Student Stories

by Johnn Four

Our brains and culture are hard-wired for storytelling. It helps us communicate easier, remember more and fit in better. However, as The Future of Storytelling course explains, great storytelling is a skill set. That’s good news for people like you and me, because it means we can get better at telling stories with just a little study and practice. 


Think of all the ways we tell stories today. From books to movies to games. But this type of communication goes deeper than that. It’s personal. Telling stories about your day with friends over dinner, for example, is fun and makes you likeable. And one of the easiest ways to introduce yourself to people and make new friends is to tell a great story.  At work and school, you can use stories to get your point across better. Sometimes it’s hard getting a word in edgewise with an active group. But watch everyone quiet down, focus in and listen when you launch a good story. If you write or blog or even draw, good understanding of stories will add new depth to your work. Story adds a new layer of interpretation, or another signal, for your audience to delve into and reflect upon.

Today, good storytellers are rewarded in many ways for their skills. And the Future Of Storytelling provides an excellent study on the background mechanics you need to understand to become a good storyteller. The first week alone reveals all the Lego blocks of stories, arming you with the essential pieces you can assemble to craft your own telling tales.  But study only takes you so far. You need to get out there and tell some stories!  And again, if you’re like me, even with the storytelling class under your belt, it’s nerve-wracking. That moment when you capture everyone’s attention and you’re committed…. You hope the story isn’t lame. You hope you deliver it well. You hope they like it. It’s a scary moment as a newbie storyteller.

So today I have a few quick tips for you to make your first stories easier and more comfortable. I’ll let The Future of Storytelling course make you a master. I just want to help you get started using your fledgling skills.

1. Start With A Verbal Story To A Friend

You have so many mediums to choose from for telling your stories. You can write an email. Pen a short story. Type an epic post on Facebook. Open a Google Hangout. Create a slideshow. But the best way to dive into storytelling is with a friend, in person, face to face. This is a nice, fast and safe place to start, because your friend wants you to succeed.

You also get real-time feedback this way. Who knows how the email recipient reacts? Or how the YouTube audience feels? But with your friend, you can watch their face, read their body language, watch their reactions as your story unfolds. This gives you early and essential feedback on whether the story payoff was satisfying, if your pacing was good and if you had a good hold of your audience. You can also ask your friend for their honest opinion about what they thought of the story and your delivery. What better, faster way to improve than that?

2. Start With A Joke

Growing up I used to tell a lot of dumb jokes. I didn’t even understand most of the adult concepts layered into the anecdotes. I just liked the way they made people laugh. Well, you can use jokes as a fun way to practice storytelling, something my younger self seemed to intuit. And I’m not talking one-liners or Knock Knock jokes here. Google for jokes that take about 10 seconds to tell. Memorize them and then unleash them.

The building blocks of good stories are all there in a good joke. The hook, hold and especially, the payoff. You’ll learn great pacing from jokes. You’ll learn the proper story sequence too (try starting with the punchline and see how well the joke works). Because jokes are short and simple, they are great for budding storytellers. Build a repertoire of five or so great jokes and you will have a wonderful icebreaker or mood-changer in your back pocket for the rest of your life.

3. Tell The Same Story Several Times

Storytelling is a skill. You need to practice to get better. However, what might not be obvious is you need to practice the stories themselves, too, until they are great. A standup comic never launches a new act in front of a huge audience. They never try jokes for the first time on TV. Instead, they start in bars and clubs and stay at that level for a while. They perform their set over and over, getting real-time audience feedback, and making changes to their content and delivery until their act is perfect. Then they hit the big, televised events. You should do the same thing. Tell your story. Then think how it could be better next time and make tweaks. Tell it again. And again. In this way, you master each story and you build a library of stories to pluck from for any occasion over time.

Most important, with repetition you experience how a story can change and improve. Great stories are just partly about the content. Storytelling mastery comes also from your understanding and skills with all the building blocks that make up a story. As you re-tell a story, you can see these parts and how they work and interact. It’s a little bit like the movie The Matrix, when Neo can see through reality into the green streaming computer code of the simulation. You too can see to this depth in stories with practice on your path to becoming a great storyteller. And the feeling of telling a familiar, well-practiced, perfected story is amazing.

4. Make The Story About Yourself

Start with stories about yourself so you begin with familiar territory. This helps you concentrate on the other pieces of delivering the story because you won’t have to memorize or create something new. You’ve already experienced and internalized the content of the story. You now just need to work on the key parts of it, as outlined in the course. For example, think about something interesting that happened this week at work or school. Then recount the events of that situation in the order they happened. Then work on a good Hook, Hold and Payoff, and flesh out the characters a bit. Now you have the makings of a good story, but you won’t have to work hard to remember all the details as you tell it – you’ve already lived them.

