This year is reaching its end, one more year with the COVID pandemic and with a number of restrictions on our lives, leading to isolation and working from home, which influence how we live, work, and learn. Nevertheless, the pandemic enhanced the online connectedness through digital platforms and enabled communication and collaboration on much wider level than before. By now, we have gained significant experience and know how to be resilient, how to adapt to online environments, and how to organize teaching and learning in a new situation with use of digital technologies. Still, we miss the old times, the times before the pandemic, since we miss our freedom, meeting face-to-face and our established way of life.
In 2021, EDEN celebrated its 30 anniversary, 30 years of continued leadership and contribution to the European and global education community. This is also the year in which we have taken a big step forward in establishing the future of EDEN as EDEN Digital Learning Europe Association.
In my previous posts, I have written on EDEN achievements so far in this year, and in this one, I will reflect on the autumn activities.
Our monthly NAP webinars finalised this year on December 1st with a session called Assessment of STEM transversal skills from conceptual framework to real-world problems. These webinars highlight recent achievements in the field of education and research and have interactive discussions so they always attract a wide audience.
We concluded the 3rd series of #online together webinars called Time for Action in Shaping the HE 4.0., with two great sessions in October. During the year, within this series, we have organized seven webinars with 32 speakers and moderators and over 860 participants. This EDEN initiative, which started in March immediately after the pandemic of COVID-19 caused a global lockdown, was our response to the pandemic and the situation in education and gathered together overt two years, 98 speakers and moderators, and more than 5.300 participants. All sessions are recorded and available as Open Education Resources on the EDEN web.
One of the highlights of the EDEN activities is EDEN Online and Distance Learning Week, which was held at the beginning of the November for the 6th year in the row. This EDEN initiative was undertaken in partnership this year with USDLA, ODLAA and FLANZ, making the global outreach and with special contribution from ICDE and Blackboard. The week was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of identifying and analysing good practices in online teaching and learning. There were eight webinars with 36 moderators and speakers and 700 online attendees. In the last session titled A Report Card on the Crisis: What is the Legacy of the Great Onlining of Higher Education?, we had a discussion with high profile stakeholders on the present situation in higher education in these pandemic times. All sessions are recorded and available as Open Education Resources on EDEN web.
This year EDEN received the ICDE Prize of Excellence 2021, the Institutional Prize for the Institutional contribution to the field of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning. The prize confirmed EDEN’s presence, leadership and service to education community on European and global level for three decades. This is result of continuous work and contribution of the EDEN members and community. And I’m very proud that the efforts and commitment of all of us involved and related to EDEN were recognized and awarded.
Coming to the end of the year, we cannot but ask ourselves are we able to address all the challenges and opportunities ahead of us which brings digitalization and digital transformation? What are the digital competencies we should have? How should we adopt and adapt them to the everyday situations and requirements we encounter in society, as citizens, as workers, as scholars, as learners? Every day there is something new we have to learn and could do better. The Digital Education Action Plan is providing good guideline on how to do things better in education, how to address the challenges identified and exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s work on it together! Also in progress is DigiComp 2.2, which will provide an update on the digital competencies we need in digital age.
Two books were published recently on the topic of scholars, an academic working in digital world today, and what is his/her future. For many scholars, research is dominating their activity, as it enables professional advancement. In addition, teaching activities involving the implementation of digital technologies in the educational process require significant investment in professional development, and learning how to use new tools and technologies. This implementation is important for enhancing the quality of educational process. However, what does it mean to be a scholar today when the pandemic has drastically altered the ways in which scholars teach, conduct research, and engage with one another and with the world around them? In addition, it also make us all think about the role of higher education as a public good. How can higher education contribute to a more just, sustainable and healthy world, in ways that connect the local and the global?
The book Evolving as a Digital Scholar: Teaching and Researching in a Digital World is written by Professor Wim Van Petegem from KU Leuven (Belgium), an EDEN Senior Fellow, with co-authors from Stellenbosch University (South Africa) JP Bosman, Miné De Klerk, and Sonja Strydom. The book presents key domains of digital agility: getting involved in research, education and (community) service, mobilising (digital) skills on various levels, and acting in multiple roles, both individually and interlinked with others and different roles and skills associated with evolving as a digital scholar. The book is available in open access. The other book is also coming from from Stellenbosch University (South Africa) and is called The Global Scholar: Implications for postgraduate studies and supervision by authors Peter Rule, Eli Bitzer, Liezel Frick. The book talks about reimagining the global scholar in times of crisis, explores the implications of the concept for understanding postgraduate studies and supervision using three conceptual lenses – “horizon”, “currency” and “trajectory” – to organise the thirteen chapters, concluding with a reflection on the implications of Covid-19 for postgraduate studies and supervision.
Both books highlight the important issue of connectedness, now dominantly viral, and our need to be a part of community. When the pandemic hit, communities of practice gave a sense of belonging, and they have become more visible, vivid and necessary. Professional learning communities and learning networks are equality important in supporting teachers and educators in their personal and professional development. Today, more than ever, it is important to look around, to communicate with others, to search for different practices and know how, to modify them and add to existing efforts, and to shape new ideas and possibilities. Networking and collaboration are of huge importance. As a member of EDEN, I’m very proud and happy that EDEN is celebrating 30 years of continuity in supporting professionals in distance learning and e-learning, as a platform for knowledge sharing and discussion, promoting policy and good practices on the European and global level. Many people who come to EDEN stay here for their entire professional life as they sense this feeling of belonging, of being among colleagues with similar interests or common goals.
During this year, necessary steps have been taken, and are still in progress, to guarantee EDEN’s existence in the future as EDEN Digital Learning Europe. In October 2021, EDEN Europe held its Annual General Meeting and elected a new Management Board. At first Management Board meeting, Professor Josep M. Duart (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain) was elected as the President of EDEN Digital Learning Europe.
EDEN Digital Learning Europe will take over EDEN’s activities in 2022 while EDEN UK will be a silent partner and co-organizer. EDEN will continue with its activities and I’m glad that I can announce that the EDEN Annual Conference 2022 will take place in Tallin, Estonia. Details will come soon.
Therefore, a new era for EDEN is starting and I invite you all to join EDEN and to stay with us, to contribute to shaping its new and shiny future.
At the end of this, one more challenging year, I wish you all good health and happiness. Let us all work together for a better future in the world we want.
Merry Christmas all and have a joyful New Year.
I leave you with Christmas songs from the concert Christmas in Vienna, 1994 with Placido Domingo, Charles Aznavour and Sissel Kyrkjebø and the Vienna Symphony and Vienna Children’s Choir under the direction of maestro Vjekoslav Šutej. It has been long time ago, but to me this is the best Christmas concert.