Student Stories

03 Sara Rodriguez Arias_largeby Sara Rodríguez Arias

The Lost Generation: a term popularized by Ernest Hemingway during World War I for expatriates born between 1883 and 1900. 

In Europe, but mostly in Italy and Spain, the consequences of the economic recession are becoming very hard on its citizens. This is also the case where I live on the Canary Islands. Young people who have finished their studies and the older population are flying away from our country because it does not offer them jobs and, in case they do offer something, they are not qualified.

The image I designed is a Star because I think that if we stay together, we can change the world. We need a new form of government in Spain and Europe, not what I am reading every day in newspapers. If we really do something in order to change this situation, I think we can be a star and shine like never before.

What road should young people take once they finish their studies?

Working in another country – or in the case that they are lucky enough to work for a business, create their own business or do something related to their career – many are paid a low income and work for many hours. To me, this is like being a slave to the system. This is not only the situation for young people in Spain but also for the older population. The government has reduced the amount of money they give to people who have worked their entire lives. They have even established many “pathetic” laws so that they can be the winners, thanks to the work of citizens. This makes me wonder if there is equality in a world where human rights barely exist. The economic recession Spain is experiencing today started some years ago due to several problems related to bad politics. This financial crisis has led many people to travel abroad in order to find a job, start a new life in a different place than where they were born and most of all, to forget about the problems and the actual situation that Spain and Canary Islands are facing at this moment. 

How were we before the economic recession?

Before the economic recession, we were doing quite well or at least we were better off than we are right now. Young people left their studies in order to work, especially in the sector of construction, building houses and other kind of jobs which do not require studies. Therefore, they became independent at an early age, formed families and had comfortable and classy lives. During this age, we did not have to face many changes related to numerous laws within the spheres of education, pregnancy, security, health etc.  We could live happily without any kind of problem. But the system was not hard enough on its citizens – everybody was spending money, not saving it. 

How do we live in the times of economic recession?

In times of the economic recession, we are living during a disastrous moment. On the one hand, there is the inefficiency of the actual government in Spain. I, as citizen, feel disappointed because many people are living in poverty and in need of charity. For this reason, I try not to read newspapers or watch the news on TV because I feel sad and sometimes bad-tempered. Young people are going abroad and making new lives in other countries. It is very sad that many of them cannot see their families because they live very far away. Some of these citizens come back to Spain to see their dearest family after spending many years abroad. Apart from this, the government is reducing the income of every citizen and often changing the laws.  These laws include: harder exams for young students, increasing the cost of medicine, privatising universities, requiring high marks for university admission and increasing the price of food, clothes and all kind of items that you can imagine. 

How is the situation in Spain seen across the world?

When I ask my friends across Europe how they view Spain, the first thought that comes to their minds is:  "I have read news about Spain in newspapers". However, many of them are not aware of the real situation in Spain since the president of Spain tells the citizens that we are not in the worst of times and, when he meets with presidents from other countries, he says that we are recovering from the economic recession. Both of which are not at all true. In Spain, we were experiencing hard times, we receive help from Europe and, moreover, the government has made a lot of legislative changes. Many of these hard changes have impoverished a part of our country. The situation is so bad that many people are committing suicide because of unpaid debts. And finally, when we were experiencing good times, some people spent their money instead of saving it for a situation like this one. 

Can online learning help increase the chances for getting a good job?

Since education is becoming more expensive due to privatisation, we need a new form of education – one in which all citizens have the same right and access to education. How? Education should be free or subject to a low fee. To me, online learning not only provides me with knowledge about particular subjects I am interested in but it also helps me establish contact with other people across the globe. Normally, those who enrol in online courses are responsible people and want to know more about a particular subject. At the same time, they increase their skills and therefore have better chances finding good jobs. As we are in economic recession, citizens in Spain are studying and being trained in skills they need, but many of them have a low income and cannot afford to pay lots of money in order to get a degree. For this reason, it is important to access or create online learning platforms like: iversity, Coursera, OpenLearning, etc.

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Another successful round of our Ambassador Programme has come to an end. Congratulations to the winners of the iPads and the Amazon vouchers! We at iversity are happy and grateful that so many of you participated, and look forward to meeting you and your friends in our courses.