5. Focus On The Payoff

Stories contain an amazing number of components. This overwhelms beginner storytellers. So, my solution is to focus first on the Payoff, or end of the story. The end of a story is what leaves the biggest and longest impression in your audience. You can fumble the beginning and middle of a story, its characters and conflicts, and all its other pieces. But if you nail the ending – the Payoff – you finish on a high note. And that emotion is what your audience will take away and remember you and your story by. Now, you will need to practice and eventually get all the components working well for your stories. But to cut through the confusion and trepidation of telling your first story, narrow your efforts down to giving your story a great ending. This approach will build your confidence faster, as well.

* * *

Regardless of what kind of stories you tell and what medium you use, practice is the only thing that will make your stories great over time. Use these tips to try telling your first few stories so you become comfortable as a practicing storyteller. Grab a couple of great jokes, land the punchlines well, and think about events as they happen in your life that will make great grist for your next story.

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05 Nadiyka Gerbish_large

by Nadiyka Gerbish

These are the days when a huge revolution is evolving in Ukraine – the country I love, I live in, and work as a writer and college teacher. My fellow Ukrainians are fighting for our freedom, for our rights, and our future. A vast majority of them wants to be part of the European Union, being much more than just an institution. Europe holds a lot of promises for us: to live in a brotherhood of equal nations that don’t fight against each other but cooperate instead, to enjoy the freedom to express ourselves, to travel freely and get education in other European countries, and so much more. Evidently, there is a rocky road ahead of us and the to-do list is indefinitely long. But we are willing to take this road and check the empty boxes next to the urgent tasks.

Maidan square with the famous Christmas tree covered with posters and flags, photo: Volodymyr Shemiakin

Revolution from within

I am convinced that the real revolution always begins somewhere deep in your heart. Its seed is so tiny at the beginning, but it keeps growing and changes everything: your mindset, your habits, your desires, your lifestyle, and then the world around you. No matter how unimportant and little the seed inside of you may seem, there is always something you can do with it – and for it. You always have something to contribute. Your talents, your money, your experience, your wisdom – or the lack of them.

I know what it’s like to be a part of the revolution. It was there nine years ago when we first fought against manipulated elections – a movement that would lead to the so-called “Orange Revolution”. We were fighting hard and with peaceful means, and we won!

Back then, I was a bold teenager, standing on the barricades among the orange flags and thousands of smiling people. And now, being an expectant mother in her third trimester, and living in a sweet pocked-sized town in the middle of nowhere (actually, in the provincial area of Western Ukraine), I still believe there are a lot of things I can do for my country. Fervent prayers, packages with warm scarves and socks sent to the revolution activists in our capital Kyiv, sharing information, writing letters, signing petitions, and everyday caring for my small family at home – just to name a few.

I have always wanted to be a better storyteller. I have always longed to communicate truly meaningful stories to my children, to my students at college, to people who read my books and see my photographs. I have always dreamed of telling the better story with my life. Of, actually, living out the best possible story God has designed for me.  

And for that reason, I know, I must use even the slightest chance, even the smallest opportunity to do something. When you look at it in this perspective, you understand why even the little parcel with medicine and a warm scarf sent from your home counts.

Online learning for change

iversity’s online courses have become one of these small, but really important chances for me. They help me to use my time wisely (one more brick to the wall of telling the meaningful story: a tutorial video on a daily basis instead of sitcom, what do you think?), to get the knowledge I need (right now I am taking the Future of Storytelling course), and still be present for my small family – and my big country – any time they need me. Soon, a course about the European Union in Global Governance will start. I will be part of it and I know that many people from Ukraine and beyond share my passion!

Actually, online studies are one of these precious seeds that start a real change in the world – a REVOLUTION. And I, certainly, do not want to miss out. Because there is always a better story to live in.

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01 Sagar Aryal_largeby Sagar Aryal

It’s me, Sagar Aryal from Nepal, one of the Ambassadors of iversity. Today I want to share what I did to become an Ambassador and how I enrolled a maximum of people so that it will encourage all the people participating in the second round of the Ambassador Programme. But first of all, I indeed want to acknowledge the iversity team for providing this opportunity where people can acquire and explore different fields of study for free.

