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MOOCs to take off in Germany?

May 21st, 2013 by Graham Attwell

The German educations ystem can be slow to change. But when initiatives are taken they are taken seriously! And Germany is now moving into the world of MOOCs.

The Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft and iversity, has launched a “MOOC Production Fellowship” contest.

Their web site explains:

The contest seeks to identify ten innovative concepts for massive open online courses (MOOCs). Fellows will receive funding as well as assistance with course production. Stifterverband and iversity hope to raise awareness for the tremendous potential of digital technology in education and seek to activate a process of creative adaptation within the academic community.

Up to ten instructors or teams of instructors will be awarded a fellowship for their innovative Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) concepts. Fellows will receive a 25,000 Euro stipend to pay for the production of their courses. The aim is to have at least five courses online in the fall of 2013. Up to five courses may go online in the spring of 2014. The courses will run on the iversity platform and will be available to the public free of charge.

Fellows will receive 25,000 Euros to implement their MOOC concepts. There will be a public award ceremony, and fellows with receive ongoing support during both the production and marketing phases of the project.

The grant will enable the fellows to manifest their course concept vision. ….

Ulitmately, fellows are free how they want to produce the course: whether all by themselves, alongside other fellows, with outside service providers, or in collaboration with development partners we recommend. The fellowship funds can be used for production costs, research and/or student assistants, equipment or a teaching buyout.

The winners of the competition will be decided based on votes on a public web site and on the considerations of a jury.

In best German fashion the web site provides guidance on the ‘didactic’ design of a MOOC including:

  • Course structure
  • Video
  • Feedback and assessment
  • Peer to Peer learning

And in best German fashion there are strict entry requirements: only assistant, associate or full professors are eligible.

The section on peer to peer learning is somewhat curious. It starts off by explaining “A third element of open course instruction is peer-to-peer learning. Students can post, browse and respond to other students’ questions in the context of a course forum. They can vote for questions, bringing the most pressing queries to the instructor’s attention.” Not so much peer to peer learning but a forum for asking the ;instructor questions. And it ends even more curiously by insisting “These online courses are supposed to be xMOOCs rather than cMOOCs.”

Perhaps this is something to do with the organisations behind the competition. According to TechCrunch, Iversity is a Berlin-based startup, founded in 2011 to offer online collaboration tools for learning management, which has relaunched itself as a platform for massive open online courses. Iversity’s existing investors, says TechCrunch,  include BFB Frühphasenfonds Brandenburg, bmp media investors AG and the Business Angel Masoud Kamali.

Course content will be provided by universities and individual professors. It remains open as to what business model is seen as appropriate for the still publicly funded German education system, but it seems it may include certification fees for students.

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