• Love to Learn. Online.

    Love to Learn. Online.

With the Mathe-MOOC, you can see this in color

Photo via Wikicommons

Professor Christian Spannagel is looking for company for the Bayreuth Festival: You. The Mathe-MOOC team wants you to show them what you find fascinating, exciting or daunting about math, all in a short video. The producer of the most creative video will receive a ticket and accompany “Professor Dunkelmunkel” to a performance of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchmann in Bayreuth on the 24th of August 2013.

You can find more information about the competition on the Mathe-MOOC blog (German)

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Malala Yousafzai, a sixteen-year-old Pakistani student made headlines when she was injured by the Taliban for pursuing her studies. She has since grown increasingly vocal in her fight for female education in Pakistan, and universal access to learning for children worldwide.

Photo: DFID – UK Department for International
Development, via Wikimedia Commons

This month, a young, clear voice reminds us of the global need for education. Recent years have brought incredible educational progress in many areas of the world. Teachers, supplies, and funding have been dedicated to building more schools. More children, women, and students in developing countries are provided with ways to learn. Not only are there more formal schools; recent years have also brought online universities and lectures, and, most recently, MOOCs. But access to learning remains far from universal.

Last week, Malala Yousafzai marked her 16th birthday with a powerful speech that addressed everyone: from her native Pakistanis to us at iversity in Germany. At the U.N.’s Youth Assembly, Malala, who was shot in the head on her way home from school by Taliban, demanded female education in Pakistan, and for all children worldwide. With 57 million children out of school in 2011, according to UNESCO and Save the Children data, 3 million gained educational access in the past three years. But the numbers of students out of class remain staggering, energizing iversity to produce MOOCs that reach the masses.

MOOCs are not an answer for every educational shortcoming. In developing countries and areas of conflict, many lack internet access, and women may be restricted from using computers at internet cafes. But MOOCs expand higher education, widening access and eliminating costs. They do not discriminate based on age, location, or gender, providing all with the opportunity to learn and to grow. Consider how MOOCs offer Pakistani girls access to top faculty and high-quality courses. Malala’s words push for universal education, a revolution that MOOCs ensure will include those in conflict zones.

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Some students are extroverts, happiest as the centers of classroom attention and leaders in vocal debates. They are the academic equivalents of Brian May, lead guitarist of the glam-rock band Queen. After thirty years on tour, he not only looked like Sir Isaac Newton, but also completed a PhD in astrophysics titled “Radial Velocities in the Zodiacal Dust Cloud” at the Imperial College in London.

Large, crowded lectures intimidate many students.
Photo: Sk Education Consulting Group

But not every student enjoys performing publicly. Some dislike large lectures with hundreds of other students, or feel uncomfortable in small seminar discussions.

Traditional courses are therefore not best for everyone. Shy students are overlooked in large lectures, where they passively absorb lessons without discussing content with others. Lectures are intimidating; many are hesitant to address professors in front of hundreds of peers. Many lectures have small group meetings, where students are either more comfortable participating, or feel exposed and are thus reticent.

MOOCs offer an environment that may engage introverts. Online anonymity can make students comfortable expressing themselves in forums. They may contact established professors online, whereas approaching them in person is daunting. Participating in course conversations online may give students confidence to contribute in traditional classrooms and work environments.

Though MOOCs integrate peer-to-peer editing, student feedback, and discussion forums, they create communities different from those in classroom courses. Students may organize meet-ups, but predominantly converse online. They can contact professors, but many MOOCs have organized feedback systems. Many MOOCs integrate social media comprehensively, like Professor Dr. Spannagel’s and Dr. Gieding’s “ Mathe-MOOC: Mathematisch denken” (Math MOOC: Mathematical Thinking). He has created his own blog, as well as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter sites for his iversity MOOC.

According to Duke University studies, introverts need time to observe before participating. With MOOCs, students work at their own paces, reading forums before jumping in themselves. Competitive learning environments adversely affect shy students, rendering MOOCs a productive space, where students don’t compete for grades or teacher attention. MOOCs do not force student participation. Students could continue to passively learn, but their silence in forums wouldn’t necessarily go unnoticed, as it would in a standard lecture. Online platforms allow for student monitoring, which instructors can use to find and encourage quieter participants.

Hesitant participants exist in every learning environment. MOOCs, however, level the playing field between extroverts and introverts, allowing all to comment when they choose to in a comfortable online platform. MOOCs do not have the intimidating facets of a large lecture or small, intimate seminar, wherein students can be passive observers or may be forced to speak up before they feel ready to do so. The online platform is, in many ways, conducive to teaching shy students. The experiences introverts have in MOOCs may revolutionize how they engage in every area of their lives. Confidence developed in online classes has the potential to help shy students better engage socially and professionally, channeling some of Brian May’s boldness.

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by Anna Meixler

I'm a do-it-yourself kind of person. You won’t find me fixing the bathroom sink or jump-starting a car, but you might see me crafting purses out of vinyl records, building furniture with old suitcases, and pasting collage murals from magazine photos and food wrappers.

Anna Meixler, intern at iversity
(Photo: private)

In college, Art History courses helped me appreciate others with artistic inclinations and their past innovations, and Studio Art classes helped me hone technical skills. But both disciplines limited what I studied and what I made. iversity’s course Design 101, taught by designer Stefano Mirti, Professor Giovanni Pasca Raymondi, and Dott. Lucia Giuliano allows students to combine art history and practice through 101 activities, transforming everyday life into art and learning by listening doing. I’m itching to take Design 101 in the fall, launching it to the top of my MOOC to-take list.

I’m fascinated by design and interesting aesthetics. I love to flex my creative, quirky muscles by repurposing materials and re-examining the functions of everyday objects, infusing them with new purpose and visual appeal.

Which of iversity's MOOCs are you most excited about?

Anna is currently doing her internship at iversity. She's a sophomore at Yale University.

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The German business magazine “brand eins” sees itself as a critical observer. In its July issue, the magazine covered MOOCs and interviewed iversity founder Hannes Klöpper about his plans to digitize higher education. When we first read the article, we had some trouble recognizing Hannes.

Read more about this in our article (German)

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