Berlin-based MOOCs startup iversity
, which last year began a pivot away from online learning collaboration tools with the aim of becoming the Coursera of Europe, is launching its first clutch of free online courses today.
iversity CEO Marcus Riecke said the level of launch traction it has achieved proves the MOOCs concept can fly in continental Europe, which has lagged behind the U.S. in experimenting with the massive online courses model for free-to-learn higher education. In the U.S., a raft of MOOCs players have sprung up, with Coursera, Harvard- and MIT-backed edX and Udacity being among the biggest. Six MOOCs are available from iversity at launch, with its initial curriculum spanning 24 courses in total (15 in English and the rest in German). The other courses will start at later dates this year and into 2014.
The initial course content spans a wide spectrum of topics – including philosophy, physics, architecture, economics, politics and engineering. Some of the courses hosted on their website
will grant students credit points for completion, in line with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).
The Three most popular MOOCs at launch are:
- The Future of Storytelling by the Fachhochschule (University of Applied Sciences) Potsdam – with more than 27,000 enrollments
- Design 101 (or Design Basics), offered by the Academia de Belle Arti in Catania, has 17,000 enrolled students
- Public Privacy: Cyber Security and Human Rights by the Humboldt Viadrina School of Governance in Berlin – with 16,000 students enrolled.
To enable sustainable growth, iversity is gearing up to raise Series A – either before Christmas or at the start of the New Year – according to Riecke. On how it plans to monetise its MOOCs, he said the business models it's considering are:
- payments by students for the final certificate of a MOOC, e.g. when the course yields official ECTS credit points
- matching graduates of our MOOCs with job opportunities that fit the course subject matter
iversity's initial focus is on scaling the number of students and ensuring its courses are well received. ”Before extracting revenues, real demonstrable value for the end user is key: therefore, we want to get to greater scale economies first and genuinely improve the lives of our users by the kinds of education opportunities we have provided,” he said. “Once we've succeeded in demonstrating the value that we and our MOOCs offer, we will focus more on monetization.”
The story of iversity reveals a few interesting points that may potentially help us optimize our own learning platform.
- There is a great need for online learning resources outside the US. This can be a good starting point for younger learning platforms.
- Students expect to receive certificates for the courses they take online. It may be helpful to build a certification system together with the learning web services.
- iversity's three most popular MOOCS show people's great interest in online courses about Internet technologies.
- The mention of European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System reveals to us the importance of transferability of online credits to traditional credits.
- Students might be attracted by connecting job opportunities to online courses.