Inside iversity

Underneath the surface of iversity’s website, there’s a lot of technical stuff that goes unseen by our users: databases, scripts, apps, applets and algorithms, and thousands of lines of cryptic code. New features are under construction all the time, so you can imagine how much work it takes to build and run such a complex platform. The guys from our Product Development Team got it covered. So who are these magicians? Here’s your chance to meet them!

Standing: Dmitry, Melissa, Max, Ioana, Andre, Gordon. Sitting: Tim and Gerald. Not in the picture: Dinis and Jo 

First of all: What do they do all day?
 

A good educational platform has to fulfill many technical requirements. Ultimately, the learning experience must be a lot of fun, absorbingly engaging and very user-friendly, not to mention nice to look at. But that’s not all. You, our users, request new features that we try to implement as quickly as possible – the activity log was one of the wishes expressed by our users. The product team is here to breathe life into these ideas. Before a feature is finally deployed, it has gone through a long creative process. Ideas are transformed into concepts, the concepts are honed and sharpened, designs are created, all that is transformed into code, and then the features are tested, fixed and tested again and again. And there’s more: The developers have to make sure that the platform runs smoothly, the servers are well-maintained, greedy data thieves can’t get their hands on our users’ data and that everything scales well as more and more users join iversity.

Who’s in charge?
 

Gerald is responsible for iversity’s product strategy and leads the product team. He oversees the conceptualisation and implementation of every single feature, consults with the other departments, and makes sure that everything looks right and works well together. Dmitry, the Chief Technology Officer, keeps the platform up and running and is responsible for the overall technical strategy and server infrastructure. 

André and our freelancer Gordon are the two back-end developers. They are true puzzle-solving wizards, and whenever something goes wrong with the platform, they’re there to fix it! Dinis keeps our front-end in shape with a lot of attention to detail. He came all the way from Portugal to join the team in Berlin. Tim is iversity’s analytics guy – a mathematician who juggles the numbers in order to find out which didactical and technical features really work for online learning and which don’t. Ioana is our project manager and handles quality assurance. She oversees testing and makes sure features function correctly before they go live. She is better at finding bugs than the NSA is at finding the backdoor to your computer and ensures that the platform runs like a ‘64 Mustang. 

Finally, there are three interns working at the Product Development Department. Maybe you’ve been in touch with Max before: He assists Gerald with the conceptual work of the platform, conducts continual research on the EdTech industry as a whole and is responsible for customer support (we’re not sure when he finds time to sleep). Jo and Melissa are developer apprentices working on the front-end. They also help Ioana with testing the website and Tim with data analysis.

Some fun facts
 

  • Dmitry crossed the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship
  • Andre enjoys winning hackathons
  • Dinis had never seen snow before arriving in Berlin
  • Gordon biked through Africa
  • Melissa plans to cross Mongolia by horse this summer

Future plans
 

Are you curious to know what they’re working on right now? We can’t give away everything but we can definitely give you a little sneak peek: Graded certificates are just around the corner and the discussion features are going through a major revamp. Last but not least, the much anticipated mobile app will be available for your mobile devices just a little bit further down the road. 

As we said before, there’s a lot of work to do. Are you a developer or a product enthusiast and would like to work with our team in Berlin? Check out our job openings – you might just find what you’re looking for!

Read more

Have you ever wondered who Hans from iversity is? You know his name because he keeps sending you newsletters every week. Some users thought this guy was an invention – but he's real! So are his four colleagues who run the Marketing Department at iversity.org.

What do they do all day?
 

In short, the Marketing Department promotes iversity.org: they try to let the world know who we are. For this, they’re constantly looking for new possibilities to spread the word about the company and trying to find new channels to reach the public. They want to keep everybody up-to-date about what’s going on with the platform, so they make sure a fresh newsletter ends up in your mailbox every week. 