This time, it took us a while to validate the results. There was a lot more fraud involved than in the first round, but we know all of the tricks and found those who cheated. Our double-checking was for a good cause: You can rest assured that the fair players won.

Ambassador round 2 world map

Ambassador round 2 world map

So here they are: Please welcome iversity’s new Ambassadors!

hüseyinHüseyin Kiliç (23, Turkey): Freshly graduated from the University of Gaziantep, Hüseyin is an Electrics and Electronics Engineer, furthering his knowledge through several courses on iversity. His dream is to work in the German photovoltaics industry – and we wish him good luck with his applications. 


pauloPaulo Santos (39, Portugal): Winning the iPad Mini is certainly work-related in Paulo’s case: He is a web developer who creates mobile apps and has been a passionate online learner since 2012. To share information about great online courses, Paulo created a comprehensive directory of MOOCs from different providers called “MOOC List” in November 2012. He attends Design 101 and Gamification Design on


pramodPramod Kumar Mittal (22, India): Can you believe it? Puducherry, the city where Pramod lives, had strong commercial ties with the Roman empire – they used to exchange goods in the 2nd century BCE. In today’s globalised world, we are used to the exchange of bits and bytes on an everyday basis. The smallest bits of biological information, however, lie in DNA – now guess who’s offering an awesome course about that? Right – it’s iversity! Our DNA course will start on 5 April and Pramod will be part of it.

MazenMazen Fahed (37, Egypt): Mazen’s roots lie in Syria, and his family and friends still live in his war-stricken home country. Due to the collapse of infrastructure, it is currently impossible to get a proper education in Syria. Mazen works as an Electronics Engineer and came to Cairo, Egypt to study and acquire further knowledge in IT-related fields. His interests show an impressive range – if you haven’t met him in the “Future of Storytelling” course, you might come across him in “Monte Carlo Methods of Finance” or “Modelling and Simulation Using MATLAB”.

JamilaJamila Iqbal (27, United Arab Emirates): Jamila is a molecular biologist, originally from Pakistan, with a special interest in DNA and community education. She is an active participant in various MOOCs, has been working as a community teacher assistant at Georgia Institute of Technology, USA, and has volunteered for different aid organisations.


RajasekharRajasekhar Neeli (40, India): As many as 13 universities offer higher education in Hyderabad, Rajasekhar’s place of origin and a metropolis with 7 million inhabitants. He holds a Master’s degree in Microbiology and a PhD in Biotechnology. With this professional background, he helps students by training them for their PhD fellowship entrance exams in all branches of life science.



Sunish Chaudhary (19, India): India is the country where the largest share of iversity’s users reside. No wonder then that Sunish, a student in iversity’s courses on Public Privacy and Web Engineering: Developing Mobile HTML5 Apps, made his way into the Ambassador community by referring plenty of interested friends and colleagues. The self-confessed cricket fan and tech geek is acting with conviction: “I strongly believe in the concept of digitalisation and the wonders that can be achieved through technology and science.” As do we, so there is little left for us to add to Sunish’s statement.

Monica VallinMónica Vallín Blanco (47, Spain): Currently, Monica teaches English at a secondary school in a town near Barcelona. While pursuing her MA on Interactive Digital Communication, she conducted her final project on virtual communities of practice for teachers. You can tell: She’s a MOOC expert and plans to use that knowledge in her PhD thesis about digital learning environments. At iversity, she is enjoying the Design 101 MOOC.


umairUmair Khalid (21, Pakistan): Pakistan is facing the challenge of an energy crisis – and Umair is passionate about helping to solve it. He studies Mechanical Engineering in the Pakistani city of Haripur and plans on doing a Master’s degree in Energy Management. You bet that there are plenty of transferrable skills that he’ll take from the MATLAB MOOC and the course series about Vehicle Dynamics.


So there we are, announcing nine happy winners to you. You’ll want to ask: “Uhm, wait a minute, nine? Wasn’t it supposed to be ten?”. You’re right, but one Ambassador kindly asked us not to disclose any information about him. Of course, we respect that, but we can tell you this much: He is from Spain.

The ten Ambassadors who won this time may give you a little hint about the multitude of interesting people that open the same weekly course chapters as you do. Your fellow students come from almost every country in the world. Despite differences in culture, age, educational and professional backgrounds and so forth, you are a part of a global community of online learners. Together, you are taking higher education into the digital age!

