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The finals of already the fifth edition of UvA's Create a Course Challenge took place on Thursday 26 November, where five finalists presented their ideas online to the jury and audience. Even though all courses were “very interesting and formed around inspiring, important and social relevant themes” the jury appointed the course ‘Digital Warfare’ invented by Thijs Rebel and Matthijs de Gooijer as the winner of 2020. The course will be offered in the first semester of 2021/21 as an interdisciplinary elective at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS).

Did you ever hear about Stuxnet, the malicious computer worm? Matthijs and Thijs did. And in their presentation, this was just one of the many examples illustrating that digital warfare is already present. But the scary thing is that we cannot see it. Matthijs explained that “instead of workouts in the mud, soldiers of tomorrow are trained to fight in the depths of cyberspace. Numerous countries have started to develop a military response to possible cyber-attacks. This course is highly interdisciplinary and integrates knowledge from the field of history, computer science, psychology and law. How do cyber-attacks work? What are the psychological effects of having an invisible enemy? And, what are the consequences of the lack of a comprehensive legal framework for digital warfare?” 

Screenshot of the online final. In the third row, second from the left the winners: Matthijs de Gooijer, master student Finance an Thijs Rebel, master student Middle Eastern Studies

A course that reveals what we cannot see 

The jury (Karen Maex, rector magnificus of the UvA, Lucy Wenting, director of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies and Nina Hol, chair of the Central Student Council) praised the “interdisciplinarity of course, but more over the innovative character and the intriguing fact that this course is about something that we cannot see but has enormous consequences for societies and the world as a whole.” 

In the coming period, the education developers of the IIS will sit down with the winners to work out the idea into an actual course, which will be offered as an interdisciplinary elective in the first semester of the upcoming academic year. 

The IIS received a total of 178 ideas, of which 40 were developed into concrete formats. The best ten were selected. Students and staff of the UvA were then able to determine the top five finalists by voting online and this was done in total by 1530 people.