Understand your algorithm – a learning activity

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This learning activity on basic algorithmic understanding is part of the project “Students’ academic digital competences 2”, and has been created in collaboration between Lisbeth Ramsgaard Carlsen, Sofie Baungaard Hansen & Solveig Sandal, Aarhus University Library (AUL), Inger Louise Berling Hyams Roskilde University Library (RUB) and Anne Berit Bagger, Copenhagen University Library (KUB).

use of algorithms


Students need to understand how algorithms work and affect their daily lives,  their studies, and future working life. Basic knowledge of algorithms will increase the students’ understanding that algorithms are used to a greater and greater extent in our society, including information searching in research. The activity is designed to make students reflect on the influence of algorithms by identifying algorithms they come into contact with in their everyday lives.


Universities have a greater focus on digital education. E-learning has increased significantly and this makes greater demands on students to engage in an academic digital world.

Algorithms are an integral part of our modern life and, often, they run a number of different functions for us without our attention and reflection. When we, as part of our general digital education, need to learn more about how they work, we need to reflect on how they work and how they affect the information available to us including research. It is important that students become aware of where and how many algorithms surround them in their daily lives, as a first step to approaching the algorithms critically and reflectively. This activity is intended for 1st-semester students at university.


The students are presented with basic knowledge of the use of algorithms (video). The students must reflect on what advantages and disadvantages it may have in relation to their studies.


  • After the activity, the students have knowledge of which algorithms surround them.
  • The students can reflect on the impact algorithms can have in their daily lives and studies.


Watch the video: https://edumedia.dk/media/t/0_0dvbqzvi (English and Danish subtitles)



  • The students are asked to think about examples of where they encounter algorithms in their student life, and then write the examples in e.g. Mentimeter: https://www.mentimeter.com/
  • The teacher ends the activity by showing a word cloud of the students’ examples
  • The examples are then discussed in plenary, whether the impact of the algorithms is positive or negative.


Read the Introduction to: Haider, J., & Sundin, O. (2019). Invisible Search and Online Search Engines. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429448546.


Computers – both students and teacher.


Wordcloud in Mentimeter.


Check https://algorithms.dk/ about  algorithms, data and democracy

A selection of learning activities from the STAK 1 project: https://onehe.org/stak/ (In English)

STAK 1 project with learning activities: https://open-tdm.au.dk/blogs/stak/om-stak (Only in Danish)