Education Plus

Skill-building, the MOOC way

‘MOOC’ has been a buzzword in the academic world ever since Stanford University launched its first Massive Open Online Course, “Introduction to Artificial Intelligence,” which attracted around 1,60,000 enrolments in 2011. MOOCs have become so popular that the word has been added to the database of the Oxford Online Dictionary. Founded by two Germans, Hannes Klöpper and Jonas Liepmanm, iversity (iversity.org) launched its first 10 MOOCs with over 100,000 enrolled users in October 2013. Now iversity’s MOOCs are gaining popularity among students, teachers, professionals in India and many other developing countries.

Could you tell us the objective of iversity?

iversity makes higher education more accessible, affordable and personalised than ever before. By offering open online courses, officially recognised certificates and the possibility to earn the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) credits, iversity makes online education count. ECTS allows for inter-university recognition of study achievements.

How many MOOCs do you offer? Which are your most popular ones?

We currently offer 52 courses with more than half a million users and we constantly announce new ones. Our largest course so far was “The Future of Storytelling”, with 93,000 students from all over the world. There are other popular ones such as “Critical Thinking – Reason and Fair Play in Communication” and “Public Speaking.”

How interactive are the MOOCs? How do participants establish contact with other participants?

Our main site of interaction can be found in our discussion forums. However, instructors also regularly communicate with students by sending announcements via email. Many courses also have created social media communities. For instance. a Facebook page, which often becomes a popular site of user and instructor interaction. Another feature that encourages interaction is found in the form of the so-called “peer-to-peer grading.”

How are such discussions monitored?

Those in the discussion forums (instructors or fellow students) can also vote a question and answer up or down, in a way, moderating the forum themselves. There is also an activity log for each user.

How do these courses contribute to the participants’ professional development?

MOOCs help people building the skills they need in a variety of fields: programming, marketing, engineering, and so on. Participants who successfully pass all exams even earn a graded and verified certificate. This way they can prove their study achievements to current and future employers.

How do you ensure quality in MOOCs?

We have a twofold quality assurance system — First, we cooperate closely with renowned universities and individual instructors. This ensures that our courses live up to their rigorous quality-level. In addition, we support our instructors and provide them information about the implementation of the course into digital and multimedia formats. The production of a course only begins after a multi-stage evaluation process.

In what way is iversity different from other portals such as Coursera, Udemy, and edX?

What definitely sets us apart from other providers is that we seamlessly integrate into the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) through the use of ECTS credits that our university partners can award to their students. These credits were created in order to make study achievements comparable throughout Europe and thereby encourage students to study abroad within Europe.

Who are your major partners?

We have great names on our platform, among them the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, Libera Università Internazionale degli Studi Sociali (LUISS) in Rome, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, KU Leuven from Belgium, just to name a few. We are soon launching a course with the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on Disasters and EcosystemsManagement.

What is the future of MOOCs?

MOOCs have already challenged the traditional way we interact and learn. Already now, students are getting used to interacting and collaborating with peers from other continents. In the future, more universities will open up their educational offerings to everyone who has an internet connection.

What are your plans to attract more institutions?

We are currently building an alliance of peer institutions from all over the world. Each institution will contribute three to four high-quality courses to a common pool. With 25 institutions in the network, this will add up to 100 courses. Every institution in the alliance can draw on this pool to supplement its curriculum. So, in return for creating a small number of courses, they will gain 100 top courses they can offer to their own students.

How popular is iversity in India?

We are very happy to have so many Indian students — 75,000 enrolled users who account for more than 10 per cent of all enrolments. We offer online learning, but are also curious about what Indian people need. If you have a suggestion for a course, if you know an excellent teacher or want to share your story in online learning, please do get back to us at support@iversity.org. You can follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/iversity.org) and on Twitter (twitter.com/iversity).

Dr Albert P’Rayan is an academic and freelance writer based in Chennai. He can be contacted at rayanal@yahoo.co.uk


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Printable version | Sep 19, 2021 10:58:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/skillbuilding-the-mooc-way/article6668073.ece

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