Online Courses

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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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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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