open to movement

Next week I’ll be back in Madrid at the OOFHEC 2019 conference of open universities.

The OOFHEC2019 conference will focus on trends and high impact factors in the global and European higher education.

In a combination of plenary keynotes by key players in higher education at institutional and policy level and parallel presentations and workshops, OOFHEC2019 will cover latest developments under the following topics:

  • Blended and online education
  • Micro-credentials for continuous education and MOOCs
  • European university networks, internationalisation and virtual mobility
  • Learning bots
  • Equal opportunities and inclusion

It’ll be lovely to see so many European colleagues again. I’ll be keynoting about the progress we are making at Edinburgh in online and distance learning. There will be much talk of The European Commission’s eU.University hub for “online learning, blended/virtual mobility, virtual campuses and collaborative exchange of best practices” is now built by the OpenU consortium, led by Panthéon Sorbonne Paris1, in which University of Edinburgh is participating. This hub will connect European universities to facilitate ubiquitous access and free movement of students and learners. It will also empower European university networks for collaborative online education and virtual mobility.

They say:

Blended and online education is a main factor of innovation and change in European higher education, as is shown by the Changing Pedagogical Landscape studies. It creates new possibilities for teaching large groups of students and at the same time to intensify education in small learning communities. New learning formats support the mission of universities to link education, research and to enhance the quality of education. Innovation contributes as well to a balanced use of resources and cost-effectiveness if accompanied by organisational change and support.

(International) micro-credentials are already awarded to  programs worldwide (Micro-Masters, nano-degrees ) organised by universities and MOOC platforms.  Jointly with the growth of blended and online education, innovative modes for mobility are created as a complement to physical mobility enhancing the learning experience and opening new opportunities for intensive collaboration between universities.

The European Commission is supporting this innovation. In the Erasmus+ 2019 call, virtual mobility is defined as “a set of activities supported by Information and Communication Technologies, including e-learning, that realise or facilitate international, collaborative experiences in a context of teaching, training or learning”. Blended and virtual mobility is stimulated in many Erasmus+ actions, in particular in the “European universities” initiative, “strategic partnerships”, “knowledge alliances”, “sector skills” and “capacity building”.

Equal opportunities and inclusion in a diverse society are a continuous task in European society, especially with regard to gender, disadvantaged groups, migrants and refugees. This requires specific measures at all levels of education, last but not least in higher education. This is to be realized by specific organisational support for these groups, mobilizing expertise across the institution.Above all, this requires that equal opportunities and inclusion are considered as a core dimension in the design of courses by paying attention to enough flexibility and personalisation.

Open universities have a unique and long tradition in this, while they are also continuously innovating policies, organisational frameworks and teaching and learning in this respect.

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