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10 Johnn Four_largeby Johnn Four

I’m going to tell you now the easiest and best way I’ve found, after tons of research and experimentation, how to get what you want. It’s funny how making things simple gets you better results. The trick is in the simplification – the essence of good lifestyle design. But what seems obvious takes a lot of work to figure out. So it has been for me when doing my annual planning. I have tried many goal setting programs. Many were complex and involved multiple iterations, gap analysis, weekly schedules and thorough planning.


But as Mike Tyson said, we all have a plan until we get punched in the face. Every year life throws punches at us. And those detailed plans are the first things that break and get discarded. I can’t think of any of those complex plans working out for a single year, much less a lifetime. So, here’s how I plan things now to get what I want. Use this simple system yourself to create a massively successful 2014.

  • Step 1: Figure out what you want.
  • Step 2: Write down how you’ll get it.
  • Step 3: Take action.

That’s it. Deceptively simple. But no spreadsheets involved. And when you get punched, do the steps again and be flexible.

What Do You Want?

I stopped making goals. You can make SMART goals, but even those just wasted my time. Instead, I think about results. What results do I want? I start from there and work backward.  For my 2014 planning, I pictured myself on Dec 31, 2014 and made a list of all the results I will have achieved this year. The stuff I’ve accomplished, big and small. Step 1 done.

How You’ll Get It

Now it gets interesting. Focus gets you bigger results faster. So I only have one big project as a top priority at a time. Any free time that pops up I immediately look at what I can work on to carry the ball forward a yard on my Big Project. 60 minutes, 15, even 5 => I do something that makes a little bit of progress. Every day.

Then I have two Backup Projects in case I get blocked (waiting for something) on my Big Project or if I want a break. I write down just the steps I need to take to finish the Big Project and two Backup Projects. All the other items on my results wishlist get benched. I’ll pull from the bench when a project slot opens up. This saves a lot of time and keeps things simple. I like simple. It keeps my head on straight.

But what happens when you get stumped on your project recipe? What if you get to a part where you don’t know what to do or how you’ll do it? Aha! This becomes a Learning Goal. I target my googling, reading and course purchases on what I need to know to bring my projects to fruition. Step 2 done.

Take Action

This is where most of us fail. We lose motivation. We get distracted. We quit from pain of The Grind. Solution: for long journeys of thousands of steps, focus on taking just the next step. Keep your head down. Take the next step. When writing a large book, for example, I only focus on stepping up to the keyboard that day and getting 2,000 words down. I don’t care about word #100,000. I only care about the 2,000 next ones. And I’m happy.

I hope you take a few minutes today to make a list of results you want in 2014. That’s a good next step. Here’s to an awesome 2014!

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09 Francisco Manuel da Costa_largeby Francisco da Costa

Today we can surf around the world without a boat, but with a mouse. No more dressed as a sailor but in our living room with pajamas, and virtually with Google Translate, we can translate almost all languages and words and become polyglots. But, during the first period of globalization, the Portuguese language was the main vehicle of communication for voyagers, discovers, traders and sailors in many parts of the world. For instance, the Portuguese were the first to translate Japanese to a western language. By the way, Portuguese had a great influence on the Japanese language.

First, there was the ocean space to trade and communicate, now there is the cyber-space. Today, Portuguese is the 5th most spoken language on the internet and the 3rd on Facebook and Twitter. It is the official language in two of the BRICS Countries: Brazil and China-Macao (a former Portuguese territory until 1999).

In China, Portuguese is very trendy

Portugue?s e? a li?ngua da moda e do emprego na China. Within five years there will be over 5,000 college students learning Portuguese in China. Some Chinese universities have the second highest scores of entry in Portuguese studies. The University of Macao, the City University of Macao, (both are offering e-learning courses in Portuguese) the Macao Polytechnic Institute and the Portuguese Institute of the Orient have worked together to promote Portuguese language in China.

Portuguese e-learning made by Russia

In Moscow, a successful startup e-learning provider that focuses on the BRICS markets, is teaching business courses (in e-learning) in Portuguese for a  Brazilian audience. Under this Russian startup, tens of thousands of registered users were attracted to its courses and 80 percent of them were from Brazil and India.

