Monday, June 10, 2013

Iversity: Germany's Take on Massive Online Classes (MOOCs)

By Sean Scarpiello

As Massive Open Online Classes (MOOCs) have been greeted with much success, much like Sebastian Thrun’s Udacity and other Ivy League online programs, MOOCs are popping up outside of the United States. Recently, Iversity was started by Marcus Riecke in an attempt to bring education to more people by the integration of technology. Riecke aims to bring classes online to save money and resources by allowing thousands, not hundreds, of students to attend a single lecture. Looking at statistics surrounding Udacity’s success, 23,000 students completed Udacity’s first online course. As more MOOCs are beginning to take off, we can expect to see Iversity to be very successful as Germany’s first MOOC.

One of the reasons why MOOCs are becoming so popular is because of many of the logistics surrounding the typical college. On top of a the many resources needed for education, colleges must also possess and maintain a campus, library, lecture halls, dormitories, and other types of support for students and educators. However, MOOCs allow colleges to focus only on education, not all of the services that people need to live and learn on a campus. Also, by moving classes to an online forum, colleges do not need to squeeze students into lecture halls. Essentially, classes can hold an unlimited capacity of students. This allows a lot of flexibility for students. For instance, students can take one class or a full schedule of classes from anywhere in the world. Students are also able to go to lectures, complete assignments, and take exams when it is convenient for them. Therefore, students can complete a full degree program in as much time as they can handle.

Most importantly, it lowers costs for students. To enroll in a MOOC, all students need is a computer with an internet connection and someplace to work. This means students can stay at home to take classes, or go to libraries or internet cafes. Students do not need to buy any heavy textbooks and find an expensive dorm or apartment near their college to learn. In addition to this, students do not need to pay the expensive tuitions that colleges require. This is possible by looking at simple economics. If 100 students are required to pay $7,000 to take a class in a current college, the entire class will pay $700,000. However, opening this class to 1000 students, or even more students, allows each person to pay $700 to achieve the same cost. With MOOCs, the professor needs to perform the same amount of work if 10 students are taking the class or 10,000 students. Therefore, colleges will be looking to open their MOOCs to as many students as possible.

With all of these benefits in mind, we still need to look at some of the cons of MOOCs. While moving classes out of lecture halls and online removes a lot of problems, it also creates some new ones. For example, tests and assignments will become more difficult to grade because it is hard to ensure students are not cheating. This also brings the validity of an online degree into question. If students can work on assignments and tests together while using resources available on the internet, many colleges are tentative to give these students a full degree from their institution. In addition to this, students are also missing out on many of the latent benefits of college. These include things such as social and negotiating skills, as well as networking opportunities and real world experience. This is especially true when looking at science or language classes where students typically have labs in which they apply what they learned in class. Again, this causes colleges to doubt if the education from MOOCs is of a high quality. Looking into a language class, colleges can argue that students do not have a firm basis in the language if students have not spoken it and listened to it from native speakers and their peers.

Overall, Iversity looks to be a fantastic new idea for students in Germany. As education professionals have seen the overnight success of Udacity and other MOOCs in the United States, we can expect to see a huge success in Germany. This success will come as convenience and financial benefits for both colleges and students. By reducing the amount of service and support for students, colleges can lower their tuition costs and pass on these benefits to students. Plus, by having an unlimited number of students in a single class, we can bring a quality education to even more students, all through the integration of technology.


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