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Benefits of iversity

Summary

iversity offers a modular one-step solution for academic research, coursework and practice. This simultaneously reduces the organizational effort for individual students and professors while lowering the university’s expenses. Conventional e-learning solutions are closed systems, unable to link their users to the rest of the wider academic community. Users remain insulated within their institutions. In contrast, an iversity user can share their work and research with peers, announce events, and collaborate on projects, either within a password-protected private community or by publishing contents online. The result is a stimulating academic community that creates valuable connections and can help publicize a user's work both within the university and outside of it.

Benefits for Research Groups

Scholars’ everyday activity is to find, collect, exchange and publish information. But they also need professional networking within the academic community. iversity consolidates all of these activities into one easy-to-use platform.

Online communication within research groups often relies on cumbersome email exchange. Instead, exchanging data with iversity allows effortless compiling and archiving of information by topics, dates and keywords.

Single contributions and announcements - like publication dates or calls for papers - can be published directly from inside a group’s private domain. Currently, such publications have to be imported to a project’s homepage by system administrators. With iversity, each collaborator on a research project can update the group‘s public site. This gives each team member the chance to easily contribute to the success of the whole group.

Conventional tools for online collaboration are usually isolated solutions implemented by single universities or research projects. In contrast, research.iversity embraces the possibilities of the web and adapts them to academia’s specific needs and high security demands. As a result, iversity provides the first comprehensive, easy-to-use scientific infrastructure for academic collaboration, allowing scientists to overcome institutional and disciplinary boundaries: researchers can share a common platform with colleagues from other universities and disciplines to communicate, collaborate and publish within a wider academic network.

Benefits for Coursework

Participatory Learning

iversity provides a feedback channel for students to actively contribute to course discussions and projects. It has been shown that a student-centred approach based on active participatory learning is more productive than lecture-style teaching. In courses primarily based on lectures – especially with 40 participants or more – there is little opportunity for students to discuss the content of the curriculum. Organisational problems often keep teachers from pursuing a proactive learning approach. iversity fills this gap by providing the infrastructure that helps individual teachers and students to communicate effectively and openly. At iversity, students can open forums for various course-related discussions; in smaller work groups, participants can prepare upcoming courses or evaluate and discuss past sessions.

For example, in the media studies course "Medienkunstmomente / Moments in Art and Media" (http://un.iversity.org/courses/144/), students contributed more than 350 entries in different discussion forums, 170 links, and 90 images. The professor of the course stated that the iversity's interactive learning concept "motivated independent research and stimulated intellectually demanding discussions beyond the classroom. This develops skills which students often lack but whose importance – especially because of the complexity of new media – can not be overestimated: the competence to acquire new competences." [1]

Improved Networking Among Students

Students can employ iversity to build networks with each other and with teachers and can collaborate in work- or study groups. A major function of networks based on web 2.0 technology is exchanging experiences and seeking advice from peers – e.g. on study programs, study grants, internships, employers, applications, computer software etc. A network like this enables students to form teams and organise projects like research groups, student newspapers, sports teams, or business start-ups. It has been shown that online networking activity does not diminish 'real-life' contacts. In fact, such networks enable, stimulate and stabilize contacts and friendships that would otherwise be neglected.

The students' integration into a social community from the beginning of their studies encourages team spirit and a close connection to their faculty, which in turn lowers the dropout rate. Eventually, an alumni network will evolve from the student community on iversity, which is a potentially valuable resource for both the alumni and the university.

Possibilities for Publication

Unlike existing e-learning platforms, iversity allows students to immediately publish their papers and presentations for their courses, which provides practical exercise in presenting work to a broader academic community. This user-generated content turns iversity into a valuable public relations tool for universities, attracting web traffic and enhancing public image. Furthermore, such user-generated content is inexpensive and up-to-date compared to editorial web pages. The publication of course material is a new concept, practised only by a few US universities, such as MIT (http://ocw.mit.edu).

While it is offering options for online publication, iversity also facilitates learning processes in password-protected spaces. There, group discussions can evolve freely and securely. The privacy settings for individual groups and contributions are flexible and easy to control.

Practice and E-Portfolio

Currently, no academic web site exists that embraces the variety or quality of student projects. iversity's practice site (un.iversity.org/projects) offers an opportunity to present students' achievements. Depending on the study program or faculty, these include cultural, social or business oriented projects.

iversity also establishes an interface between the job market and graduates: practical skills and experiences are acquired during extracurricular activities in most academic disciplines. iversity relates and integrates both the academic and the practical sphere into one single e-portfolio. As a result, each student’s e-portfolio presents important aspects of both fields, adding up to a multifaceted curriculum vitae.

Lower Student Dropout Rate Through Community and Online Assessment

The student dropout rate at universities is about 30%. According to a current study, the high dropout rate results in costs of 2.2 billion Euros in Germany alone. [2] Since 2008, the German federal and state governments apportion these costs to individual universities so that a high drop out rate leads to budget cuts in the millions.

iversity has developed a three-step concept to assist universities' efforts to avoid such costs. It matches applicants well with the curricular content and therefore sustainably increases the retention rate by integrating students into the social community during their studies.

Universities can involve prospective students in the online community, accompanied by the benefits of online assessment. This form of recruitment is contemporary, inexpensive and draws the attention of prospective academics on a national and international scale. In the process, a better match between students’ skills and interests and their academic program is achieved. To meet the specific requirements of individual universities or institutes, we develop and customize the online assessment tools in close collaboration with our clients. If you are interested in an adapted online assessment solution please contact us directly.

[1]
http://un.iversity.org/downloads/Erfahrungsbericht-iversity_-_T.Goldstrasz.pdf
[2]
cf. Jochen Leffers: Staat setzt jährlich 2,2 Milliarden Euro in den Sand.
In: Spiegel-Online. http://www.spiegel.de/unispiegel/studium/0,1518,508930,00.html (Seen 1.12.2009.)