The ICDE Secretariat has asked me, as the President of EDEN, to answer the following two questions for their annual printed publication Highlights:
- What has been the most promising development within ODL in your region in 2011?
- Where do the main challenges lie in your region?
When I received the questions, I immediately thought of the dire economy as the toughest challenge for education in Europe. At the same time it appeared to me that Ipads and other mobile gadgets in combination with the growing culture for sharing through social media were the most promising developments in 2011. Another personal observation is that video lectures seem to pop up all over the Internet.
After some reflection, I realized that the EDEN Fellows’ workshop in June and the EDEN Open Classroom Conference in October provided important answers to the ICDE questions.
The EDEN Fellows’ workshop
In 2011, we launched the first EDEN Fellows’ workshop as a promising think tank on European open and distance learning. The Fellows met in Dublin to celebrate EDEN’s 20th anniversary and to reflect on the remarkable developments in e-learning and the challenges ahead.
The workshop concluded that all major developments during the last five years had been predicted, although not by all. Even so, the Fellows agreed that resistance to educational innovation persists. In fact, developments are mostly substantial slower than foreseen because educational institutions inertia is much more effective than hoped.
Finally, the important emerging technologies pointed out by the Fellows were: social media; open educational resources and practices; mobile learning and personal learning environments.
The Open Classroom Conference: Never Waste a Crisis
The EDEN Fellows also focused on the financial constraints facing the European countries and their impact on learner support, curriculum restraints, new developments etc. However, this challenge should also be seen as a major opportunity for ODL. So, EDEN used the political and economical situation in Athens, last October, as backdrop for the Open Classroom conference, with the symptomatic title - Never Waste a Crisis.
It was intriguing to observe the optimistic attitude of the delegates who focused more on opportunities for change than on the dire economic situation in Europe. Several of the presenters argued that an educational crisis will spur innovation and that the need for cost-effective education will result in many opportunities for e-learning.
During the conference, several colleagues reminded me that the financial situation will enforce more competition, mergers and new financial models in European education. This will create both opportunities and challenges for open and distance learning providers which need to find sustainable and large-scale solutions in more competitive markets.
In its Europe 2020 strategy, the EU Commission stressed the importance of healthy and active ageing, and 2012 will be The European Year of Active Ageing and the Solidarity between Generations. EDEN has therefore chosen Open Learning Generations as the theme for its annual conference in Porto in June. One year after the July 22 massacre in Norway, we should remind both young and mature learners of the dangers of unlimited and unattended access to extreme networks and resources on the Internet.
|Morten Flate Paulsen|