Rethinking Online Education

“Europe needs to catch up on building web talent that suits market needs. Our study shows that due to their reach and their wide acceptance, MOOCs are likely to become the first choice in delivering web skills to European learners. I call on universities and other education providers to incorporate MOOCs into their offerings.” – EU Commissioner, Neelie Kroes

When MOOCs first hit the scene back in 2011, it was soon clear that they had a global reach and demand. For the first time, online university-level courses were free and accessible and people wanted it. Access to education is great on its own, no doubt about it, but now we are starting to see that MOOCs can also be an answer for other needs: developing skills that are in demand on the labour market. The recent EU study agrees. Web skills are in high demand in Europe and MOOCs can help fill the gap.

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The European call for Web Skills

In order to foster web talent in Europe, the European Commission launched an initiative and network called “Startup Europe”. The study they recently released focused on MOOCs as a channel to encourage web skill development. Here are a few of the key findings:

  • MOOCs are considered to be the most suitable medium for building web-skills.
  • The online learners chimed in with their feedback: it should be easier to find the courses you’re searching for.
  • The web industry demands skills that include audio/video authoring, game design and animation, as well as iOS, Android and HTML5.
  • Respondents from the academic field regard MOOCs as “techno-pedagogic laboratories” and use them to improve their methods of online teaching through the vast learning data that they are able to offer.
  • Educational providers, however, also stressed that they need more resources in order to develop and deliver MOOCs, and are concerned with the cost, quality assurance and institutional culture that come along with MOOCs.

The study opens the door and provides direction for the EU initiative to foster web skills through MOOCs. The next move the EU Commission is making on the issue is the “MOOCs for Web Talent” webinar on 3 July. There will also be several MOOC workshops and events in the coming months and you are invited to participate. All of the EU Commission’s steps that have come out of the study will be presented at the Slush 2014 conference in Helsinki.

Find a course that develops skills you can use

iversity stands behind the study and the initiative to develop web skills. As part of our course offerings, the Web-Engineering course trilogy joins the cause. Web-Engineering III starts 26 May, and if you missed courses I and II, they will be offered again in the future. Keep an eye on the course catalogue, even more course are on the way!

Established companies, but also startups are looking for people with web-related talent. iversity is one of the latter (check our job ads if you want to work with us). Those of you who dream of founding a startup themselves will find out quickly: nowadays, there is hardly any way around needing in-depth knowledge about programming, web design, game design, and a lot more. But it also takes business skills. Now guess who’s offering them? You’re right: it’s iversity. On 28 June, the course “The DO School Start-Up Lab” will begin, giving insight on how to found and maintain a startup company with social relevance.

Europe has to make a move in order to overcome the “crisis” narrative that it’s been caught in for the last half decade. Now the EU supports MOOCs to foster web talent and create jobs. This may be a start to open new perspectives to a lot of people in Europe and beyond.

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P.S. Sunday 25 May is election day throughout Europe. If you’re a European: Seize the chance and cast your vote!

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01 Sagar Aryal_large

by Sagar Aryal

Nepal’s education structure is fairly backward when compared to other countries, although it started its outward growth back in the 1960s. In context of our country, the highest level of education people feel secure with for jobs is considered a Master’s degree, even though people often don’t get the job and salary they expect with respect to their level of study and field of study.

Let’s take myself as an example. I am currently working on my Master’s degree in microbiology but scope of microbiology is much smaller in our country. My seniors are roaming here and there for the specific job of our research-based subject but due to corruption, lack of finance, assistance and manpower, we are unable to conduct any research in our country. We are forced to teach to school-level students after completing our Master’s degree (Graduate Level). After completing my Master’s degree next year, I am also planning to go abroad for my further study (i.e. Ph.D). I am forced to go abroad since there are not many Ph.D study opportunities in our country.

In search of education abroad

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Around 0.6 million students pass the exam of HSEB (Grade XII / 10+2) every year. There is a trend of going abroad to countries like USA, UK, Australia, India and other European countries after studying 10+2 for further study. According to the latest data, around 40-50% of students go to a foreign country. India is the top destination due to its proximity to Nepal, similar culture and affordable tuition fees, and is then followed by UK, Australia and the USA. A world-class education system with strong government monitoring, makes India a popular destination for Nepali students pursuing higher education. According to Neeta Yogi, coordinator of Global Education Counselling Centre, which has been managing the 7th Global Career Boutique 2013, most of the students going to India prefer Engineering and IT followed by Management and Nursing. Due to low or no tuition fees, Nepalese students can earn money while studying, too. Students seeking an MBBS degree go to China, Bangladesh and Philippines. In the fiscal year 2012/13, 8,920 students went to USA according to a report ‘Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange’. In the latest year, 2013, European countries like Finland, Norway, Germany, Cyprus and Denmark have become better options for Nepalese students.

