iversity

For most visitors the African country of Tanzania means wildlife. Range Rovers, packed with tourists, guides and drivers, the latter often students from Dar es Salaam, gather in endless queues at the entrance of Ngorongoro with its rhinos, lions and elephants. Some tourists visit the historical Stone Town on the island of Zanzibar afterwards or combine dolphin watching with a taste of Mvita Ali’s incredible seafood buffet on a sandbank at Kizimkazi.Dar es Salaam: not enough software engineers

But virtually no one takes much time to voluntarily visit Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s busy trade hub at the coast with its 3 or maybe 4 million inhabitants. The port city is big, loud and not exactly the most beautiful harbor town at the Indian Ocean. While most tourists avoid the city, businessmen do not. A lot of European, American and especially Chinese companies are located in Dar es Salaam. Entrepreneurs from India and the Middle East add to the business community. Banking and financial services like micro-finance, mobile communication, logistics and other businesses thrive and grow comparably much faster than in Europe and even many parts of Asia.

 Dar es Salaam: not enough software engineers

The bottleneck for this growth is education. A lack of technically skilled workers leads to open positions across corporations in Tanzania. Without more graduates, degree holders and skilled specialists for IT, risk management or actuarial science, the economical capital of Tanzania can’t compete with the West, China or other African nations like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Dar es Salaam houses seven universities, among them the Open University of Tanzania and the International Medical and Technological University. The quality of these universities is under dispute though. Even the best one, the University of Dar es Salaam ranks among the worst universities worldwide in terms of research and scientific excellence. As well, these universities do not offer enough study courses in Information and communications technology (ICT) that are in high demand now. And higher education at a university is not available for everyone in a country that is as poor as Tanzania.

Internet connections in Tanzania are comparably good though, given that Dar es Salaam is a landing point of the submarine high-speed Seacom cable, connecting it directly with Mumbai and Marseille.

So, one plausible approach to tackle the issue of higher education is by MOOCs. That is why the World Bank sets up pilot projects for IT and ICT education in Sub-Sahara Africa as a part of their “New Economy Skills for Africa Program – ICT” or short: NESAP-ICT.

Seacom Cable supplies Tanzania with high speed internet (submarine)In Tanzania, the World Bank designated Dar es Salam as a knowledge hub for SMART skills – SMART being an abbreviation for Software, Mobile Applications, Research and Technology. The next step was to define the critical success factors for a MOOC about IT in Tanzania, like a real impact on employment chances or the need to get credits.

   MOOCs are possible: Seacom Cable

(here: undersea near Zanzibar) supplies Tanzania with high speed internet

The Washington-based World Bank choose an American company, Coursera, as its partner, not a MOOC-provider from the EMEA-region like iversity. Together with its partner, the World Bank will design the MOOC over the summer of 2013.  Starting MOOCs in East-Africa might have another preferable effect: stopping the brain-drain from Tanzanian students to Europe and America, where they often stay after graduation.

What the World Bank's EduTech blog article about MOOCs in Afrrica does not mention: the opportunity to take courses outside the “knowledge hub”, to take part in a MOOC anywhere in Tanzania. A huge advantage in a country where many of the most gifted young women and men work at least part-time or for some months outside the commercial capital in the tourism regions to make a living. Especially in a country like Tanzania it makes sense to reach out for prospective students where they are today, not where universities are located for historical reasons. Thus MOOCs can make a difference in developing Tanzania’s economic future.

 

 

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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

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American journalist and author A.J. Jacobs is mostly known for putting himself through bizarre self-experiments. Jacobs spent a year living according to biblical rules and tried to become the smartest or healthiest person alive over the span of just a year. He also tried to outsource his whole life to his personal assistant in India, including marital disputes and reading bedtime stories to his children.

For his newest project the stunt journalist spent the last few months experimenting with eleven MOOCs at the same time.  He’s presenting the conclusion of his research on MOOCs in the New York Times article „Two Cheers for Web U!“.

Jacobs talks about Charles Darwin dolls, discussing economic inequality with Brazilian businessmen and a Japanese plan to assassinate movie star Charles Chaplin. The one thing he liked most about his classes, ranging from genetics over philosophy to cosmology: convenience and the option to tailor MOOCs to his learning behavior.

In keeping with the theme of higher education, Jacobs grades the MOOCs and their different aspects. The overall MOOC experience gets a B+ from Jacobs and he’s glad that he attended the courses. The advantages of MOOCS are obvious to him: They offer easy access to difficult topics and a convenient way for self-improvement and learning something new. And, to be able to take Harvard courses even if your home is in Senegal.   

What he didn’t like about the courses: The difficulty in American MOOCs to communicate with professors, who have to take care of thousands of students with just a small team. His advice: never try to become friends with the professor on Facebook.

