iversity welcomes diversity. Our MOOCs are as varied as our topics and lecturers. Most professors do not wear goth clothing and stovepipe hats, but as MOOC Fellowship winner, mathematician Prof. Spannagel proves, professors with piercings exist. At least in Germany.

At the MOOC Kick-Off Workshop, we saw that iversity courses welcome many schools of thought, appealing to different types of students. Though they focus on specific subjects, these courses integrate sources and exercises from different fields, rendering lessons interdisciplinary in nature. These unique MOOCs allow one to explore design, mineralogy, and math through diverse lenses, generating new ideas about and approaches to scholarship.

The courses also vary linguistically. Some of iversity’s MOOCs launching this fall will be available not only in English but also in Russian and Spanish. Courses will also be in German, the former lingua franca of science. German remains preferable for students in countries like Poland and Ukraine, and has recently grown popular for younger graduates in Spain, Italy, and Greece amongst others due to the financial crisis.

The following are three of iversity’s outstanding German language MOOCs, whose diverse natures appeal to people of many backgrounds and interests.

Fascination with Crystals and Symmetry

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Dr. Frank Hoffman combines ways of thinking in Faszination Kristalle und Symmetrie (Fascination with Crystals and Symmetry – this course will also be taught in English). He delves into crystallography and mineralogy, fields specific within chemistry—but his course is not narrow or only for the scientifically minded. Since Hoffman draws on philosophy, design, and morality, students confront ideas about beauty. Crystals are the avenue through which Hoffman teaches the structure and symmetry inherent in everyday life.

Mathematical Thinking

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iversity’s mathematics course is also unconventional. In Mathe-MOOC: Mathematisch denken (Math MOOC: Mathematical Thinking) participants study arithmetic or geometry, or both. Prof. Spannagel is a nonconventional teacher. He even features the muppet Count von Count from “Sesame Street” in humorous videos to show “how mathematicians think, so students can solve problems by themselves.” Spannagel employs the “calculations of daily life that make people wonder. This course teaches students to experiment with numbers, finding methods to prove theories. We will start with everyday situations to help students formalize their approaches to math. We will reach the formal mathematical practice, not begin with it,” he said.

Changemaker MOOC: Social Entrepreneurship

Prof. Christoph Corves teaches how to solve social problems by approaching injustice with businesslike strategy, affecting longlasting change. Applying business methods to social projects, students learn how these two disciplines intersect and how to excel in project management. The training this MOOC provides is adaptable to any student project – from environmental concerns to social injustice, from education to nutrition and health. Course participants from all over the world learn how to create sustainable organisations to address their communities’ needs, in areas that interest them most. The course takes a multifaceted approach to social justice that transcends NGO structure, and teaches students to properly manage, budget, and strategize to make meaningful social impacts.

An iversity education is diverse. Our MOOC courses span from minerals to design, from math to anatomy. Within each course there is greater variety. With interdisciplinary sourcing and unconventional teaching styles, professors foster creative thought and welcome all types of students to their classes.

by Anna Meixler

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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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Fellows at Work (Photo: David Ausserhofer)

iversity's MOOC Kick-Off Workshop in Berlin began last Thursday with a motivating speech from Dr. Volker Meyer-Guckel, Deputy Secretary General of the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft. “Together, we are exploring new frontiers of higher education,” he said, welcoming the fellows who journeyed to Berlin from as far as Madrid and Southern Italy.

The workshop continued as fellows presented their course concepts. Their plans encompass a great breadth of academic topics, reflecting the fellows’ backgrounds as diverse as law and social sciences, finance, math and medicine. Our staff at iversity then helped fellows detail their plans, counseling them on an array of topics. We worked on MOOC basics and gave practical production advise, as well as tips for managing and maintaining student engagement and successfully marketing courses.

Panel Discussion at MOOC Production Fellowship

Award Ceremony (Photo: David Ausserhofer)

On Thursday evening, iversity and the Stifterverband welcomed distinguished guests from academia, business and politics for the award ceremony of the MOOC Production Fellowship. State Secretary Dr. Georg Schütte of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research began the evening by assessing the future of today’s universities. “Revolution or evolution?”, he argues, was the wrong question to pose about the transformation of higher education. Instead, he invited the audience to partake in this process by asking whether to “shape the transformation, or merely react to it.”

A panel discussion of “Higher Education in the Digital Age” followed, during which Dr. Thomas Kathöfer, Secretary General of the German Rector’s Conference, Dr. Jörg Dräger, Member of the Executive Board of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, and two of the fellows, Prof. Dr. Christoph Hermann with his MOOC "The European Union in Global Governance" and Prof. Dr. Christian Spannagel with his MOOC on Mathematical Thinking discussed the opportunities and drawbacks of MOOCs for universities. Their opinions were both optimistic about and sceptical of MOOC impacts, but the panel agreed that MOOCs are here to stay, and universities must integrate them into their academic programming.

MOOC Production Fellows (Photo: David Ausserhofer)

During the workshop’s second day, fellows worked together extensively. In small groups, they discussed course creation, challenges faced, student recruitment, class forums, and the visual aids their MOOCs will employ. They refined their courses and concretely strategized their marketing. Fellows were extensively coached by iversity staff, and experts such as Prof. Dr. Jörn Loviscach and Prof. Dr. Sandra Hofhues. As the fellows worked on their projects, they also “established community along with MOOC courses,” said iversity co-founder Hannes Klöpper. The workshop closed as fellows presented their updated course concepts.

Throughout the workshop, participants got to know one another as they networked, discussing their lives and academic pursuits. Over coffee, meals, and downtime in Pariser Platz, they shared stories and similarities. In just two days, iversity fellows invigorated and amplified their courses with new ideas from other fellows, with the strategic and didactic feedback needed from iversity experts and our partners. Fellows are now working to produce their MOOCs, and we look forward to supporting and guiding them throughout this next stage in producing their courses. Beginning this autumn, the first MOOCs on iversity will be launched. See all our courses here.

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