What I have been led to ask myself is that among those thousands of students going abroad every year, do we have even a few hundred coming back to our country when they finish their studies? The straightforward answer at this moment is, “No”, according to a few dozen Nepali students abroad. Still, a positive aspect is that many of them may be willing to return to Nepal if the political situation of the country gets better. But, they don’t generally do so unless they find that there is a safe working environment in the country, or at least, the end of political turmoil. Most of students who have gone to the USA don’t come back to Nepal due to the easy and modern lifestyle, while the majority who have gone to India return to Nepal after their study.

Going online in Nepal

A few number of students take online courses from Nepal as well. But due to high tuition fees for online studies with academic degree and credits in the USA and UK, most of the people don’t. Many of
the students take free online courses offered by organization like iversity, edX and Coursera. The most renowned and nearly the only college for Distance Education and Online Studies in Nepal is ICA (International Center for Academics), which was established in 1997 and became the first Partner Institution (PI) of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in Nepal. It is also the only educational institution from Nepal to become the member of the Asian Association of Open Universities. It has been providing internationally acclaimed degrees through the ODL Mode of education in Nepal. ICA presently offers 44 different Academic, Value Added and Awareness programs through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) mode in Management, Humanities & Social Science, Tourism, Computer Science, Journalism and Mass Communication, Education, Rural Development, Health Science, Social Work, Gender and Development Studies, Extension and Development Studies, Continuing Education etc.

In the latest years, Kathmandu University School of Management established the Virtual Classroom. This provides notes and assignments to the students who can directly and easily access the information with the help of internet.

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It’s time we left Europe to meet one of the most influential figures in Chinese history and culture. This week in our series Great Educators in History we introduce you to Confucius – a great teacher who not only inspired a philosophy that endures today but established an entire way of life.

The Early Life of Confucius

The early life of Confucius is layered in legends and differing opinions. We can roughly place him inside ancient Chinese state of Lu and trace his life between 551-479 BCE. His biography is documented in three different historical records: the Analects, the Zuozhuan and the Mengzi. The Analects focus on his life as morally driven through struggle and poverty. The Zuozhuan records frame Confucius as a hero fighting for good of the Lu state. The Mengzi paints him into the life of politics seeking rewards and a powerful place in office. Perhaps all of these perspectives have a bit of truth to them, but it is clear enough that Confucius’ teaching and life have lives of their own and there is certainly a reason why he became legendary.

Confucian teachings1024px-Konfuzius-1770 (1)

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”

Confucius was a philosopher, teacher and politician, and believed in the values of self-discipline, humility and compassion. The three main ethical concepts from Confucian teaching are ren, jian ai and li. Ren promotes acts of altruism, and more or less translates to “compassion” and caring for others outside of yourself. Along similar lines, jian ai means “universal love” – or love for everyone without partiality. This stresses that you should be fair to all those around you, but rather than being a selfless act, it is grounded in the idea that jian ai will pay off for you in the long run. Li is embodied in the act of self-restraint, including reverence for tradition, ritual and social etiquette.

Confucian political philosophy guides political institutions and leaders. Two central concepts are zhengming and de. Zhengming was a solution for creating social order through proper and fitting titles, definitions, names and social behaviours. This way, from aristocrats to farmers, people would know their role in society and understand social reality. De refers to “virtue” or moral character. Rulers should rule by virtue, often enacted through rituals. It is through rituals, for example, as well as through general conduct, that a ruler maintains integrity, honour and respect. This virtue is meant to offset greed, selfishness or carelessness, and maintain a strong and humane society.

The most widely known example of Confucian-based educational philosophy this is the “Six Arts” — ritual, music, archery, chariot-riding, calligraphy and mathematics. The Six Arts were meant to build a balanced and strong individual, training them in the fine arts (calligraphy, music), combat (archery, chariot-riding), mathematics and civic duties (ritual). A person who masters the Six Arts is considered to be the perfect member of society. Again, the Six Arts embody the Confucian values of ritual, self-discipline and social etiquette, but on the most basic level, it reflects the Confucian belief that education can foster strong leaders, societies and individuals.

Finding Confucius today

Setting aside the true life and education of Confucius, the influence of his teachings is clear. Upon his death, it is claimed that he felt as if he had failed to make an impact or receive support, however imperial China would come to adopt Confucianism as its core philosophy. Confucius would become the most influential teacher in Chinese history and inseparable from the culture and thought of China today. Having been translated and shared over the last 400 years, Confucian ideas are known and continue to be studied worldwide. One good example of how his teachings cross both time and place is “the Golden Rule”. In line with his value of ren, according to Confucius this means: What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others. The same rule can be found in religious Hindu, Islamic and Christian texts, as well as in ancient Roman and Egyptian discourse. Therefore, perhaps it is safe to say that Confucius can be viewed not only as a central figure in China but amongst the greatest educators in world history.

