Jonas Liepmann is the founder of iversity. He studied cultural studies at the Humboldt-University, Berlin as well as comparative literary sciences at the Freie Universität Berlin. During his studies he developed the concept of iversity, for which he earned the financial support of EXIST – Gründen aus der Wissenschaft as well as of the EU, the state Brandenburg and private capital investors. Since the end of 2013 iversity offers MOOCs that have attracted more than 500.000 registered users to the platform.
Hybrid Publishing Lab: Are you working on anything at the moment that relates to our conference on post-digital scholarship or did you come across something interesting lately that deals with that topic?
Jonas Liepmann: I currently work on exploring new ways and best practices for publishing online courses on the platform www.iversity.org. We enable academics to digitalise their learning materials and offer online courses to thousands of students at once. iversity launched as the first European MOOC platform in October 2013, and we were struck by the speed with which professors, universities and users picked up on this. After many years of trying to change the way online education is used in universities, change is finally coming with a speed that is very unusual in the academic sphere.
HPL: The business model of iversity is also connected to various forms of communicating and scholarly publishing. How does new technologies influence the role of scholarly publishing now and what developments do you see in the future?
Liepmann: The classroom hasn’t changed much since the 19th century: behind closed doors a professor “reads” in front of a selected audience of students. MOOCs open up the classroom. By giving the professor a possibility to publish his or her lectures to a virtually unlimited audience, it increases the appreciation of academic teaching (while in the traditional university setting, reputation is mainly only gained by publishing research papers). I believe the development of online courses will replace or supplement traditional textbooks. Regarding formal learning, I hope that we can use online learning to actually fulfil the promise of the Bologna Process: to create the possibility to study anywhere in Europe and get ECTS credits for online courses.
HPL: Massive open online courses are open to participants all over the world regardless of their location. Nevertheless the contents knowledge of the platform are declared as intellectual property and are not allowed to be modified or used in further context. To what extent does Iversity support open access to knowledge?
Liepmann: iversity is open in the sense that anyone with an internet connection can create an account and access all of our content for free. We believe that this is one of the strongest drivers of MOOCs – not only because it makes educational resources available without cost to the student, but also makes it accessible to people who don’t have the formal entrance qualifications required for higher education. Whether our courses are allowed to be modified and used in other contexts then our platform depends on the professor and university we work with.
HPL: Which book will you always have as an analogue copy in your bookshelf?
Liepmann: I really like paper books, but I wouldn’t go so far as to fetishize them, like building an altar for a specific copy. If my reading habits adapt and the technology improves, I can imagine only having books in a digital form.