The explosion of e-learning in Brazil

Brazil is living a terrific moment of explosion in Distance Education. According ABED, in 2011, about 3.5 million students enrolled in Distance Education courses in Brazil. This represents an increase of 58% from the previous year. More and more Brazilian universities are using e-learning technologies, more and more Brazilian students are doing Distance Education inside the country and abroad, and taking MOOCs. An American consultant from a very well known e-learning platform says that, since 2011, his business has increased in Brazil 300%.

Portuguese heritage in India and South Africa

Part of India (Goa) was a Portuguese territory until 1961. In India, Portugal assists with the growing demand to learn Portuguese. At this level, Camo?es Institute in India plays a main role in promoting e-learning courses. South Africa is a country with the largest and oldest Distance Learning University in Africa, UNISA (University of South Africa) located in Pretoria. Founded in 1873, it started to offer distance Education in 1946. This University has more than 300,000 students from around the world and stated to offer distance learning in many fields of study, from Bachelor degree, to Master’s and PhD. This university offers Portuguese language and culture courses. Fernando Pessoa, one of the greatest poets in the Portuguese language, lived for a long period in South Africa and he wrote: “MINHA PATRIA E? MINHA LINGUA” (“My homeland is my language”). 

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07 Tanuj Kalia_large

by Tanuj Kalia

The Indian government has collected 15 petabytes of identity-related information about its citizens. Intricate issues like this are further scrutinized in iversity’s Public Privacy course.

The Mammoth

India’s population stands at 1.2 billion people; US is at 313 million; France at 65 million. India is nearly 4 times as big as the USA and nearly 20 times as big as France. Managing so many people has its challenges.  Let’s suppose that one of the goals of the Indian government is to speed up financial inclusion and have bank accounts for all eligible Indians. To avail any social security benefits like a bank account (or other things like a driving license, a mobile SIM etc.), something termed as KYC (know your customer) information proofs have to be provided. 

The bare minimum KYC is: an ID proof, an age proof and a proof of residence. About 80% (1 billion) Indians do not have the documents to adhere to the minimum KYC. They cannot get a bank account!  In our example, the goal of the Indian government lies unfulfilled. 

Leapfrog for a Mammoth 

“Aadhaar project is […]using modern technology to leapfrog”, said Nilekani in an interview to India’s leading daily the Times of India. What is Aadhaar? And who is Nilekani? Nandan Nilekani, now 58, is an IIT Mumbai alumnus and was the co-founder of Infosys and its CEO from 2002 to 2007. He’s has been chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) since it’s conceptualization in 2009. The UIDAI has been formed with a vision to assign every Indian a Unique Identity Number or an Aadhaar number. 

Aadhaar means Cornerstone. The Aadhaar number is verifiable online because it is linked to a person’s basic biometric information: a photograph, fingerprints and both irises. The Government of India has been conducting this huge exercise, giving Indians their Aadhaar numbers, with Aadhaar kiosks set-up all across India. To use the Aadhaar Number, the physical presence of the person is not required. How about voting using your mobile phone? Or availing social security benefits from anywhere? Banking facilities for all Indians? Suddenly, Aadhaar looks like a game changer. 

Mammoth Surveillance?

One of the ways in which the Aadhaar number can be used is to help India with ‘national security’. Will it lead to excessive state surveillance? This fear is further aggravated by the fact that India does not have any law which deals with data protection or data privacy. The Information Technology law in India is still developing.

Furthermore, the UID data, in the hands of a dictatorial or an anti-secular governmental regime can turn data into a large resource to target certain members/groups. Also, though the UID scheme is ‘voluntary’, at least on paper, many Indians, both educated and uneducated, are being ‘goaded’ into getting an Aadhaar Card for themselves through wide-spread rumours. One rumor was: You can’t get a Gas connection/LPG cylinder unless you have an Aadhaar card. Thankfully a Supreme Court decision clarified on this issue.

Critical and Critical Mass

Edward Snowden’s exposure of surveillance done by the USA and UK is a good enough warning for the rest of the world to not trust their private information with the State. Since the start of the program in 2009, nearly half of the Indians (600 million people) have been issued Aadhaar cards! The project has reached critical mass! For Aadhaar to succeed in India, for the mammoth to leapfrog and not trample many a good samaritan, it will have to find the right mixture of technologically and legally empowered data security.

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