Making a difference with Oracle Academy
The spotlight is on Dr. Iuliana Marin, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Engineering in Foreign Languages, National University of Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest, Romania.
National University of Science and Technology Politehnica Bucharest (NUSTPB), originally known as the School of Bridges and Roads, Mines and Architecture is the oldest and most prestigious engineering-focused school in Romania. Its mission is to “train an engineer capable of adapting to the requirements of the market economy and new technologies,” emphasizing scientific research and practical studies along with theory.
NUSTPB has 30,000 students, 1,500 educators, several research centers, and 15 areas of study, including the Faculty of Engineering in Foreign Languages (FILS) which delivers 13 engineering-related degree programs in English, French, and German.
Dr. Iuliana Marin is an Associate Professor in FILS, imparting computer science courses in English and French. Around 20% of her students elect NUSTPB as part of the Erasmus + Program; others come from North Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. A graduate of NUSTPB herself, she holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, a master’s degree in Software Engineering, and in 2021 she attained a PhD for her dissertation on Digitalization in Healthcare and Quality of Living.
Marin’s expertise covers databases, operating systems, computer networks, semantic web, distributed systems, big data analysis, and Internet of Things. She has published widely in internationally recognized specialist journals.
At NUSTPB she got to know Oracle Academy, assisting a lecturer who had previously worked at Oracle Romania. After graduation, she in turn was hired as a lecturer and continued the use of Oracle Academy curriculum resources for teaching Java programming and database management.
Oracle Academy: Can you tell us how you integrate Oracle Academy resources into your teaching?
Iuliana Marin: I integrate Oracle Academy resources into my teaching by combining theory with hands-on experience. I teach Java Programming as part of our computer Programming Languages course, and Oracle APEX within my Databases class. These classes conform to our strategy of giving students experience with real-world technologies and preparing them for jobs in the fields of computer science and engineering.
Oracle Academy: Please talk us through your use of Java Programming in the classroom.
Iuliana Marin: In their first year, students access the relevant online resources and tutorials provided by Oracle Academy. Later on, in my Hands-on Coding course, I give them Java programming assignments, to practice coding, and build small applications.
During assessment, I use the quizzes and exams available through the Oracle Academy Member Hub to evaluate their understanding of Java concepts. This helps track their progress and identify areas where additional support is needed.
Oracle Academy: And how about Oracle APEX?
Iuliana Marin: Oracle APEX is a great tool for teaching students about database development and management. In this course, students learn to design, create, and manage databases, and then use Oracle APEX to build user-friendly front-end applications to interact with these databases. They work in groups on a variety of database themes supplied by Oracle Academy. And in their final year they undertake a major project where they design and implement a database system with a user interface. That exercise is part of the Project-Based Learning section, where students—mostly already working in jobs—apply their knowledge in a real-world context.
I also organize hands-on workshops that cover topics such as creating forms and reports within the Oracle APEX environment.
Oracle Academy: What kind of projects do you assign to students?
Iuliana Marin: I use the projects supplied by the Oracle Academy course materials. I alternate them yearly. There must be at least 20 case studies, for example, employee management, hospital blood bank and organ donation, online shopping, fitness centers, the list goes on…
What I do is split the students into four groups to carry out different tasks. One group will work on system requirements through interviews and analysis. Another will build the Entity Relationship Diagram to identify each clause and link them together. A third set of students will code everything from scratch to create generic tables and insert records. Finally, some others will write the complex queries with inner join, outer join, and then create the graphical user interface.
It's an interactive process whereby all students get hands-on with every piece of the puzzle. It involves creativity and imagination, and the result that they gain real-world skills in database and application development.
Oracle Academy: How do you see the overall benefits of accessing Oracle Academy materials?
Iuliana Marin: There are great benefits for students and teachers alike. Students get a well-structured curriculum and learning materials, providing them with a strong foundation in Java programming and database development. All essential topics are covered in a systematic manner. And with annual updates, the Oracle Academy course materials always reflect the latest features and advances.
In addition, since my students between year one and four may be working up to 80% of their time, they can follow online self-paced learning materials as needed. This flexibility accommodates various learning styles. Another great thing is that with Oracle Academy’s multiple language support, visiting students from North Africa or the Middle East can switch to French or Arabic if they so choose.