I am one of the students of microbiology. The first time I saw iversity was on Facebook, when someone posted the link of “DNA – From Structure to Therapy”. I joined the course and similarly saw the link “Be an Ambassador!”. Then I thought: “Lets begin the campaign to enrol more and more students in this course.” I was already crazy about my microbiology field so it was pretty easy for me to send the information of this online course within my circle. I was already on about 200+ groups on Facebook which are all related to microbiology. First time I saw the Ambassador Programme was in the first week of October, with a deadline on 31 October. I forwarded on almost all the groups, keeping a gap of three to four days between my posts. I also made three or four banners with eye-catching pictures so that people become more attracted towards the course (see below).

I posted the Ambassador link in my LinkedIn and Twitter account, too. I have some Facebook pages related to microbiology where I also posted about this course and the result was worth it. I run a few websites (which is one of my passions) and placed the banners on two of them which have large attendances.

Finally, the deadline came and I was wondering and curious about how much others had enrolled. The result was planned to be published on mid-November. Although the deadline had already passed, I didn’t stop posting about the courses for a simple reason: If more people enrol, there will be more involvement of people, more activity and more group discussions during the course.

Then I contacted other people who had also applied for this program. I meet a few persons like Sara, Syed and Ayush and talked to them about iversity. I really became very good friends with them, especially with Sara. Later, Sara and I also ran one blog of Arts and Architecture. We both were desperately waiting for the result to be out. We finally waited until 13 November when we got the mail saying “Congratulations, You’re an iversity Ambassador now!”. Then I was very excited, jumpy, and joyful to hear that I was one of the Ambassadors. Then I messaged Sara to check her mail, and became even happier to know that she also became an Ambassador.

Then onwards, all of us Ambassadors are thinking to make iversity more successful and even better.


Sagar Aryal

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“God bless you!” or just a simple “Thanks ;-)”. This is just a taste of the overwhelming reactions that have been pouring in since the launch of our platform on Tuesday 15 October. Almost without exception, they express delight and gratefulness about iversity’s course offerings. We want to say: Thank you for your great support! We will keep working hard to make your MOOC experience even better.

Your feedback shows us that our platform is truly global. Your messages come from every corner of the world, from Kenya, New Zealand, Japan, to Kazakhstan, regions quite far away from Berlin, where iversity is located. So what’s all the talk about? Here’s a little selection of our users’ reactions:

Signed up for the Contemporary Architecture Course, I am already considering register for Design 101. Grateful for the opportunity, I am wonder-struck that you made it sound. Best compliments for the idea, work, and attainment, iversity team. 

– Monica from Sweden

I really love u so so much, and I like your program, I think God will bless US. 

– Mercy from Kongo

thank you, iversity, for making me one of your students, i'm very proud. 

– David from Georgia

Hey, guys! Greetings from Brazil. Just started Contemporary Architecture, and it seems amazing! Can’t wait to finish the first chapter. Thank you guys for the opportunity and for the great job! 

– Ricardo from Brazil

Congrats for starting such fine courses. Hope to enjoy the fun learning together along the knowledge/wisdom path. Thanks again and best of Luck! 

– Praveen from India

Congratulations iversity! Woohoo! :)) 

– Mark from Venezuela

This is a noble idea. 

– Anayochi from Nigeria

I would like to congratulate you and iversity Team for the quality of material and the approach of its contents. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. 

– Juliane

Please keep on sharing your thoughts about on our blog and on our Facebook page. Broadcast your excitement about iversity’s MOOCs to the world! And don’t forget: We are all part of this exciting movement that is about to become huge – to make higher education available to anyone, everywhere!

Your iversity team

P.S.: We have also received plenty of questions about technical issues and support. It is very important to us that you have a smooth MOOC experience, so we will try our best to answer your questions as soon as possible. We kindly ask for you patience if you do not receive a quick response, and invite you to check out our FAQ. Most questions occur frequently, so it is very likely that you’ll find your answer there.

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Students Highly Satisfied With MOOCS They Attended

As many as 80% of the students who attended an online course agreed that they “enjoyed participating”. In a survey conducted by Scientific American, it turned out that the percentage of interviewees who would like to take an online course again is even higher.

The reasons why people attend online courses vary greatly (see image below). Only six percent said that they need it as a part of their university courses. The survey revealed that most students take online courses out of personal curiosity and not because they were obligated to do so. This is a little surprising considering that these MOOCs are free of charge, compared with the high university tuition fees, especially in the US.

Source: Scientific American

Open Online Courses provide great opportunities for scholars who want to broaden the scope of their studies with great interactive resources. MOOCs are also great for people who just want to ‘dip in’ and discover new fields of interest. In a nutshell: Among other reasons, MOOCs have become so popular because they are highly versatile and suit many different types of learners.

What type of MOOC student are you? iversity offers a multitude of free, university-level online courses. Find out by choosing your favorites in our course catalogue!

Go to courses

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