5. December 2011–
Online education workspace Iversity, has today launched its free platform in Spanish and Portuguese. Since its official release back in September this year, the Berlin startup’s been keeping its heads down - developing features and expanding on its open-course selection. So far, Berlin’s Free University is its biggest fan. But, it hasn’t just attracted studious German minds; it has also gained rapid momentum around the world, particularly in the United States and India. Currently, there are 25,000 registered users to its name, with more than half of those from outside Germany.
The platform is a university networking space for educators and students. It’s essentially a digital infrastructure for both parties to communicate, enhance learning experiences, and combine the dynamics of a social network. Lecturers can organise everything from courses and research projects to conferences and meetings. It provides the tools for users to interact and work together, and allow students to learn from one another and exchange ideas online. Resources can be stored, deadlines and announcements dated, and research results published. As joining and using Iversity is free, the company makes money by offering learning materials and extra features like producing print-outs. “There’s still a lot of work to be done on the platform. We’ve got a lot of ideas and aren’t getting bored anytime soon,” said co-founder Hannes Kloepper.
New technology vs. traditional norms
Although the operation is growing in popularity and slowly diversifying across languages, it faces imbedded cultural views on how university faculties and students interact. Many universities seem content on sticking to tried and tested ways of receiving and delivering information. Ironically, the very foundation that encourages free-thinking and innovation – is sometimes hesitant to embrace it. Iversity has found itself adopting an Ambassador Program to "spread the word" and encourage its use among faculties. “So far, there’s been a lot of interest from the UK for the program,” said Koepper. “We’re still relatively small, and it seems that a lot of instructors are interested but just want to try it out before they really put it out there.”
Open learning for all
The site also aims to become a one-stop-shop for free open courses, available from universities worldwide. “We’re hoping to attract more people to the platform with the growing integration of open courses, like ‘understanding the financial crisis’ for example,” said Kloepper. If Iversity succeeds in assimilating a beefy global collection of open courses, it might very well succeed in transforming the way higher-education is accessed and experienced.
Image credit: Flickr user jbachman01.