Oracle Academy: And the benefit to teachers?
Iuliana Marin: As instructors, we get access to high-quality, up-to-date materials. This is an incredible time-saver in course preparation, and the content is always tailored to industry standards and requirements.
Moreover, the assessment tools offered by Oracle Academy make it easier for instructors to evaluate student progress and performance. We import the quiz and exam content into our Moodle learning management platform.
Another point to mention is that Oracle Academy contributes to educator continuing professional development (CPD), which is a cornerstone of NUSTPB’s focus on academic excellence.
Oracle Academy: Super. And do you encourage students to strive for Oracle professional certifications?
Iuliana Marin: I certainly do. This again is a major goal of NUSTPB: that students join the working world as highly qualified engineers in the many technical fields that we offer. Oracle professional certifications provide students and future employers with tangible proof of their skills. They enhance their resumes and increase the chances of landing good jobs or moving up in their jobs.
To date it has been students in the master’s program that sit that exam. Many of them join in the final year from other faculties in order to get technology skills—students from aviation, mechanics, biology and other sections of the university. They are mostly already working and want to improve their qualifications. On average, five students per year achieve Oracle Certified Foundations Associate, Java, and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
I provide them with the relevant Oracle Academy courses, as well as other books from Oracle and they prepare for the exam on their own. But certification is something that NUSTPB itself must continuously achieve as well.
Oracle Academy: Can you elaborate on that?
Iuliana Marin: Yes. The other aspect of certification is that we ourselves are continuously assessed. Every four years a government committee formed of Ministry of Education people and deans of universities in the same domain as us, visit our faculty and check things out. They evaluate what we teach, inspect our curriculum, our labs, ask if we cover this or that topic, follow the latest trends, and if not why. They interview students to gauge whether they believe they are getting the right skills. They have even quizzed working postgraduates to assess how much we helped them in their careers.
So, you can imagine that all this leads to ministerial accreditation, which influences NUSTPB’s global ranking, etc. We need their approval, must pass their tests, otherwise we can’t keep turning out skilled engineers! This means we have to be on our toes, and in the case of my faculty, Oracle Academy helps, that’s for sure. Of course, it’s a two-way street: the government commission often goes away with original ideas stemming from us to enhance their own curriculum and teaching methods.
Oracle Academy: Have you got involved in Oracle Cloud?
Iuliana Marin: Not yet, but it’s on our roadmap. At master’s level I give a two-week introduction, showing how to use cloud to develop Virtual Machines. Another colleague teaches an AI course, but we have not yet rolled the Oracle Academy Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Java course into it. With the advent of things like ChatGTP, clearly everyone needs to have knowledge of AI.
Oracle Academy: And what are your interests outside of teaching?
Iuliana Marin: Well, I love to walk in the forest or hike in mountains or visit the seaside. I like to travel, visit chateaux in France or art galleries in Berlin. I also read a lot, including poetry, and have an active social life.
But at the same time, I do quite a lot of research, write project proposals and frequently publish in journals and conference proceedings. Recently I contributed a paper proposing a Web Platform for Job Recommendation Based on Machine Learning and presented it in Prague at the 18th Conference on Novel Approaches to Software Engineering. Teachers can’t get ahead only based on teaching!
In addition, once a year I travel abroad to see what other universities do. NUSTPB has a large Erasmus+ exchange program and as part of that we professors have a chance to visit other Erasmus universities for a week of interchange. In recent years I have spent a week at the Universities of Madrid in Spain, Patras in Greece, and the Technion in Haifa, Israel. I have been able to discover how other institutions are organized, spend time in their labs, and feel their embrace of cloud computing. It's fulfilling to teach at NUSTPB.
Oracle Academy: Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Iuliana Marin: I'd like to express my appreciation for the comprehensive support that Oracle Academy provides to both instructors and students. The high-quality curriculum, assessment tools, and professional development opportunities contribute significantly to the success of my teaching. The potential for industry connections is an added bonus, fostering collaboration and keeping us abreast of the latest industry trends. Overall, Oracle Academy resources play a pivotal role in preparing students for successful careers in the dynamic fields of Java programming and database development.
Thank you, Dr. Iuliana Marin, for your passion for Oracle Academy and for preparing your students to make a positive impact.