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On the road to creating an online hackathon methodology

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hackathons were held online or in hybrid formats all over the world. We have realised, that in order to overcome the very specific challenges of online hackathons, an online hackathon methodology is needed in higher education.


Rakhshanda Khan

senior lecturer
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Namrata Sethi

Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 11.11.2022

Got an idea? Need a team to develop it, attend a hackathon! Hackathons are events hosted by companies or organisations to bring together people from various backgrounds who can team up to develop an idea. These face-to-face intensive events usually last for 24 to 48 hours.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, hackathons were either held online or in hybrid formats all over the world. At Haaga-Helia (HH) we too were hosting hackathons in different projects to bring students together. However, the online hackathons turned out to have very specific challenges for the participants, which were hardly experienced during face-to-face hackathons.

Challenges of online hackathons

Team formation, selecting the correct digital tools for online hackathons, trust building among participants, and the process of connecting teams and ideating were some of the challenges we met with during online hackathons.

One could meet future teammates while getting coffee or during networking in face-to-face hackathons. Networking and finding the right teammates are important aspects of hackathons, which are considered challenging for online hackathons. Therefore, in order to overcome these challenges, we alongside other colleagues from different universities realised the need for an online hackathon methodology in higher education.

The Hackathon and ICT-based Innovative Methodologies (HACK-IT) project was established based on the need for better ICT based learning methodologies.

The choice of platform is the start of everything

We at HH conducted a survey in August/September, 2022, in conjunction with Kaunas University of Technology regarding the choice of the online tools that would be utilised in the online hackathons. 135 educators responded to this survey, which showed some very interesting results. The decision about the choice of the online platform will be determined based on the survey results.

We determined criteria for evaluation and platform selection based on our survey results. We suggest that accessibility and familiarity of the learning platforms, GDPR regulations and ICT support availability are the most important criteria to be considered.

First of all, the platforms selected for online hackathons have to be accessible to all the universities and should be open source platforms. Some universities do not allow the use of certain platforms due to the lack of availability or other issues.

Next, the familiarity of the learning platforms must be considered while developing the hackathon methodology as unfamiliarity with the learning platforms can complicate conducting an online hackathon.

In addition, General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is an important component for EU privacy law or human rights law. Therefore, the selected platform must comply with the GDPR regulations and provide individuals’ control and rights over their personal data.

Lastly, the survey results showed that educators have limited IT skills and would need support. They should be backed by their IT departments, whenever support is required. Therefore, the chosen platform must be recommended by university’s IT department so that anticipated support is received.

We believe that Haaga-Helia plays a vital role in HACK-IT project as we have an extensive experience in arranging face-to-face and blended hackathons in the field of business development. We are also known for developing flexible tools, and environments for continuous learning and the development of ICT-based innovative methodologies will be a feather in the cap for Haaga-Helia.

The HACK-IT project is multinational project and funded by the EU Eramus+. In addition to Haaga-Helia, Kaunas University of Technology, University West, Polytechnic Institute of Bragança and University of Granada are involved in this project.