Resources

  • Confucius. [Internet]. 2014. The Biography.com website. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/confucius-9254926 [Accessed 15 Apr 2014].
  • Legge, James. 1909. The Chinese Classics. Available from: https://archive.org/details/lifeteachingsofc00leggrich [Accessed 20 Apr 2014].
  • Littlejohn, Ronnie. 2010. Confucianism: An Introduction. IB Tauris.
  • Riegel, Jeffrey. “Confucius”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). Available from: http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/confucius/ [Accessed 18 Apr 2014].

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07 Tanuj Kalia_largeby Tanuj Kalia

Writing about Rabindranath Tagore is like writing an introductory note to a vast subject, say science. How do you begin, what do you write and how do you do justice to the length, breadth, height and the charm?

Defining TagoreRabindranath Tagore

Wikipedia doesn’t help. It puts Tagore’s ‘occupations’ as “Poet, short story writer, song composer, novelist, playwright, essayist, painter.” It still leaves out the “educator” bit. You can’t blame the wonderful Encyclopedia. Even the university that he founded (the Visva Bharati University) says on its website: Rabindranath Tagore’s role in the innovation of educational ideas has been eclipsed by his fame as a poet. Yes, Tagore is the 1913 Nobel laureate (he won the Nobel Prize for Literature) for his collection of poems, ‘Gitanjali’, but his impact on the education scenery in India is just as noteworthy.

I don’t want to go to school!

Tagore was born on May 7, 1861 into an influential family and avoided both school and college. He found schooling boring and unproductive. However, as a child he was a voracious reader and a precocious poet. He later became an exponent of Renaissance in India. He gave India its National anthem, Jana Gana Mana. He gave Bangladesh its National Anthem, Amar Shonar Bangla. He gave Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi the title of ‘Mahatama Gandhi’.

Shantiniketan, Nature and Art

Shantiniketan is located in West Bengal (India) and means ‘a place of peace’; Shanti means ‘peace’ and Niketan means a ‘house’ or an ‘abode’. Tagore started a “school of his ideals” in Shantiniketan where learning would be done in a natural environment, without any rote learning, with joy, with wonder. Children were to learn from nature, by developing a sense of appreciation for plants and animals, for seasonal changes etc. Tagore emphasised a lot on the ‘arts’: music, literature, dance and drama. Today, another great educator (and popular TEDster) Kevin Robinson too voices similar opinions.

The ‘Global Village’ University

After Tagore won the Nobel Prize the school was converted into a university and renamed as the Visva-Bharati University. He envisioned his institution to be a melting pot of various cultures. “[…] I have attempted to create an atmosphere of naturalness in our relationship with strangers, and the spirit of hospitality which is the first virtue in men that made civilization possible.” [Ref. here] He invited artists, poets and educators from India and from other countries to stay at Shantiniketan and share their ideas and cultures with his students. The university thus became a global village, a wonderful experiment with a revolutionary potential.

Where the Mind is Without Fear

One of Tagore’s most famous poems is ‘Where the Mind is Without Fear’. It finds a place in most English literature text-books (Grades 6-9) in India. It gives you a glimpse of his powerful poetry, his ideas on education, and his vision for the nation. Here you go:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

And finally, you might be wondering how it was like growing up in Tagore’s School. Read a student’s experience here.

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Europe needs a stronger web-skilled workforce and the European Commission is taking action. With the new initiative “Startup Europe”, they have an answer. And guess what? iversity is a part of it and you can be too. They want to use MOOCs to cultivate web skills in Europe and they want your feedback.

MOOCs and the “Startup Europe” network

Coordinated by P.A.U. Education and in partnership with iversity, the European Commission Directorate General for Communication Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) put together the “Startup Europe” network in order to connect web entrepreneurs, educational institutions, MOOCs providers and online learners. By seizing the possibilities of online education, more people can learn the web skills that the job market needs. Those who join the network can then share experiences and best practices, expand their network base, stay on top of the latest news and perhaps participate in a conference held later in the year. There is also a discussion group that can be found on the European Commission’s portal Open Education Europe.

Help out by giving your feedback!
 

To help improve the quality and focus of the initiative, they need your input. With just 5 minutes of your time, you can give them the feedback they need. The survey is available in English, French, Spanish and German and can be found here. Make online learning better and be a part of a great educational cause in Europe – one that creates more jobs!

The call for web skills is also an opportunity for you. Take the Commission’s advice and enrol in a MOOC! These skills are in demand and can help you find a secure career. If you are interested in building your web skills, check our our course Web Engineering II. The course Web Engineering I already passed and this one has already begun, but as always, keep an eye out for more great courses in the future!

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