Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Professor Robert Leskovar and Assistant Professor Alenka Baggia, Faculty of Organizational Sciences, University of Maribor, Slovenia
The University of Maribor is the second largest and second oldest university in Slovenia. It has 17 departments, around 13,500 students, and 2,000 employees. It is an autonomous, scientific research and educational institution whose objective is to foment connections between knowledge, research, and the economy.
The Faculty of Organizational Sciences is engaged in the theory and practice of business and work systems, information systems, and human resources and educational systems. The department was founded in 1959 to promote understanding of the People – Processes – Information triad that forms the foundation of professional and managerial work.
Students learn how to use information and communication technologies to efficiently connect organizations, along with a focus on personnel management, environmental management, and quality management. The computer science aspect of the discipline is taught within the Organization and Management of Information Systems program.
Recently Oracle Academy met with Professor Robert Leskovar and Assistant Professor Alenka Baggia, who both are engaged in teaching courses in Computer Science and Informatics; Object Oriented Analysis and Development; Systems Analysis; Web Programming, Software Quality and more.
Leskovar and Baggia also publish extensively and run workshops for vocational educational teachers in Slovenia. They have found that using Oracle Academy resources gives students and instructors a deep grounding in the business requirements of information technology.
Oracle Academy: What parts of Oracle Academy do you teach?
Alenka Baggia: In Computer Science and Informatics, we introduce object-oriented programming using the Java curriculum, starting with Java Fundamentals and, for those with prior knowledge of Java, Java Programming. And later on, in System Analysis and Object-Oriented Analysis, students study Database Design and Programming with SQL, Programming with PL/ SQL and Database Foundations. Those interested in web development attend the Oracle Application Express (Oracle APEX) course.
Oracle Academy: Are you using the Oracle Academy Member Hub?
Alenka Baggia: Yes, and I like the new environment very much. The Oracle Academy Member Hub is quite intuitive; students find their way around and there are no technical problems, only pluses. It is very easy for us to create learning paths and invite people to enroll. Apart from the courses I described earlier, in the Member Hub we give them choices to follow Java Programming in NetBeans, for example, or, for beginners, the basics of Greenfoot and Alice. Students like what they find and come back for more.
Oracle Academy Workshops in a Box are also quite popular. They enable students deeper dives into SQL, database and Java. All in all, our experience with the Member Hub is very good.
Oracle Academy: Glad to hear that. Earlier you mentioned Oracle APEX. Can you tell us more?
Robert Leskovar: I’m a great fan of Oracle APEX, which plays an important role in our Management of Information Systems program. We show undergraduates how it is possible to deploy web applications in less than one hour without any prior knowledge of programming, web technologies or database.
To make it interesting and ‘real-life’ we often invite the CIO or CEO of a local company to write the requirements for final year projects and then unleash the students onto the problem. It’s a must for us to cooperate with industry, because we as an institution have to know the real needs of business and pass them on through our teaching. This allows us to collect new case studies all the time for teaching Oracle APEX.
Alenka Baggia: Oracle APEX is very useful in other areas too. For example, because the Faculty of Organizational Sciences is known for its computer science teaching, Robert and I get invited by high schools with extracurricular time slots to present topics of interest to their teachers. Applications development is always popular, and so we discuss Oracle APEX ― how to teach it, how to get students interested ― and that leads to explaining how to become Oracle Academy members.
And not only informatics or computing teachers attend those workshops. I’ve had a language teacher become very interested in computing who later took the Java Fundamentals course, and a retired schoolteacher who wanted to learn more.
Robert Leskovar: People are very curious by nature. And so we often meet interesting people who say, ‘Okay, I've never tried this, how can you make me more proficient?
Oracle Academy: In what other ways do you engage with other teachers?
Robert Leskovar: Oracle enjoys a good position in Slovenia as an important player in the market. As a consequence, we were invited to present on Oracle Academy to the government agency responsible for training informatics teachers, those who create computer technicians at the end of the educational process. Oracle Academy is now on the list of professional development programs from which these teachers can select.
Alenka Baggia: We also presented several papers at VIVID, Slovenia's largest annual Education in Information Society conference. In 2021 the conference was hosted by the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, the University of Maribor in cooperation with the Faculty of Computer and Information Science, University of Ljubljana and the Slovenian Society of Informatics. Our recent paper is on Oracle APEX, an upgrade to what we presented two years ago at the same conference.
Robert Leskovar: It’s a convivial event where teachers share best practices of technology use in the classroom. Along with other faculties and schools, we have created an app whose Slovenian acronym could be summarized as “What Profession for Me?” Fifteen technically oriented faculties and 1,700 students took part in a 78-question poll identifying talent and therefore suggesting career paths. Our paper covers the results of the analysis using the language R and the Oracle database.
Oracle Academy: Brilliant. And are you adopting Oracle Cloud resources in your teaching?
Robert Leskovar: Not yet, but we soon will. As with Oracle APEX, we very much are driven by the needs of industry. And as soon as there is sufficient stimulus from business, I'm sure we will quickly adopt Oracle Cloud and develop prototypes, proof of concepts, and case studies for our students’ projects.
Alenka Baggia: I will be incorporating Oracle Cloud in my Information Systems Development Project course for use in the students’ year-end project where they develop their own solutions. Cloud is a must in the framework of the broad spectrum of skills our students need.
Oracle Academy: What type of careers do students find?
Robert Leskovar: It’s worth remembering that the Faculty of Organizational Sciences began life as a Human Resources training school, and that’s reflected today in our dual focus on organizational management and computer science. Today HR is completely IT-driven, as are all business processes in organizations. So Oracle Academy courses prepare our students for a multitude of positions combining both technology and management.
Alenka Baggia: I would agree with Robert; our students gain a lot of knowledge of computing on the one hand and management on the other. Their paths can be quite diverse. You can see them develop from the first year of study to the point in year three where they usually know on which area they want to focus. Our task is to give them a broad spectrum of knowledge to help them decide whether to become a manager, a developer, a systems analyst, an HR recruiter, and so on. Oracle Academy courses are important for their decisions.
Oracle Academy: Do you encourage them to take Oracle certification?
Robert Leskovar: Usually that happens in their final year. Many of them already work part time when studying. It frequently occurs that in year three they realize the importance of their CVs and the importance of Oracle professional certification, and ask if they can sit the exam. To help them, we create ad hoc extracurricular courses for the exam.
The materials from Oracle Academy are very useful for the professional certification. I took the Oracle exams myself, in database and Java.
Oracle Academy: Lastly, what are your overall impressions of Oracle Academy?
Robert Leskovar: Oracle Academy is a boon to teaching. Without free resources for education institutions, it would be much harder to keep pace with modern technology. I cannot imagine my teaching process without using these free resources. What’s more, although we don’t have the right to promote one vendor technology over another, personally I would select Oracle Academy and Oracle APEX in particular right from the beginning.
Oracle APEX for me is a complete environment for either the beginner or for an advanced developer. In the universities, there is a thin line between remaining technology neutral or putting one solution to the forefront. But, as institutional members, we are here to wholeheartedly recommend Oracle Academy. Students having gained a liking for Oracle technology are more likely to wish to work in companies that use it too. And the opportunities are many!
Alenka Baggia: For me, cooperation with Oracle Academy is very good and we are glad that Oracle is giving us so much support. In fact, since our students are avid for knowledge and always want more, I too hope that Oracle Academy will continuously add new topics.
Thank you Robert Leskovar and Alenka Baggia, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.