Above, one of the many addresses during the 2012 EADL Annual Conference, this one emphasizing the UK and distance learning.
More than 60 distance learning executives, researchers, and scholars from Belgium, Norway, Holland, Spain, Germany, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom gathered in the flower region outskirts of Amsterdam to attend the European Association of Distance Learning’s (EADL’s) Annual Conference from May 9-11, 2012. Themed “The Profit Side of Learning,” the conference addressed a range of timely issues associated with distance education learning media, services, teaching, and business models.
Amidst the conference’s interactions, it was clear that EADL executives were interested in developing U.S. partners in distance education delivery, which is one area in which DETC institutions could conceivably benefit by getting involved with EADL in the future. Conference opinions, as well as evidence provided in the presentations, indicated that European peoples’, governments’, and employers’ attitudes toward the acceptance of outside institutions are on the rise. Keynote presenter and Chair of the Netherlands Flemish Accreditation Organization, Karl Dittrich, emphasized how open and less restrictive European higher education is today compared to 20 years ago. Dittrich called for the inclusion of more private institutions to serve an expanding European learning market’s many needs, niches, and preferences.
A presentation focused on the United Kingdom emphasized the fact that its adult higher education market is now significantly less serviced by publicly subsidized enrollment sources (41% of the market), with the remainder of the market serviced by internal corporate training enrollments (22%), external corporate training enrollments (23%), and direct-to-consumer enrollments (14%). Another presentation cited the growing cultural and gender diversity of the European adult learning classroom, with Muslim and women students showing the most significant gains on a percentage basis.
Similar to the U.S.’s hottest distance learning trend, our European counterparts are remaking their institutions to embrace social media in marketing, classrooms, and e-campus community life and culture. Regarding the adoption of other new technologies in the European distance education experience, results have been mixed. While online learning has surged throughout Europe, students in Internet-based programs prefer printed materials to compliment their online experience. Dutch students, for example, prefer print over online learning resources due to print resources being more “spontaneous” (i.e., they do not have to “turn them on”), readily available, malleable, and portable. In another study in which Dutch students were offered the option of a completely iPAD-delivered set of learning resources or a combination of online and print resources, the majority of participants chose the combination option. The study also concluded no discernible academic outcomes differences between the two groups.
The Head of Continental Europe Operations for CrossKnowledge, Stephan Atsou presented a compelling research-based learning ecosystem model that combines self-, community-, mentored-, and blended-learning that incorporates the six adult learning motivators of social relationships, external expectations, social welfare, personal advancement, escape/stimulation, and personal interest.
A major Norwegian research study found three characteristics shared among the most successful of that country’s online faculty: they provided academic feedback and assistance, adequately responded to questions, and provided timely responses.
While this year’s conference was a huge success, next year’s could be even more impactful. In addition to Southern Europe’s reduced attendance due to the Mediterranean economic crisis, having only one representative from the United States resulted in far too few intercontinental collaboration opportunities. Through participation in next year’s EADL’s annual conference, DETC institutions can open new markets for their courses and programs, partner to bring European distance learning to the U.S., and learn from cutting edge distance education research and practice being conducted in Europe’s leading higher education institutions.
To learn more about the EADL, visit its website. Next year’s conference is in Hamburg, Germany from May 22-24, 2013, so you may want to make plans to attend it now!
About the Author
Michael Hillyard is an independent consultant who specializes in higher education and training. He has been an executive in DETC institutions and continues to serve as an accreditation evaluator.
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