sense of independence and responsibility for our own learning. Thanks to tools such as Teams and Zoom, my classmates and I were able to communicate and collaborate effectively throughout the semester. Flexibility in the learning environment allows us to remain productive despite distance, sickness, or other obstacles that may arise. An added benefit is engagement in my local community thanks to a hybrid learning environment. On days that I have class online, I am able to study in a cafe, build relationships with locals, or even travel throughout my host country as I immerse myself in a new culture.

As I write this now, during my third semester from a cafe not even ten minutes from campus, I hear Swedish being spoken around me and I enjoy a typical kanelbulle with my coffee. The wondrous opportunity of education and immersion in a foreign country can be as intimidating as it is exciting. However, the accessibility and adaptability of the digital learning environment eases and encourages the transition, consequently allowing for more time, capacity, and enjoyment of the cultural exchange offered by Erasmus Mundus.

JPROV's Online Teaching Digital Toolbox ( explains Virtual and Hybrid Hackatons as an event in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming to complete one or several programming challenges.

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