Rethinking Online Education

 

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by Dr. Joris Larik

We could not have picked a more challenging, nor a more exciting place to start taping the video footage for our MOOC on The EU in Global Governance. In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets after the government refused to sign the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the European Union at the Vilnius Summit on the Eastern Partnership. Ever since, the Independence Square (‘Maidan’ in Ukranian) resembles a sea of blue and gold – colours of both the Ukrainian and the EU flag. 

Prof. Dr. Roman Petrov (left) being interviewed by Joris Larik (right)

Filming in Kyiv: The making of iversity's EU course

Little did we know our expert interview would have this as its backdrop, given that this had been planned well in advance in order to coincide with a roundtable discussion on the Vilnius Summit. The interviewee was Prof. Roman Petrov, a former Max Weber Fellow at the European University Institute and now holder of a Jean Monnet Chair in EU Law at the prestigious Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, who kindly agreed to share his insights with us for the chapter ‘The EU and its Neighbourhood’. 

MOOC production in an environment of mass protest certainly is tricky. Will there be public transport, or a general strike? Will we still find video equipment at our disposal, or has it all been taken to record the remarkable events unfolding just a few kilometres away? Will the overall situation remain safe, or need we fear an escalation of violence?

A call to join the discussion

For the people of Ukraine, their future relationship to the EU, as well as to neighbouring Russia, is the most important topic these days, and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future. For them, this is definitely not an abstract, academic issue. It is something that matters right here, right now, with diverging opinions and emotions running high.

Luckily, and with a bit of improvisation, we managed to sit down and pick Prof. Petrov’s brain. If you want to hear what he had to say, and join the discussion on the role of the EU in the wider world, and not least in the post-Soviet space, do join our MOOC, launching in April 2014. 

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Apples or oranges? Skiing or snowboarding? Cats or dogs? We all have different tastes and opinions, and the same applies to the way we learn. It may sound like this could be a problem in education, but with the possibilities offered by technology, it can be an advantage. With more flexibility, access to information and options, we can build learning into and around our lives and adapt it to our needs and tastes. So how do you learn? Well, let’s have a look at some examples of how others have answered this question.

Blending On- and Offline

Edtech Digest recently published an article highlighting 6 blended learning models that incorporate online learning. Here’s a sneak peak:

  • The “Face-to-Face Driver” model allows the teacher to introduce online learning according to the needs of the individual student. 
  • The “Rotation” model creates a schedule for students, partly designated in the traditional classroom, partly held online. 
  • The “Flex” model makes online learning the central focus, which is then supported by on-site instruction and care. 

We see here that the classroom can take many shapes. Online learning isn’t meant to to replace offline education, but supplement and support it. If you are a working professional, retiree, young learner or full-time student, you can incorporate online learning into your life as you see fit. This could be a MOOC on the side of your studies, but this could also mean introducing open computer labs in schools. 

Reinventing Education

Interested in new experimental teaching methods? Check out the article from Wired “How a Radical New Teaching Method Could Unleash a Generation of Geniuses”. We at iversity are passionate about pushing higher education into the digital age and welcome inventive ideas and lively discussion about all of the different ways to build new learning models. Join in the discussion!

See if there's a MOOC that fits your life and check out our course catalogue!

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Photo: bigstockphoto.com
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We have more great news! Just before we launched our additional courses today we were informed that on occasion of the Berlin Innovation ConSensus, a summit on the future of entrepreneurship led by GoogleShell, and Deutsche Bank, iversity was awarded a prize for being the “most innovative project” in the category “education & health”, because it is setting new standards in higher education!

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India has a problem: to keep up with the influx of new students, the country would have to build 1,500 new universities over the next few years. Private schools, sprouting up like mushrooms to seize the opportunity and satisfy demand, will often offer sub-par but still expensive education. To many students outside of highly developed countries, access to higher education is limited or even impossible. MOOCs can enable transfer of knowledge to regions where it is needed and open up new opportunities for global engagement.

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I remember clearly the long car rides I spent with my grandparents as a child. They always featured ginger candy, strong perfume, and lectures on tape. Together, we learned about the French revolution, Impressionist art, and infectious diseases. Most of these university-level speeches were beyond my understanding, but I could see the value in continuing one’s education after formal schooling ends.

I’m currently a university student, so my learning is on-site and highly structured. But I don’t see my education ending the day I wear a cap and gown. Today’s technology has revolutionized the learning available to me. MOOCs engage masses past their college or high school years, enhancing careers and intellect. Participating in MOOCs facilitates lifelong learning, with experts in nearly all professional and scholarly interests, at the highest quality. Though lectures on tape have existed for years, MOOCs offer a more comprehensive learning experience with visual technology (link to article on MOOCs and visual technology), shorter segments, and engagement with other students and professors.

Massive Open Online Courses can include the most current content, and can be revised more quickly than traditional curricula to include today’s research. MOOCs can be taken individually or by entire teams of employees, ensuring that all are up-to-date in their skills and knowledge. MOOC value is not solely academic; they are helpful regardless of one’s degrees in expanding knowledge and skills.

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iversity offers several courses that enhance careers, particularly in agriculture and finance. Given global food shortages, it is urgent that those involved in farming continue studying agriculture. In Internationales Agrarmanagement (International Agricultural Management), one learns how to plan and develop land environmentally and economically. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are plagued by outdated land management methods. This course could transform and improve the decisions of agricultural managers and workers, improving the efficiency and sustainability of land use. 

 

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Monte Carlo Methods in Finance could similarly improve your understanding of how the financial industry works, and your own investment decision. We are all aware that understanding risk became a prominent skill since the last financial crisis started in 2007. Those working in finance can brush up on their skills in risk management, understanding how it affects investment portfolios. Such learning could lead to better economic policy and wealth in the world’s leading nations. But one does not need to be a Wall Street banker, hedge fund manager, or professional in actuarial mathematics to get excited about this course. Whether you want to trade personal stocks or decode to predict the next bank crash, this MOOC teaches the principles of risk management.

MOOCs help one progress both professionally and personally, transforming how one continues to learn. We are no longer confined to long, auditory lectures, specific locations, or other’s schedules, even those of our grandparents. I look forward to exploring MOOCs with those all over the world already participating in these online courses. MOOCs are growing, covering more and more disciplines, from the technical to the artistic. There is a course for everyone; comment to share your favourite MOOCs.

by Anna Meixler

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