Student Stories

Visual Thinking -

Can you draw? Not really? Many of our course participants from “Visual Thinking for Business” weren’t very confident about their abilities either. As they soon discovered, however, drawing is not a talent, it’s a skill. And skills can be learned! As the course has been running for almost half a year now, we would like to share a few snippets that we were especially excited to see. Find out what Visual Thinking is all about and how course participants improved their skills.

What Is Visual Thinking?

With Visual Thinking you can bring your ideas to life in a visually enticing way. You can create sketchnotes during meetings, catch your audience’s attention with visual storytelling and enrich your presentations with your own visuals. Of course, not everyone is a natural. However, Visual Thinking can be learned. It all begins with your first drawing.

Getting Started With Visual Thinking

Our course “Visual Thinking for Business” has a hands-on approach to learning. Prof. Dr. Christoph Hienerth, the course’s instructor, provides course participants with necessary background information on the topic. But you also get to dive into practising your skills right from the start.

Drawing exercises by course participants for "Visual Thinking for Business"

Drawing exercises by course participants for “Visual Thinking for Business”

In October 2015, our course went live and we were very excited to see the first drawings by course participants. Whether Prof. Hienerth asked learners to draw bottles or practice their skills with Squiggly Birds – everyone showed great enthusiasm and we continue to be astonished by their creativity today.

Want to find out what the bottle exercise is all about? Watch this video and test your drawing skills!

Mastering Visual Thinking

As an online learning provider, it’s always rewarding for us to see that our users have a real learning curve. Not only did they enjoy the exercises, as we could see by the abundance of drawings they uploaded to their journals. But some also told us, they really established drawing as a habit and realised they had already made a big jump in their skill level after only a few weeks.

Ingrid Testimonial Visual Thinking

Many learners were so inspired that they didn’t stop at creating one drawing per exercise. They began to draw in their free time and at work. They kept practising what they had learned in the course because they were enjoying it and were making progress. Here is just a one example of what they came up with.

Sketchnote - Visual Storytelling

This course participant used Visual Thinking to tell a story

Applying Visual Thinking In Business

Did all that drawing lead somewhere? Definitely. Our learners found that the drawing exercises were not only fun, but also immediately applicable at their jobs. Being able to create more engaging presentations, sketching notes instead of writing and brainstorming with visuals are only a few examples of how they can now apply their Visual Thinking skills. Our corporate clients were impressed by how much their employees evolved over only a few weeks.

Jakob Hasselgruber Testimonial

Now, we’re already looking forward to the next six months. We’re very curious to see what great visuals new learners will create. And we’d like to thank Prof. Hienerth and all course participants for their enthusiastic effort to make this a memorable learning experience.

If you’re curious to learn more about about “Visual Thinking for Business”, enrol in the course now or take a look at the course preview. Please note that this PRO course is also part of our Business Communication Programme. If you want to receive a broader and more in-depth education in business communication, be sure to check it out. And of course, you can always upgrade later.

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Student Connect is a project that puts us in contact with students to see what has inspired you to take up online learning, and how you are planning to use the skills acquired in future.

Meet Aleksandra, a 27-year-old Berlin resident. We caught up with her last week to ask a few questions about her online learning and role as an Executive Officer at Transparency International, an NGO helping to fight global corruption. Originally having completed a Psychology degree, Aleksandra had recently taken part in iversity’s ‘EU in Global Governance’ course and was enrolled and ready to start the ‘Governance & Policy Advice’ course soon. All of this with a view to build up knowledge in the field of EU politics and get a job at an institution in Brussels in future. Here’s what she had to say about her online learning experience.

Hi Aleksandra! First of all, where did you first hear about MOOCs and what made you want to enrol in one?

I found out about iversity through a Facebook group for young professionals seeking job opportunities in international development. Someone posted about iversity, I had a look and spotted ‘EU in Global Governance.’ I thought this course would be good for me as I had done an internship in Brussels, a place where I would like to pursue a career in future. All the jobs there require a knowledge of EU institutions and policy making so I wanted to check it out.

Did you just want to check out the videos and see if it was something for you before committing?

Yes of course, but I have a rule that when I commit to something I follow through. The course wasn’t too long, and I felt that I could fit the course into my schedule time and finish it.

 “I have a rule that when I commit to something I follow through.”

In addition to the flexibility the course offered, I also liked the course forums and announcements. I have access to another platform where I can take courses for free with work, but I found that these were more just Powerpoint presentations, and not interactive like the iversity courses.

What was it about iversity that you liked?

I really like the design of the website, I found it really easy to use. It looks nice, very colourful. I also never had any technical problems when I had to submit my essay and take the exam, everything was very straightforward.

What I liked about ‘EU in Global Governance’ is that there would be an email each week updating me on the course progress. I know that thousands of people had signed up for the course but I felt like the emails were personalised just for me!

“I really like the design of the website…everything was very straightforward.”

Once the course started I studied mostly at home on the weekends as I wanted to be focused and really take in the information. I couldn’t do it on the tram or when out and about as I don’t have a smartphone!

Do you feel that taking a course with iversity helped in defining a new path for your interests and career direction?

