Education in the Digital Age

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Education in the Digital Age

The majority of our lives have moved online—from social networking to online banking to watching television on youtube—but higher education has been slow to follow. How MOOCs are helping universities digitalize and reach students around the globe.
by Nicolette Stewart

In another era distance learning was done by letter, and by the 1920s, millions of people were involved in correspondence courses.  A century later, the internet has taken distance learning to a faster, larger, and more efficient level with the advent of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course).

A MOOC is, as the name implies, a large online class.  Using videos, forums, blogs, and readings, thousands can participate in the free college-level courses.  Because the size of classes makes individual attention from a professor impossible, grading is often done through a peer-to-peer system, and online interaction between students makes up for the lack of a physical classroom—though many MOOC students create real-life study groups when enough participants live in the same area.  MOOC students are often given a certificate of completion, but MOOCs do not generally carry course credit that can be counted toward a degree.

The term MOOC was coined in 2008 by Dave Cormier and Bryan Alexander, and four years later The New York Times declared 2012 “The Year of the MOOC.”  High-profile American universities like Stanford, MIT, and Princeton were some of the first to offer MOOCs to the public, free of charge.  In Germany, iversity offers free MOOCs in both English and German.

Hannes Klöpper, a co-founder of iversity, sees the company as a support tool for higher education institutions. “Essentially what we do is we help the professors at universities to bring their courses online, to leverage the potential of technology in higher education and to do what can be done best online so that they can focus on what they do best offline.”

During the Fall 2013 semester, iversity is offering courses on contemporary architecture, dark matter, storytelling, economics, and design.  View iversity’s complete course offerings here.  View a list of MOOC courses from around the world here.

Christina Maria Schollerer who teaches The Future of Storytelling sees MOOCs as one side of what must be a multi-faceted approach to eduction. “I really think it is just one way of educating people and one way of teaching. I would never say that we’ll be there to replace higher education.”

Through a EXIST-Founder Scholarship from the German Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, iversity received over 1 million euro in funding, money that they are using to create new MOOCs.  Their motives are idealistic:

“We want to develop world-class courses that allow students to learn in an efficient and effective way;” explains the iversity website. “However, our aim is not to replace the university or the academics that work there. Our aim is to empower them. We want to allow the best professors to teach thousands of students. On the other hand we want to enable students to take classes from the best professors around the globe. In so doing we want to improve the quality of teaching at existing institutions, without raising the cost of instruction. We believe that open courses can be an important factor in that equation.”

Dr. rer. Nat. habil. Susanne Illenberger, another iversity professor, agrees. “There are a lot of things that students can explore themselves that do not have to be taught in a classroom.  There are many talented students out there who have no access to…any university at all.”

Have you ever taken a MOOC? Jump over to our facebook page and join the conversation!

by Nicolette Stewart