Rethinking Online Education

Interested in the European Union? Planning to enrol in the European Union in Global Governance course in April? Well, just in case you do, we want to take a moment and showcase the upcoming EU Studies Fair as well as the upcoming EU in Global Governance course.

The EU Studies Fair 2014

Here’s a chance to take your network and learnings further. Join 40 leading universities, a list of prestigious exhibitors and even iversity’s own Managing Director, Hannes Klöpper, 7-8 February 2014, at the EU Studies Fair in Brussels. Topics range from EU studies, international studies, business and law! Learn more about the Fair on their website and register here. You can also like them on Facebook and stay up-to-date on new information.

EU in Global Governance course

Also, Prof. Dr. Jan Wouters, Prof. Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou, Prof. Marise Cremona, Prof. Dr. Christoph Herrmann and Dr. Joris Larik start their course on the EU in Global Governance this April. As one of the largest political and economic bodies in the world, discover and discuss the workings, challenges and strategies of EU foreign policy, external relationship management and law. What is in store for the EU? What challenges still need to be overcome? What can we learn about the world’s biggest global powers? Join in and find out!

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09 Francisco Manuel da Costa_largeby Francisco Manuel da Costa

That’s the question? If Shakespeare was alive, he would certainly ask: To MOOC or not to MOOC? And he would be available and motivated to take a MOOC. His mind and creativity would be excited to create new words in English, such as: MOOCee and MOOCer.

Video by Francisco Manuel da Costa

Redefining teaching and learning

But what does MOOCee and MOOCer mean? MOOCee is who is learning, and MOOCer is who is teaching. Maybe in the future, these concepts (learning and teaching) will no longer make sense, and will be updated to the new buzzwords MOOCing, MOOCer and MOOCee. 

By the way, learning is what people do more and more in their lives, so micro-learning and personal learning environments will be used more and developed in the internet. Teachers and online instructors are more like instructional designers and content curators, they have a lot of tools to create content, to communicate asynchronously or synchronously. 

Learning in unlimited time and space

A MOOC, for instance, will become part of our lives, and it will be available everywhere, all the time, anywhere and anytime. At the same time, it helps us to be everywhere, at any time. Internet is a space of economic, social, cultural, educational and ideological connections. It is a place of freedom, creation, imagination and memories. 

Our memories and dreams are deposited in the internet and it becomes our Rigid Disk Drive. Part of us became more virtual, but in a certain way, more and more real. Internet is not a toy, but can be used as a toy. It is a place to share, to link. Internet is an expression of creativity, and creativity is a powerful way to make money, and money can stimulate creativity. 

More than TO BE or not TO BE?, the main question is: to MOOC or not to MOOC?

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09 Francisco Manuel da Costa_large

by Francisco Manuel da Costa, Portugal

We are living in a period with a terrific change. A period that I termed the Postgutenberg, Cybergutenberg – or better said Bytenberg. The history of the logistics for knowledge dissemination has 3 important moments, which I identified as: the Penenberg (Pregutenberg's Period), the Printenberg (Gutenberg's Period) and Bytenberg (Postgutenberg's Period).

The Penenberg Period

Before the invention of the Gutenberg’s characters, books as a verbal written material communication logistics were imprisoned in the monasteries. They were static, immobile, unique and elitist objects. 

The Printenberg Period

The puzzle of characters invented by Gutenberg became the magic formula for dissemination of verbal communication written by the world. The combination of typographic characters shaped spreader and grammar had a multiplier effect on access to knowledge and this disruptive formula created new perspectives in education. 

The Printberg Period lasted several centuries, but less time as compared with the previous period. The alphabet brought by bytes freed knowledge of books logistics. We have the privilege of being contemporaries of this period of succession and transition to Postgutenberg’s Period.

The Bytenberg Period

Postgutenberg's Period started with the recent flow of bytes. The internet has freed the education that was stuck in the halls of schools and universities, bringing it to the street and making it flexible in all places and at all times, accelerating the speed of your dissemination. 

We are almost all immigrants and few are natives of this historic hazard. Most teachers are immigrants and are struggling with communication clashes with the natives (students). After all we should view this as a learning process. In conclusion: the Gutenberg's Period freed knowledge of chained books of monasteries; the Bytenberg's Period freed knowledge of the classroom walls. 

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by Tanuj Kalia 

An ancient tale 

In Mahabharata, the ancient Hindu epic, there is a character called Eklavya who wanted to learn archery from the famed guru Dronacharya. Eklavya, however, was from a lower caste and Dronacharya didn’t accept Eklavya as his student. 