My aim was to be able to put something relevant on my CV. My bachelor’s degree is in Psychology so I felt it was important to show I was building up knowledge in this new subject area.

I told my boss I had completed the course and he was really happy, telling me to keep him in the loop if I completed any more. The course is definitely something I would add on to my existing knowledge. There is a training program at work where we may look into funding for online courses such as the ones iversity has to offer.

Could you tell me more about Transparency International and what you enjoy about it?

“We do a variety of different things, the most well known is the annual Corruption Perception Index”

TI was founded in Germany 21 years ago. We work as a coalition to fight against corruption in different sectors, co-operating with governments, the public sector, the private sector. We do a variety of different things, the most well known is the Corruption Perception Index that we publish on an annual basis. This will be launched in December. We also have the Global Corruption Report on a specific topic such as sport, education amongst other things. It’s a really fascinating place to work.

Thanks Alexandra, great to get your feedback!


iversity is always looking for stories and feedback from students. If you have an inspiring story relating to your career or online learning with iversity then we would love to hear from you! Simply fill in your details here and we will get back to you!

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05 Nadiyka Gerbish_largeby Nadiyka Gerbish

Every now and then we all have some wonderful insights. Or receive short letters that bring us some revolutionary news (that is how I discovered iversity). But as time passes, we tend to forget those small, but hugely important things. And all we need then is just an ordinary, everyday miracle of inspiration met around the corner. Just a magic kick in the pants, as one of my friends puts it.

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Photo by Nadiyka Gerbish

Yesterday I went to my favorite café to have my daily dose of hot cocoa. Actually, the truth is, I go there for my daily dose of inspiration. It’s a small, cozy, a bit disheveled, and quite artistic café with beautiful photographs and some absurd paintings on the walls, and the huge wooden bookshelves with lots and lots of books. All kinds of students and all kinds of artists usually spend their time there, have some snacks and their own doses of whatever in the café. There are some other kinds of visitors as well – usually around lunch time. They do not look like people who come there to catch their Muse or something. I guess they aren’t watercolor absurdity fans as well. But the snacks are cheap there, and the coffee is strong.

So yesterday, when I came to the café, there was that girl. She was slim, and beautiful, and stylish, and fresh. And she looked really happy and passionate. There were headphones in her ears, and her latte stood on the table untouched. The girl’s gaze was set on her laptop screen; she was jotting down some notes into her tiny yellow moleskine; sometimes she frowned, and sometimes she smiled. She was so engaged in the process, that suddenly I felt an invincible desire to know what was going on there.

I didn’t mean to peer, I promise, but somehow I did. There was some inspired, clever-looking speaker on the screen. I could bet the girl was watching a MOOC! When the session was finished, she happily took the headphones out, minimized the speaker, and went to her Facebook page. She peeped into her moleskine – and her fingers typed a short post. I could not see the words, but I was sure her post had something to do with the MOOC she had watched.

“Hey, what course are you taking?” I smiled and asked the girl.

She looked at me and smiled back. She seemed really glad I had asked her that question. She answered – and her answer carried the air of a genuine passion. Obviously, she liked to talk about the subject she was interested in so much.

So we sat there, sipping our cold drinks (though they were supposed to be hot) and chatting. We spoke about her subject for a while, and then we started sharing our thoughts about MOOCing, about online education, about education in general.

There were two guys at the next table who stopped their conversation and were listening to ours, looking rather sarcastic. I could tell they were neither students, nor artists. And, yeah, it was the lunchtime.

“Girl, wanna study? Go to school, not to the wi-fi café!” one of them half-said, half-barked at last.

She could have ignored him, or, at least, she could have told him to mind his own business. But she acted as an ambassador of education instead.

“Let me tell you one beautiful romantic story,” the girl answered politely. “I met my husband on the Internet. On Facebook, actually. It was about four years ago, and y’know what? I still think he is the best man on earth. And what is even more important, because of that Facebook chat I have the most precious 16-month old son. Right now he is enjoying a walk with his Daddy in the park while I have this wonderful time studying what I love. You want to study? So you can! And yes, I mean YOU. And yes, I mean, YOU CAN. Want me to show you how?”

The men let out some crooked smiles, and said they had to hurry back to work. The girl smiled at me and winked. I smiled back and reached for my phone. Oh boy, I definitely had to start MOOCing right away.

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01 Sagar Aryal_largeby Sagar Aryal

Nepal is still less technologically advanced due to its natural conditions and obstructions. There are high hills and rivers that make it hard to build roadways and train track, so Nepal lacks good transportation options. This results in underdeveloped education systems, health services, and telephone and internet facilities.

Electrical tower in the mountains of Nepal.

Nepal’s Geography

Nepal’s geography is divided into three regions: Himalayan region, mid-hill region and Terai region. The highest point in our country is Mt. Everest (8,848m), while the lowest point is in the Terai plains of Kechana Kalan in Jhapa (60m). Eight of the fourteen 8,000m high mountains lie in the Himalayan regions, including Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world. Many parts of the hilly and Terai regions are covered with high hills and forests.

