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.
I am not a tech-savvy person, but I am excited by iversity’s creative, advanced imaging tools. These MOOCs use visual technology in ways that traditional courses cannot. For example, medical students in anatomy labs cannot discuss dissections while watching demonstrations without disrupting class. Most crystallography students can’t print the structures they create online to make their own tactile models. iversity revolutionises traditional classes with MOOCs that use visual programming.
By filming dissections and surgeries for his Anatomie Interaktiv (Interactive Anatomy) MOOC, Dr. Hirt uses visuals only available online. Students in his MOOC not only watch dissections, but also ask questions to one another and to experts at the same time. Such active dialogue would be impossible in a classroom, particularly during demonstrations, but online, many students can post questions and answers as soon as their thoughts occur. As they watch broadcasts they engage in live question-answer sessions through social media, getting immediate answers without disturbing those performing dissections.
Mineralogy students may not have access to expensive 3D Printing. Dr. Hoffman plans to enhance crystallography study with this visual tool in Faszination Kristalle und Symmetrie (Fascination with Crystals and Symmetry). Hoffman is working on 3D printing for his course, so students can not only see and navigate but also touch their digital models. Transforming online visuals to tactile diagrams is an opportunity not available to all, but, should 3D Printing be secured for the MOOC, these students will be able to further explore crystals with material structures.
These two MOOCs offer visual experiences that students typically aren’t offered. Hirt and Hoffman are working to best use the online platform and its unique capabilities, enabling students to ask questions while watching videos and perhaps turn their computerized crystal models into real objects. These imaging tools could deeply enhance MOOC students’ experiences, from technical experts to aesthetic enthusiasts.
There’s big, concerning news in the realm of higher education in Germany, about which iversity recently published a press release. Germany’s 20 biggest universities will, starting in winter 2013/14, apply a Numerus Clauses to two third of their undergraduate programs, as reported by the „Süddeutsche Zeitung“. Barriers to entry are alarming, but it seems that universities must impose restrictions on registration to maintain class sizes. Universities face increasing numbers of first-year students, many of whom are from other European countries. There are also more high school graduates than ever eager to gain admittance to German universities.
Without the resources to hire more professors and expand academic departments, traditional universities cannot adequately educate all of the masses who are eager to learn. That’s where MOOCs, and iversity, come in, complementing existing higher education institutions.
MOOCs have no maximum capacity; they are open to unlimited numbers of students. Hannes Klöpper, co-founder of iversity, emphasises: “We need to see the educational expansion as an opportunity to rethink university teaching. Instead of excluding prospective students by setting high barriers to entry for a growing number of subjects, the universities in Germany should develop MOOCs. Thus, it is possible to keep the quality of education while broadening access to higher education.”
iversity will offer MOOCs starting this winter semester, in collaboration with universities from Germany and Europe. The courses are from a wide range of topics, and are relevant to students who both gained university entry, and who unfortunately did not. For those enrolled in universities, MOOCs can supplement their studies. And those who did not receive space at a university don’t have to delay their learning; they can start with iversity courses online. As Klöpper says, “No one will fail to access a MOOC because of a numerus clausus.”