Of course, they also help make the platform more fun to use. By conducting profound data analyses, they keep optimising the user experience, which makes online learning as pleasant as possible for everyone.

Furthermore, the Marketing Department works closely with other departments. Together with the Communications Department, for example, they craft our messages and send them out to the world. The Course Production Department works to promote courses through all different kinds of channels and together with the Product Development team, they look for ways to improve the platform.
 

Inside the team
 

At the moment, the marketing team consists of 5 people, who have all lived and studied in different places. First of all, there’s Zeljko, who studied Business Communications at the University of Arts Berlin (UdK). He leads the marketing team. The one who gets the users to the platform, who keeps them there and makes them happy is Ronan. Ronan is from Ireland and studied Business and Politics in Dublin. Milos, born in Serbia and raised in the Czech Republic, studied economics in Prague and history of Eastern Europe in Bologna and Istanbul. His main responsibility is data analysis and reporting. Cobi recently joined our marketing team as an intern. She’s from Belgium and is still finishing her studies in Business Communications. She’s helping Hans with the email marketing and writing this Meet the team blog post for you. 
 

A spotlight on Hans from iversity
 

And finally,  we have Hans from iversity. Hans graduated with a BSc in Communications and has been working for iversity ever since. He’s responsible for the email marketing and a million other things to find new users and instructors for iversity. Like we told you before, the mysterious ‘Hans from iversity’ is a real person in our marketing team. He’s actually sitting next to me at this very moment. Still not convinced? Well, here are some fascinating facts about him:

  • He is German but studied at universities in the Netherlands & US
  • He used to play bass guitar in a death metal band
  • He worked as a janitor for 9 months after high school
  • He has a love for both soft and hard cheeses 
  • He once shook Phoenix Jones' hand because he’s really into superheroes 

So next time you get your newsletter from iversity, you know it’s our cheese-loving bass player who’s keeping you up-to-date!  If you don’t receive this famous newsletter, you can easily sign up by visiting the iversity.org homepage, scolling down to the box with the envelope image and entering your email!

Want to know more about the people behind iversity? Keep your eye on the blog for our next Meet the team posts to find out more about the people of iversity!

Read more

The New York Times declared 2012 to be The Year of the MOOC, and rightfully so. Without a doubt, online learning has developed into an invaluable appendage of education over the past few years, and as MOOCs erupted in 2012 with particular force, it brought along with it hype, buzz and debate. But now that the dust has settled, we see that it wasn’t just a fad, but just the beginning of the imminent transformation of education through technology. As online courses bring the lecture hall into the living room, the possibility to earn ECTS credits through MOOCs on iversity.org, creates many new exciting opportunities for students, faculty and institutions of higher education. 

However, the story began long before the platform existed in its current form.

Jonas Liepmann, the founder of iversity, originally started the project as a student by writing an application for the EXIST-programme, a government scholarship for aspiring student entrepreneurs, in late 2008. His initiative was driven by a simple idea: the Internet has been invented to facilitate the communication and publication within academia. Afterwards, it went on to revolutionise society in many ways. Just the workings of the academy had largely been left untouched. He secured a 100,000€ in public funding and started to work on the prototype of a platform that was a blend of a social network and an online work space for academic group work – be it in classes, research or study groups. In the application for the funding he wrote what would later become a core of MOOCs: publishing recorded lectures and presentations in audio and videocasts in combination with discussion forums that serve as preparations for and processing after the lectures.

At the same time, iversity's current Managing Director Hannes Klöpper and his friends were also thinking possibilities offered by online education. In the fall of 2008, they won a student idea award. Hannes and his three friends, Jan Barth, Ralph Müller-Eiselt and Simon Lange, felt that publishing university lectures online would be a great way to make higher education more accessible. Unlike existing portals such as the the University Channel of Princeton University and TIMMS at the Universität Tübingen, they envisioned their "YouTube for academic content" (the working title was "bildungsrepublik.de") to have a social layer that would allow for student interaction online. An idea that in hindsight is very much reminiscent of the MOOCs that we know today. 

