Image: Maximus Gorky Sembiring, 2023

Yesterday was the third and final day of the ICDE conference. This post will focus solely on the last day’s presentations. I will do another post that will be a reflection on distance education, where it is today and the challenges and opportuntiies for the future.

Parallel sessions

I missed the morning because of another important commitment and the day was a little frustrating: I missed a really significant keynote from the Open University of China, then  after going to the wrong room got to one presentation just as it ended and then I was 20 minutes too early for the next one and ended up listening to something in which I had no interest at all. (Ever had one of those days at a conference?)

An approach to institutional transformation

After AI, ‘transformation’ was the conference buzzword. Following Covid, institutions ‘need to transform’, digitally, pedagogically, and administratively, due to technology developments. ‘The world is changing…’, ‘everything is moving faster’, etc., 

So it was interesting to hear about how one institution is attempting to transform itself. Professor Maximus Gorky Sembiring described how Universitas Terbuka (the Open University of Indonesia), after 40 years of steady operation, is going about the process of transformation. He began by describing the driving forces of change and the context in which they are happening. He envisioned four types of change to future universities:

  • entrepreneurial
  • research-oriented
  • management (business?) focused
  • holistic/life-centred.

For this to happen there must be three different types of transformation:

  • digital
  • functional and
  • cultural

Universitas Terbuka is going through this transformation at the moment. It will be interesting to see how it works out.


There were two closing keynotes, both from Catalonia, Spain. Both were well-presented in clear, fluent English with good graphics.

Andreia Inamorato of the University of Barcelona talked about open and lifelong learning and their importance for the future, and the influences of social change and digital education on their development.

Albert Sangrà of the Open University of Catalonia talked about the impact of the pandemic and current trends in higher education, in particular:

  • the development and application of AI in distance education
  • the need for increased flexibility in educational provision
  • a focus on ‘up-skilling’ and ‘re-skilling’ for future society.

These were the almost ritual requirements of keynotes at the close of a world conference: leap forward and change (details will follow).

We then had an interminable closing ceremony with the required and genuine thank-you’s especially to UNED, the ICDE awards, and the best bit left for the end:

Next ICDE conference

…will be in Wellington, New Zealand, 10-13 November, 2023, to be organised jointly by the Open Polytechinc of New Zealand and Massey University, two world leaders in distance education. Mark Nichols made such a good pitch for Wellington that I almost considered giving up retirement – but only almost.

See my next blog for some overall reflections on the state of distance education in 2023, prompted by the conference.



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