The road to internet access

Today, the use of internet has become the most important tool for self-development and progress in the country. Many villages of Nepal haven’t even smelled internet facilities. Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, and a few other cities like Pokhara and Palpa, are the exception, but only Biratnagar has good access to internet. A decade ago, there was even less use of internet in Kathmandu as well. There were few ISPs (Internet Service Providers) in the nation, but they are very expensive and the majority of people can’t use it. Nepal is a poor country, and because people need computers and laptops in order to use the internet, it almost impossible for most of the people here to access it. Outside Kathmandu valley, many people don’t know what internet even means.

There are cyber cafes for those who don’t have computer and internet connections in their home. Once cyber cafes grew like a mushroom when using the internet was in fashion in Nepal. At first, rates were very expensive and later it went down little by little.  Although in 2010, less than 30 percent of Nepal's population used the internet, its use is growing rapidly. This is the result of a competitive internet service provider (ISP) market and low internet access prices. Thirty-one private ISPs offer internet access to businesses and consumers, though few, Worldlink, Websurfer and Mercantile, dominate the market with a combined share of more than 70 percent. Some of the internet services provided by different companies are shown in the table below:

Table 1:

Data and Internet Services in Nepal

NTC, NCELL, UTL and different ISP’s provide the internet facility in Nepal. People mostly use the ADSL service given by Nepal Telecom (NTC). The speed of ADSL is 192 kbps to 384 kbps for household users and 512 kbps and 1 mbps for office use. Internet connections are not as good as compared with other countries in terms of speed. Watching online videos and studying online is difficult due to slow internet connections.

Navigating online today

Nowadays, due to internet service provided by telecom companies, use of the internet has come within reach of many people of Nepal. Accessing the internet with mobiles is more common than with computer and laptops. The main reason for this is also the 12 hours of load shedding per day, which doesn’t allow people to use computers. Wireless internet from Wordlink, Broadlink, Subisu and other ISPs has also been boosted recently, allowing us to access internet from our cell phones, tablets and notepads.

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07 Tanuj Kalia_largeby Tanuj Kalia

In a country as big as India, numbers can survey the landscape under study with precision while telling a powerful story on the side. Here you go:


The Moore’s Law

India’s population is nearly 1.3 billion. World’s population is estimated at 7.2 billion. This means 1 in every 6 people is an Indian. Only 16% of India’s population has access to internet. By 2016, 72% of the India’s are expected to have a mobile phone. (A large part of these mobile phones can be expected to be smart phones with internet connectivity). Many pundits argue, that internet penetration in India will skip the desktop/laptop route and move straight to mobile phones. Moore’s law, of course, supports this argument. As more and more Indians begin to take-up MOOCs, the first challenge MOOCs are going to face is that of converting their content, systems and delivery to suit the mobile phone platforms.

Aakash: Reaching for the sky!

As far as ‘real’ internet penetration is concerned, only 1.1 per every 100 residents in India have an access to a fixed broadband service. World over, the figure stands at 9.9 per 100 residents. This places India at rank 122 globally. If things are to remain this way, education in India will suffer. However, the Ministry of Human  Resource Development (MHRD) seems to have plan. The problem with the plan is that it doesn’t seem to work!

Aakash is a tablet computer promoted by the Indian Government with the goal to connect 25,000 colleges and 400 universities via an online learning platform. Datawind, a British-Canadian company is producing Aakash. While the MHRD will buy Aakash for a projected cost of Rs. 2263 ($ 36.5), Indian students will be able to buy the device for Rs. 1130 ($18.3), courtesy of the subsidy provided by the Indian Government. Aakash in Hindi means ‘sky’, an aspirational word in any language.  So far so good!

IIT Rajasthan which tested the first Aakash tablets between August-November 2011 rejected 5790 out of the 6440 devices. The 500 students who were given the Aakash tablets complained of issues like the battery not lasting for the stated 3 hours, slow operations of the device, a touch screen which was not sensitive to touch and the Aakash which got too hot, too easily!

The contract to procure 100,000 tablets was then transferred to IIT Bombay. Now the mandate rests with the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) which is under the Ministry of  the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology. The problems don’t end there.

It is a well established rule of justice that one cannot be a judge in his/her own case. Now, when Aakash was conceived, one Mr. Kabil Sibal was the HRD minister of India. Mr. Sibal is now the Minister of Communications and Information Technology, the same ministry under which C-DAC falls.

The first issue: the impact on the ground

‘Pratham’ in Hindi means ‘first’. It also happens to be the name of the largest NGO in India working in the field of education. It’s tagline says “Every child in school and learning well”. To track their tagline Pratham has been organising a survey called the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). Aser in Hindi means ‘Impact’. These are the findings of the 2013 ASER report:

Good news! Enrollment sat in the 6-14 age group shows that 96% of children are in school.

The bad news! 

  • The percentage of useable toilets for girls is 53.3%.
  • 22.9% of schools in India do not have library.
  • Only 47% of Indian students studying in Grade V can read a Grade II text. 
  • India finds itself on a challenging ground and in a difficult time. 

While the potential of the online education to change the learning landscape in India does exist it has to be backed by a rapid overhaul of a system which lags woefully behind in terms of school infrastructure and performance.

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