Inside iversity

Here, iversity ambassador Nadiyka Gerbish gives us a heartwarming and inspiring insight into how she strikes a work/life/MOOC balance whilst raising her child. 

05 Nadiyka Gerbish_largeI started MOOCing as an expectant mother, and now I am a working stay-at-home Mom who has not given up on MOOCs! Maybe it’s some kind of addiction, who knows. The fact is, I love MOOCing. I have also discovered that MOOCing is good for me and for my one-year-old daughter as well! Whilst iversity has covered the “how’s” of online education for stay-at-home parents, I would like to share my thoughts on the “why’s”.

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Rest

Living 24/7 lives we forget about rest far too often. We remember to make enough nap time for our children, but the very moment our baby loosens her chubby grip on our hand we rush out the door (using all those famous ninja techniques of escaping the sleeping child, of course) and bite hard at the fleeting time, longing to use it as effectively as possible. We go through the important emails, do the laundry and dishes, cook some soup and pasta, and then make a salad and a smoothie, chewing the left-over Snickers bar on the way, and drinking lukewarm – or even cold! – coffee. We barely have time to make our bed hair stick to the head in some artsy (we call it so to protect our ego) style. When the baby monitor crackles with the most beautiful sound in the world our marathon run continues with at double speed. No wonder we feel overwhelmed, tired, cranky, and all those sorts of things even before night time comes.

It doesn’t always have to be this way though. Imagine this: your baby is fast asleep, you make yourself a latte with that magic foam and pumpkin pie spice, sit cozily on the sofa, wrapped in your favourite blanket with an iPad on your lap. The engaging professor is speaking into your ears while you sip your hot (yes, I do mean HOT, remember that taste?) latte. Let me tell you this: it’s not merely a daydream. I promise. I have been practicing this routine for a while now. It’s not just you who benefits either. By doing this you give your children a much happier and healthier parent. And that makes a huge difference. Just give it a try!

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Motivation

Everybody knows that our children do not what they hear us say, but what they watch us do. Studying when our children watch us is a great motivation tool for both of you. Yes, I know that ‘the quickest way for a parent to get a child’s attention is to sit down and look comfortable’. But what if you use that in your favor? If you are taking notes – let you baby take his, even on your very own notebook. Being a role model has never been easier.

Contagious Happiness

There are only two golden rules of great parenting: 1) a child must feel comfortable 2) a parent must feel comfortable. There is no use of being highly productive, but unhappy parent. Cut out the ‘fringe hours’ of the busy day to do what makes you happy. If MOOCing makes you happy – go for it!

Our children tend to nurture the feelings similar to ours. If we live with exhaustion, boredom, disappointment, our children will soon be feeling exactly the same way! Certainly you don’t want you baby to get into that vicious circle someday. So make time for yourself (hot latte, good music, morning run, painting, photography, chocolates, or MOOCing) and inspire your children to do the same.

Involuntary Education

My Mom has a sister who is 5 years senior. When Aunt Vita started learning long poems by heart in school, my Mom was still in kindergarten. One evening when Aunt Vita (obviously, she wasn’t an Aunt back then) was reading a poem aloud again and again, my Mom was playing under the table. Just before supper Auntie gave up, and my Mom (who was not a Mom back then, either) walked from under the table and recited the whole long poem from memory. This ‘involuntary’ education has its own secret magic.
Let your children hear what you are listening without making them retell it. And they will learn with you. And, chances are, they will have a grasp on the subject even better than you!

Professional Growth

Our life has its seasons. It is likely that someday you will go back to office (if you are not working from home even now). Every change is a stress factor, but you can minimize the oncoming stress by just having your finger on the new developments in the industry at your own pace. It will keep you engaged, confident, and happy.

And let me say that one more time. Happiness is contagious, especially for your kids!

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This post is primarily aimed at developers looking to make use of our course catalogue data on  their platforms.

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The iversity Product Team have been working hard over the past few weeks to make our courses more easily accessible should you want to list the information on your website or MOOC aggregator.

This comes in the form of an API (Application Programming Interface) that can feed the information straight into your site. We have a number of API’s planned and are starting with the course catalogue endpoint. Access this endpoint here.

API URL: http://iversity.org/api/v1/courses

This URL is updated in real time, so you can be sure that all the relevant information about our very latest courses, including links to the pictures and videos contained within the course enrolment pages, is present. If you’re the owner of a platform that hosts MOOCs then you can give this URL to your development team to implement. Stay tuned as we will be bringinging you more API endpoints in the future.