Here at iversity, we agree that good communication between students and lecturers is one of the most important factors for a successful MOOC. Because of this, teacher-to-student communication is among the criteria for the jury of the MOOC Fellowship in evaluating the courses and awarding the fellowship.

If you’re intrigued by the idea of MOOCS and curious to make your own experiences, you can soon pre-enroll on iversity in the courses of the winners of the MOOC Fellowship. And if you’re interested in more of Jacobs work you can listen to him talk about his self-experiments on NPR.

 

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By Anna Meixler

 

Though standards in MOOC production exist, not all MOOCs are the same. Some courses thrive, with hundreds of thousands of active students – like Stanford University’s computer science courses in 2011. Others of similar quality fail, with few students watching course videos and taking tests to complete requirements.

Instructors of successful MOOCs plan diligently and partner with qualified institutions that provide technical, creative, and strategic support. Professors collaborate with experienced teams at specialized start-ups like iversity to not only launch MOOCs, but also ensure their success. Success lies in how MOOCS engage students, promoting community. This requires consistent effort from and interactions between professors and students.

Like in a traditional class, a professor designs his syllabus and writes homework assignments and tests. But he must adapt his teaching to the online medium. Lecturing thousands of students by video is vastly different from a few hundred in a lecture hall.

MOOC instructors divide material; rather than allotting 50-minutes for each subject, professors partition it into shorter clips. Instructors practice lecture scripts repeatedly. Successful instructors do so with unique obstacles in mind: they cannot respond to audience reactions, and also must lecture so that international listeners with different cultural backgrounds understand material.

While recording their videos, instructors polish monologues with partner organization support. These teams mark professors’ mistakes, editing them out. They help instructors navigate MOOC technicalities: computers, microphones, cameras, and lighting are coordinated to produce attention-grabbing videos. Teams also use animators to enliven content.

Professors and students must be active participants. Instructors, with guidance from their partner organizations, make platforms for discourse. They monitor and participate in class message boards, posting feedback and responding to student input. They give frequent assessments, making sure students grasp material.

Students engage in discussion threads, and, if inspired by course discussions, also create their own forums. Active students start Wiki pages with notes, hints and links to supplementary content. They often interact over Facebook and Skype, and give instructors critical course feedback. Professors present material but let students take center stage, discussing course themes on chat forums and Twitter.

Successful instructors are diligent with online forums. Productive exchanges are structured; 40.000 people cannot all participate in the same Google doc, as forum postings can grow chaotic. Professors divide students into groups, in which they discuss different topics in alternate forums. Regardless, message boards can fail if students post early then disengage, or enter discussions late and cannot catch up.

There is much work to be done after MOOC videos are recorded and tests are written. With professional partner institutions like  iversity, instructors create the structures necessary for high-impact courses.

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Since voting began on May 1, over 43,000 people registered to vote, with over 55,000 votes cast by May 15. Voters are allotted ten votes for their favorite courses, satisfying interests ranging from politics to computer science, from medicine to engineering. Online voting for fellowship winners continues through May 23, 12:00 pm CET.

Results will be considered by an independent jury, which will choose ten fellows in June after evaluating all course concept proposals at a meeting in Berlin. The jury is comprised of representatives of Stifterverband and iversity, as well as various experts. Members are drawn from academia, the policy realm, and business. The jury includes Prof. Dr. Sandra Hofhues, professor of education in Heidelberg, Prof. Dr. Jörn Loviscach, a lecturer with a profound practical experience in teaching online, and Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kluge, former head of McKinsey Germany.

Fellows, the press, and voters will then be notified; results will be released to the public by mid-June. On June 20 and 21, fellows will gather in Berlin for a kick-off workshop, during which iversity will walk them through all facets of MOOC production. Hannes Kloepper, CMO of iversity

"The workshop by iversity will provide professors with every possible support to produce excellent MOOCs"

Hannes Klöpper, Co-Founder of iversity

As Markus Riecke, our CEO at iversity, says, “Together, we will refine course production concepts didactically and logistically. The workshop also serves as a bonding experience for fellows. We will present the iversity platform and its capabilities, engaging fellows in dialogue. We aim to not only coach fellows, but also learn about their diverse experiences, expectations, and ambitions, which will shape their MOOCs and, more broadly, higher education.”

After the workshop, fellows will begin producing their courses, while our experts at iversity document their creation. Hannes Klöpper suggests to, “Keep an eye out for exciting MOOC Production Fellowship news. And attend our public event on June 20 in Berlin, at the Stifterverband headquarters inside the the Allianz Stiftungsforum at the Pariser Platz. At this event we will explore the impact of MOOCs on higher education more generally. I look forward to our workshop in Berlin. iversity will provide professors with every possible support to produce excellent MOOCs.

Please note: once the winning MOOCs are determined by the jury, we will keep you updated on ongoing developments and enable you to pre-enroll for your favorite courses. News about the fellowship, grants, and upcoming MOOCs will be posted in blog updates.

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