Interview with MOOC Fellowship Organizer and Juror Hannes Klöpper of iversity

iversity: As organiser of the MOOC Fellowship competition and writer of a non-fiction book on the digitalisation of higher education*, you represent iversity as its only employee on the jury that chooses the grant recipients. Why is the jury comprised of one employee from iversity and Stifterverband respectively, with all other members representing different fields? 

Hannes Klöpper: We created a jury of independent experts from diverse backgrounds to best choose the right courses. Our different perspectives legitimise the Fellowship results, proving MOOC relevance in different lines of work and education in general.

iversity: Unlike most other MOOC platforms, founded by professors, iversity was founded by students. Some 250 lecturers entered the competition but 70,000 people voted for their favourite courses. Does the competition’s popularity and large number of voters point to iversity’s unique approach to MOOCs?

Hannes Klöpper: We think so. Almost everybody on iversity’s team has a college degree, worked with academic institutions or is still pursuing a degree. Jonas Liepmann founded iversity while a student of cultural studies at Humboldt University in Berlin. We approach MOOCs as students and customers, understanding the perspectives of those interested in free, higher-level education. Public competitions through social media are normal for university students, academic distinctions, however, are awarded behind closed doors. We made student interest visible by creating a public voting.

iversity: The competition was big news, not only through social networks but also for traditional media. The university desk of German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reported on Fellowship submissions, while newspapers focused on the money winners receive. Funding isn’t all that grant recipients need for high-quality MOOCs, which will be free for consumers. Aside from 25,000 Euros (around $33,000), what should Fellows expect from iversity?

Hannes Klöpper: We take the meaning of the word “Fellowship” seriously. We hope a true “class of fellows” emerges from the competition, that winners will support one another and remain in touch, from planning stages to production to running courses. We’re creating a space where Fellows develop ideas and explore what higher education can and will look like in the digital age.

iversity offers a lot more than funding: we not only provide support for  technical aspects in MOOC production, but also help define education conceptually. We will teach the most successful ways to launch MOOCs, and introduce new ideas to test with the Fellows. I’m looking forward to learning from them.

I’m confident that we will create amazing courses. We will not only have the press and students critically reviewing our courses, but also other instructors who partook in the Fellowship competition.

iversity: You watched hundreds of video applications. You can’t reveal your favourites as a jury member, but what can you say about the quality of the applications?

Hannes Klöpper: I am amazed by their range in quality, their sheer quantity and the diversity of those who entered them. We received submissions from notable experts in their respective fields, as well as lecturers with more practical approaches from universities of applied science. A few months ago, some questioned whether German universities and professors “know how to MOOC,” or even “want MOOCs” at all. The Fellowship competition has proven that German lecturers can create excellent course designs, showing quality in content, educational design, and methodology.

iversity: What steps is the jury taking to choose courses?

Hannes Klöpper: The jury will first obtain an overview of all the proposals online. We will then discuss course concepts and together determine which are strongest. There are some favourites among voters and I have some personal favourites, but only together will we pick Fellows. I am curious about the debates that will ensue during deliberations, as well as to see the competition’s final results.

iversity: Many participants asked during the voting phase how and when they can enrol in the chosen MOOCs?

Hannes Klöpper: We will first notify grant recipients. On the 10th of June, the public can start to pre-enrol in courses on iversity’s website. On the blog, we will report on winning MOOCs.

*Yehuda Elkana, Hannes Klöpper; The university in the 21st century: Towards a new unity of teaching, research and society (German)

Hannes Kloepper Buch Universitaet