Should you have any questions or partnership queries, feel free to email: press@iversity.org
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iversity ambassador Nadiyka Gerbish shares her thoughts and confessions on trying to get organised and finish a MOOC in Ukraine during a time of conflict. 

Last year was terribly difficult for my country, Ukraine. It seemed that sometimes fear and pain paralysed everything. We were trying hard to fight, trying hard to change anything we could for the better. Everyone was battling on a daily basis, making the small steps, believing, and helping those who were doing even more. I dreamt of doing something bigger for my country, as well. One day I was browsing the web, looking for something that could become handy, and (rather unsuccessfully) trying to avoid the news stream. My iversity page was open, and I stumbled upon “The European Union in Global Governance” course, got enrolled… and never finished it. Why? Actually, that is the point of my confession.

In the past 12 months I have had to juggle quite a lot: my baby daughter was born in January, I had three new books released, and signed a contract meaning the responsibility to work on yet another book. Managing the household and caring for the most important man in my life didn’t add free time to my schedule either. And at the same time, my country was in trouble. So the most important time-managing thing for me was to set my priorities right, put them in a row, so to say, and start walking by, attending to each and every one of them. Every minute counts – that is a general rule. But in times like these, every minute counts twice.

Education has always been of great importance for me, but in a life jammed to the rafters, practical appliance is what matters most. It has something to do with guilt, I guess. Guilt of spending too much time on pleasure (and education in this case is one of them). I understood I had to invest my time wisely and learn the stuff I can use in my everyday fight for the country I love. So I wrote a post on Facebook, inviting my friends who could literally apply the knowledge gained at the course, in their everyday work, and moved on. But my guilt was still nagging at me, because I had been taught to finish the things I have started. Especially, if I have real interest in them. But how could I materialise the ‘free’ time I was longing for? Was it even possible at all?

Luckily, I had an excellent opportunity to discuss e-learning with professor Petro Selskyi, MD, Head of the Department of Pathological Anatomy, Scientific head of the independent testing center in Ternopil State Medical University. I have asked him many questions before I got to the point: what should a student actually do to make their extracurricular studies effective? The answer was quite simple, but hit me as a revelation: focus on the most important stuff, and never try to cover everything.

If you don’t have enough time to master the most important subject, cut out the others, and, for heaven’s sake, get the work done! So the rule to start and finish is still relevant. But then again – you have to choose wisely before you start.

It is highly important to keep calm and do your work well (aiming for excellence, of course), even in the times of war. Especially in the times of war. Everyday work is practice and experience. But to do it even better, you have to study. iversity offers a vast variety of courses that can help you out on your own ladder to excellence. When you have an opportunity to put your knowledge into practice right away – it will keep you motivated all the time.

You know, I get caught up all the time: I am so excited about a course that I enrol immediately… and then I feel guilty and embarrassed, when I don’t open my iversity page for weeks. So if you are just like me, let’s start taking a MOOC again together – in a new way. By simply trying to follow these unassuming rules:

1. Choose your subject wisely

2. If you start – finish

3. Don’t forget to practice and revise what you have learned

4. Spread the word to those who might be interested

And just don’t forget – we mess up things far too often. As people, countries, unions… but that isn’t the reason not to start again. If you want to fight for something bigger, start fighting your own weaknesses at first. The fact I have made this confession doesn’t mean I have given up! Actually, I have just enrolled to another course and plan to finish it.
Hopefully, so do you.

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As members of an evermore connected global community, issues relating to human rights spread from our backyards, through our cities, countries and across all continents. What are basic human rights and at which borders do they stop? Who is responsible for maintaining them? Who do they protect? Prof. Paolo De Stefani and his great team from the University of Padua start their course “Human Rights: Global and Local Protections” on 30 January 2015. Want to know more? Have a look behind the scenes of this course and check out the backstage video and interview below!

Human Rights instructor Prof. Paolo De Stefani

 

“Learning human rights is like cooking: you learn by doing – and there is always room for improvement!”

1. What is the most exciting thing about your field of study?

The feeling that with my research and teaching I can contribute, although on an infinitesimal scale, to changing the mind set of some people regarding human rights, and hopefully helping make them a reality. It’s the performative power of (legal) language, it’s the capacity to shape (I wish for the better!) our minds and change the world around us. That still fascinates me.

2. What do you expect from this MOOC?

I expect it might help some people become more aware of human rights as a possible and concrete enabler of social change.