The educational pioneers today
 

In mid-2011, Jonas and Hannes managed to raise the first round of funding for iversity and transformed Jonas' existing business into a GmbH. Simon Lange, from the bildungsrepublik.de crew, became the company's founding COO. In 2012, Simon left the company to pursue a career in th field of educational research at the SVR-Forschungsbereichs (Sachverständigenrat deutscher Stiftungen für Integration und Migration), continuing to apply his expertise in educational inequality, recruitment of skilled labour abroad and demographic change. Ralph Müller-Eiselt went on to become first executive assistant and later senior advisor to Jörg Dräger at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. As such he made major contributions to the widely acclaimed book Dichter, Denker, Schulversager. Jan Barth is the last of the four still enrolled, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in law at the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München. 

In October 2012, Hannes co-authored Die Universität im 21. Jahrhundert (The University in the 21st Century) with the renowned late Professor Yehuda Elkana, a book that explores what it is universities should be teaching as well as how they should go about teaching it. Together with Jonas Liepmann and supported by business angel Marcus Riecke, he managed to refocus the company on the emergent online education opportunity in early 2013. While Jonas left the company and Marcus transitioned into the advisory board within the course of 2013, Hannes remains on board as Managing Director, hoping to realise the enormous potential of the iversity idea: to tear down institutional boundaries and to make higher education available online.

In short: the successful MOOC platform that you see today did not spring up overnight. Nor is it a copy cat. Rather it is the culmination of a lasting commitment to bring education into the digital age. 

Read more

For some of iversity’s students, this is a big day! 37 of them will participate in the on-site exams in five different places all over Germany. It is also a big day for iversity – “Fundamentals of Marketing” (held in German: “Grundlagen des Marketing”), is the first online course to hold an exam in which students can earn five ECTS credits.

About the exam
 

Oliver Opresnik and his team from the University of Applied Science in Lübeck, Germany have taught their online students the basics of marketing over the past three months: market segmentation, strategies of distribution, pricing and communication and a lot more. Now it’s up to the students to prove what they really learned.

Here’s what’s so new about the on-site exam: First, the students who pass it will receive credit points recognised by the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). These will count towards their real-life, offline studies. ECTS credits are a cornerstone of a successful integration of online learning into traditional university teaching in the future – and iversity is the only provider of online education that has managed this integration so far. We are in the middle of an experiment, so to say, and the prospects are very promising. Our vision is to make ECTS credits available in a growing number of our MOOCs.

We’re sending our very best wishes to the students who will participate in the exam today! Don’t forget: They are pioneers of a movement that is bound to make a real impact on academia in the near future. So stay tuned! We will provide more information about the exams soon.

GoToCourse Button

Read more

Round 2 of the Ambassador programme comes to a close at midnight CET on 15 January 2014. This is a final call for referrals and a last chance to be in the running for an Amazon Voucher or iPad. We will start counting right after the close and announce the new Ambassadors and winners as soon as we can. For everyone involved in the programme, we’d like to extend our thanks for all your great work and help spreading the word!

Check out our first round Ambassadors
 

To learn more about iversity Ambassadors, check out the winners of the first round. Many of them contributed their stories, thoughts and experiences on the blog. Sagar Aryal explained how he became an Ambassador. Johnn Four offered his insights into storytelling and the gaming world. Nadiyka Gerbish shared her experiences in the Ukraine and being an expectant mother. Syed Mohsin Raza Bokhari explored the world of DNA. Francisco Manuel da Costa discussed the MOOC phenomenon and the ages of information dissemination. Sara Rodríguez Arias foresees online learning and the future of education. Tanuj Kalia presented two stories that teach us some lessons for learning. Claudio Rodriguez Valdes offered a custom illustration and tips for online learning. More to come, so keep your eye on the blog!

go-to-courses

Read more