European universities catch the online wave

At first blush, the unassuming Bielefeld University of Applied Science — a small public technical college in a small German city — has little in common with the world-renowned Stanford University, The New York Times reports.

Checking the Internet, however, one surprising similarity emerges: the long reach of some of their undergraduate lectures.

Jörn Loviscach, a professor of mathematics and computer science in Bielefeld, has been putting his lectures on YouTube since 2009. The German-language math and computer science courses have become smash hits.

His more than 2,000 clips, which include lectures, problem-solving tutorials, general mathematics instructions and even a special talk on relativity theory, have been watched more than 10.6 million times. More than 26,000 viewers subscribe to his channel.

He says most of his viewers are students at other German universities, but — going by comments on his YouTube page — they also include parents of students trying to help their kids, professional engineers grappling with mathematical concepts and a sprinkling of the simply curious.

“I realized that there are people out there who are interested in the material, people who need to learn it,” Mr. Loviscach said.

This year Mr. Loviscach turned one of his YouTube mathematics courses into his own Massive Online Open Course, or MOOC, a process that required finding a platform that would allow for his popular clips as well as quizzes and a discussion board. He’s also teaching on third-party MOOC platforms.

… MOOCs have become highly popular in the last couple of years in the United States, where the concept evolved.

Read more