3. How do you expect students to apply their learnings?

If they don’t try to apply what they learned in class in real life, they are going to fail the course! Learning human rights is like cooking: you learn by doing – and there is always room for improvement!

4. What is the most interesting fact about the course?

In the making of the MOOC, an interesting aspect was the interaction between the Human Rights Centre staff and the staff of the Multimedia and E-learning Centre of the University of Padua. I think we have learned a lot from each other.

5. Why is the course interesting if I am not currently studying in the field?

It is supposed to be an introduction to human rights from several entry points: if you have an interest in law, politics, history, social movements… you might recognise some topics you are familiar with, and have an opportunity to expand your understanding with a new and original perspective.

6. What will help students during the course?

Watching the news and trying to look at facts through the lens of fundamental rights. That is always a good exercise.

7. How should students prepare for this course?

There is no need for special preparation. You could start collecting some data or news concerning situations having a “human rights dimension” that are occurring around you, in politics, society, economy, etc. During the course, you will have to elaborate on some ideas about how to address such issues.

Not enrolled in the course yet? Join the “Human Rights: Local and Global Protection” course today!

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The iversity Scholartrip contest has come to an end! Congratulations to Jesús, whose raffle ticket was drawn out of 49,223 tickets submitted to the Scholartrip lottery. Jesús, age 27, left his home country of Mexico to study in Germany and currently lives in Ireland. Already before enrolling in “The DO School Startup Lab”, his dream was to start a social agricultural business. So who exactly is the lucky winner and where will he go for a Scholartrip? Read the full interview with Jesús below.

Scholartrip winner Jesus

Image: Jesús visiting an organic farm

Jesús, what’s your story?

My background is in the area of Economics, more specifically, “International Trade”. After writing my bachelor’s thesis (on a topic related with the international trade of organic agriculture), I decided to pursue my postgraduate studies in Germany. There I found the university programme (Faculty of Organic Agriculture) that best fit my objectives and future career: to mature my skills and knowledge in the organic farming sector and organic food industry in order to develop projects or social business in favour of development in the rural areas of my country, Mexico.

Up to now, I have found myself in a privileged position. I have nearly completed my Master studies thanks to the support of my family, friends and financial aid from Germany (i.e. scholarship for my Master studies from KAAD and the ICDD for my Master thesis). I am currently working on an organic farm located in a small island called Inish Beg in West Cork, Ireland and at the same time I am continuing my education via online courses offered by iversity.org.

What is studying like where you live? What is the role of online education there?

Online education barely exists at my previous university in Mexico, or at least in my former faculty. Professors are not really focused on this kind of education. In contrast, my faculty in Germany is more involved in online education, however, only around 10% of the lectures were held online. We mainly used Moodle for watching videos or downloading documents necessary for our reports.

How did you hear about iversity and what courses have you tried?

I learned about iversity when I was looking for information online about running a start-up (e.g. YouTube videos, documents etc.). One day when I was checking my google email, I saw an ad from iversity, clicked the ad and got access to the iversity web page. Something that really astonished me was that I found exactly the course that I was looking for: “The Do School Start-Up Lab”. Further, I found other courses that interested me, such as “Design Thinking”, and I am sure they will provide me with some other new soft skills.

Did you travel a lot in the past? Do you have dream destinations?

Yes, fortunately I have had the opportunity to travel to several countries in Europe. I think that my passion for travel has its roots in my curiosity for new people and cultures. I love to meet people with different kinds of mindsets, who really like to do things in a different way and show me a different perspective. My dream destination is Asia. I would like to travel to India or Nepal, for instance, because I find these countries very exotic and would love to see the many organic farming projects with smallholders being carried out there. Furthermore, two of my best friends from my Master studies in Germany come from there and I have learned so many interesting things from them.

What would a perfect scholartrip look like to you?

The perfect scholartrip for me is one where I have time to learn and at the same time I am surrounded by an environment that encourages me to apply the new knowledge I have acquired. For example, I am interested in starting a social business in the area of agriculture with underutilized plants (edible plants that are normally produced by smallholders but due to different reasons are not commercialized in the mainstream food production). Thus, I am enrolled in the online course “The Do School Start-Up Lab”. A perfect scholartrip would be to go an area in the world (e.g. India) where a similar business model has already been implemented. Then I could take what I learned from the online lectures and compare it with reality. In addition, if the environment where I am taking the online course allows me to have new insights, such as learning about a new culture and being surrounded by a beautiful landscape, would be a kind of dream for me.

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