Depressed, yet determined, Eklavya made a mud statue of Dronacharya and practised in front of it, day in and day out, meditating on his craft, taking inspiration from his guru, and eventually becoming a mighty archer.

Guru Dronacharya’s best pupil was ‘Arjuna’. Once, in a moonless night, Dronacharya and his students were hunting in the jungle when they saw a dog whose mouth was stitched together by seven arrows. Surprisingly, the dog was only muzzled, not hurt.

Arjuna was surprised and asked Dronacharya how this feat could be possible in a pitch dark environment. Dronacharya replied that this was achieved courtesy of a skill called shabd bhedi (shabd means word or sound; bhedi means a piercing) where the archer aims by listening to the sound and not by seeing the target. It was an advanced skill which Arjuna had not yet learnt. Dronacharya followed the source of the arrows and came to the place where Eklavya was practicing his craft.

A visibly impressed Dronacharya asked Eklavya, “Who’s your teacher?”. “You, Sir”, Eklavya replied, showed Dronacharya the statue and told him how he was ‘inspired’ and ‘taught’ by him. Dronacharya was impressed, confused and angered. In a match Arjuna vs. Eklavya, Eklavya was a superior archer. In a maneuver to retain Arjuna’s position as the best archer in the Kingdom, Dronacharya said:

“Where’s my teacher’s fee?”

“I’ll give my guru whatever he desires”, Eklavya replied.

“I want your right thumb”.

Eklavaya cut off his right thumb with a knife and presented it as the teaching fee (dakshina). Eklavya was crippled but even with this handicap he was still was considered one of the best archers of his time.

A modern experiment

In 1999, Professor Mitra, installed a ‘hole in the wall fitted with a computer’ in a slum in Kalkaji, New Delhi. The children of the slum, without any prior knowledge, without experience and without a teacher, learnt to use the computer in very little time. The project has been emulated in other parts of India as well with astonishing results in improving literacy and learning.

For the children, Professor Mitra actually carved a ‘statue of learning’ in the form on the hole in the wall. And they didn’t even have to sacrifice a thumb of theirs!

The Hole in the Wall Education Limited (HiWEL) has benefitted over 300,000 students. It has now an intelligent name for itself: minimally invasive education. It even has 3 TED videos: here, here and here.

Lessons learned

There are three things we can learn from these two stories:

  • The best learning doesn’t need a room.
  • The best learning doesn’t need an authority figure.
  • The best learning usually comes from within.

While Dronacharya discriminated on the basis of caste of Eklavya, the Hole in the Wall is limited by space. The internet is non-discriminatory in both respects. What MOOCs (massive open online courses) can do is to provide the learners with the right content and the right gurus in a minimally invasive manner.

Eklavyas will practice and practice hard. And with their thumbs intact they’ll emerge as the best archers – or students – of their times!

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by Sara Rodríguez Arias

The image I designed represents the world of MOOCs. We can see a flower inside of a world. The flower means the birth of MOOCs. So let’s ask: what is a MOOC? In my country, probably many people would not know its meaning. A MOOC is a Massive Open Online Course that offers the possibility of getting a certificate. Normally these courses are free.

Photo: created by Sara Rodríguez Arias

The possibilities offered by MOOCs

The so-called word ‘MOOC’ is a controversial subject matter that is on everybody’s lips today. There are people that are against MOOCs. Maybe because their thinking towards it is more traditional or they are not familiarised with technological devices. My leitmotiv: everybody is united and together we can change education. Among the main advantages of being enrolled in a MOOC, we can mention:

  • Less prejudices against other cultures.
  • Meet people from different parts of the world.
  • Get a certificate.
  • Increase your knowledge about a particular subject.
  • Be involved in teams and create original projects.
  • Create a business.
  • Get an education for free – without costs.
  • Meet teachers from top universities.
  • Anyone can join these courses –  no fee,  no credentials.

?Education for all

Students have the right to have a free education: at the university, at school, and in every corner of the world. Government should have enough money to pay teachers or we should find another way of financing education – it is not a matter of money, background or geographic context. Everyday I see that there are some areas where children do not have enough resources and cannot access education in many countries. Now that we are in a new era, we must make the difference between modern education and a traditional, closed method. We need teachers who do not bore students in a classroom. A teacher must be an inspiration and a coach for their students, helping them when they need it.

Moreover, ‘knowledge is power’. Therefore, society will be more intelligent and people will be thinking for themselves, without any kind of manipulation. This could be scary for some people or ‘manipulators of masses’. I still cannot imagine what will happen when we have education for free in every part of the world.

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