Interactive Open Online Courses (IOOCs)
‘1. What is an IOOC and what did I gain from participating?
Through the Monday Mail newsletter and the Erasmus coordinator of our Institute, I became aware of the possibility to participate in what is called an ‘Interactive Open Online Course’. What I read about that course was this: The IOOC gives young adults from different countries the opportunity to participate in a meaningful and intercultural exchange.
Over a period of five weeks, interactive and valuable discussions on socio-political issues will take place, which will be led by facilitators. To support the content of the course, academic experts will provide different materials and set assignments for the participants to complete between sessions. This format will require a time commitment of about two hours per week.
One of the main reasons why I signed up for the course was that it offered the opportunity to engage with an issue over a longer period of time and discuss it in English with people from other countries. I was interested in the way that the issue of sustainability - primarily in relation to food - is discussed in other countries. My group had 7-15 members, and we spent two hours each week talking about different aspects of sustainability and discussing how the production and consumption of food can be made more sustainable. It was important for me to hear opinions from other cultures and to broaden my mind and look beyond western views. Since I will spend the last semester of my Bachelor’s programme in psychology abroad with Erasmus, the course was also a great opportunity to practise my spoken English and my ability to deal with different dialects and accents.
2. Time commitment and workload
As I have mentioned before, my IOOC lasted five weeks. In these courses, the students must demonstrate a high level of active participation to receive a certificate from Erasmus.
- Attendance of most of the weekly sessions (two hours each) (for the exact number, participants can ask their facilitators or check the information provided about the course)
- Preparing for the course using the materials on the EdX online platform including quizzes on the topic
- Preparing and posting questions for the next session (GoogleDocs)
- Reflecting on the session (GoogleDocs)
- Submission of a course project on the topic and presentation of your work in the last session of the course
As you can see, the workload is quite heavy, but it’s worth it. And you get your assignments done faster and faster as you progress through the course. In addition, the videos, i.e. the preparation materials, are very good! So it’s definitely worth investing the time if you are interested in the topic of the IOOC.
3. Interactive and intercultural
The course is taught in English. The idea is that the facilitators will prepare a rough agenda and ask questions directed at no one in particular. The facilitators lead the discussion and ensure that all participants get a chance to speak. This doesn’t always work, but that's the way it is when you communicate with so many people at the same time.
My experience is that you should use the time you spend in the IOOC with so many interesting people to ask questions and to exchange opinions with people from different cultural backgrounds. You don't get this chance very often.
You shouldn’t be worried or even scared about having to speak English. Quite the opposite: Virtually everyone on my course was able to communicate well or very well in English, and even those who were a little shy in the beginning opened up after a while.
An IOOC develops its own momentum, and it’s easier to get talking than you might think. In my IOOC, we even talked intensively about the Bachelor's thesis project of one of the participants (it was about sustainability) and were able to exchange helpful tips and comments.
So: Just be confident! It’s worth it.
Participating in the IOOC has enriched me in many ways.
I met many interesting people, and I’m still in touch with some of them. So you meet many people who can be your tourist guides when you’re on holiday! ;)
In addition, I had the opportunity to actually SPEAK English and not just to read it. That’s a big difference. When you talk to people who come from different countries and have different accents (and yes, even German people who speak English well have an accent), it is difficult at first to understand everything. Some people speak quickly, some speak slowly, some pronounce the ‘th’ differently. That’s all part of global English.
All in all, I would encourage everyone to take part in an IOOC. It is time well spent, and you gain a lot from participating.’
Reflective report from a participant
- ‘My group had 7-15 members, and we spent two hours each week talking about different aspects of sustainability and discussing how the production and consumption of food can be made more sustainable. It was important for me to hear opinions from other cultures and to broaden my mind and look beyond western views. Since I will spend the last semester of my Bachelor’s programme abroad with Erasmus, the course was also a great opportunity to practise my spoken English and my ability to deal with different dialects and accents.’
- ‘The participants were from Europe (France, Italy) and North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey). The exchange among the participants about their personal experiences with hate speech was particularly moving. I was pleasantly surprised by the incredible activism of women from countries where women are still being oppressed/not seen as equal to men.’
- ‘Most of the online materials that were made available to us were videos on hate speech and newspaper articles that were also very informative. At the end of the course, the whole group made a video campaign against hate speech.'
- ‘Also, I have definitely noticed that interacting with people from so many different countries has made me reflect on my own views, especially when it comes to cultural differences and ways of life, and has also made me change them.’
- Overall, the points of view of the other young people from different backgrounds and also the sense of community that developed within the group have enriched my day-to-day university life and my personal skills, which is why I would be very interested in taking part in further Erasmus+ Virtual Exchange seminars, be it IOOCs or Social Circles.’
- ‘That was probably the best thing about the course - learning that people from far away countries such as Egypt or Pakistan, where the culture is so different from my own, are basically just like me.’
- ‘But in this course I have not only learned to think better of others, I have also learned to think better of myself.'
- 'This course was one of the best courses I have taken in my entire university life.’
- ‘Tiles on my screen with the faces of strangers on them quickly turned into my friends.’
- „My IOOC consisted of 7-15 people who got together every week for two hours to discuss the topic of sustainability in its various shapes and sizes, and how the production and consumption of foods could be made more efficient. It was important to me to listen to opinions from other cultures and gain insights beyond the eurocentric scope. Furthermore, since I will spend my last bachelor semester abroad, this course was a great opportunity to speak English regularly and get to know different accents and expressions.“
- “The participants were from Europe (France, Italy), North Africa (Morocco, Tunesia) and Turkey. I found the conversation about personal experience with Hate Speech was especially moving. I was also surprised by the incredible female activism in countries where women are still being openly suppressed/not treated equally to men.”
- “The online material consisted mostly of videos regarding Hate Speech and newspaper articles that were very informative and enlightening. At the end of the course, we made our own video campaign against Hate Speech.”
- ‘Personally, I found it particularly interesting to talk to people from countries that are further away, like Egypt and Libya, and to hear what they think about climate change. Here in Germany, I usually don't have access to these cultures. It was fascinating to look at the issue from their point of view and learn how people in countries outside of Europe view climate change.’
- ‘I am very happy to have had this experience as I was able to improve my communication skills and have learned how differently climate change affects the people in my generation.
I can definitely recommend this experience and think that the Social Circle is a very good way to get to know other cultures and people from around the world. I have to admit that at first it felt strange to take part in a conversation with participants from all over the world. But the experiences I took away were definitely worth it, and I will participate in a Social Circle again in the future.’
- ‘The online platform offers the function that only one person can speak at a time. This ensured that everyone had a chance to present their arguments, and that added quality to the discussion. The introduction round lasted about 30 minutes. Directly after that, we started talking about our first topic, namely our personal experiences with climate change. It was interesting how different the stories of the individual participants were. There were the more privileged countries, e.g. the Netherlands and Germany, which are not directly affected. And there were some participants from developing countries who told us that everyone in their community experienced negative effects caused by air and water pollution. It was shocking to hear how little the governments of these countries do to reduce pollution and how reckless companies act there.’