April 21, 2018

Pushing the boundaries of higher education – in Barcelona

The pavement of Passeig de Gracia, Barcelona

If you are going to push any boundaries, Barcelona is as good a place as any to do it. Home of Antoni Gaudi, Joan Miró, Picasso (for a significant period in his work), the chef Ferran Adrià, and the fully online Open University of Catalonia (UOC – Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, established as early as 1995), Barcelona has long been in the forefront of innovation and change.

The headquarters of UOC on Avenida Tibidabo

UOC is running an event up to and including October 3 that

will address the challenges that current higher education models face and showcase innovative initiatives and practices that offer creative answers for pressing issues.

Speakers include:

  • Terry Anderson (Emeritus Professor at Athabasca University and Director of the Canadian Institute Distance Education Research)
  • Lisa Marie Blaschke (Director of the Master of Distance Education and E-Learning at Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, Germany
  • Jim Groom (Instructional Technologist, Co-founder Reclaim Hosting)
  • Brian Lamb (‎Director of Open learning and Innovation Thompson Rivers University, Canada)
  • Allison Littlejohn (Academic Director for Learning and Teaching and Professor of Learning Technology at The Open University, UK)
  • Annette Markham (Professor MSO of Information Studies and Co-Director of the Digital Living Masters Programme at Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Yishay Mor (Director of the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in teaching at the Levinsky College of Education, Israel)
  • Rikke Toft Nørgård (Associate Professor in Educational Design and Technology at the Center for Teaching Development and Digital Media, Aarhus University, Denmark)
  • Philipp Schmidt (Director of Learning Innovation at the MIT Media Lab)
  • and yours truly

I will be focusing in my contribution on the changing nature of online learning (from mainly fully online, text-based, asynchronous to a blend of face-to-face teaching, video-based synchronous, asynchronous and social media) and the implications for faculty/teacher development and training.

There are still places open for the event. For further information, go to the web site. See ya in Barcelona!

The front of an apartment building on Consell de Cent

More details on ICDE’s World Conference on Online Learning

ICDE Toronto skyline 2

Contact North | Contact Nord, the organizer and host of the 27th International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) World Conference, launches the official portal for the World Conference on Online Learning: Teaching in a Digital Age – Re-Thinking Teaching & Learning to be held in Toronto, Canada from October 17 – 19, 2017. (For an earlier post on ICDE, Contact North, and the conference, click here.)

The theme of the World Conference on Online Learning is Teaching in the Digital Age – Re-Thinking Teaching & Learning with the program focused on five tracks:

  1. Emerging Pedagogies and Designs for Online Learning
  2. Expanding Access, Openness and Flexibility
  3. Changing Models of Assessment
  4. New Delivery Tools and Resources for Learning
  5. Re-Designing Institutional Business Models

Visit the bilingual portal – www.onlinelearning2017.ca and www.apprentissageenligne2017.ca – for information including:


This will be one of the major conferences on online learning in 2017, with participants from all over the world. Even though the conference is targeting a total of 2,000 participants, early registration is recommended (when registration opens) because of the likely number of people wanting to participate from Canada and the USA alone.

Registration will open in October 2016 (sign up for their newsletter to get the exact date).

Declaration of interest: I am a Contact North Research Associate and have been engaged in some of the preliminary planning. If the choice of conference title is familiar, it was not my suggestion, although I have not opposed it.

E-Learn 2016 conference near Washington DC

The Westin Alexandria Hotel

The Westin Alexandria Hotel

What: E-Learn–World Conference on E-Learning is an international conference organized by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) and co-sponsored by the International Journal on E-Learning.

This annual conference serves as a multi-disciplinary forum for the exchange of information on research, development, and applications of all topics related to e-Learning in the Corporate, Government, Healthcare, and Higher Education sectors.

Where: The Westin Alexandria Hotel, Alexandria, Virginia

When: November 14-16, 2016

Who: Keynote speakers include:

  • Mark Prensky, Global Future Education Foundation & Institute, USA
  • Richard Meyer, University of California at Santa Barbara, USA
  • Donald Clark, Plan B Learning, UK
  • Sheila Jagannathan, Head of E-learning, Leadership, Learning and Innovation, World Bank Group, USA
  • Mimi Miyoung Lee, University of Houston, USA
  • Ben Werdmuller, CEO & co-Founder of Known, USA

How: The call for participation is now open and closes on September 26, 2016. For registration information, click here


This is a large conference (1,000+) and a good opportunity to catch the latest technology developments and applications in e-learning. It has a strong list of keynotes. Although listed as a world conference and although it does attract many international participants, it is still mainly focused on developments in e-learning in the USA. It is broad-based though in terms of covering e-learning in corporate, government, health and higher education.

OEB Conference, Berlin, 2016


What: OEB: Shaping the Future of Learning: The global, cross-sector conference on technology supported learning and training (formerly Online Educa). OEB is organised by ICWE GmbH, an international events and communications company.

Where: Hotel InterContinental, Budapester Strasse 2, 10787 Berlin, Germany
When: November 30-December 2, 2016
How: Registration is now open. To register, click here
  • Jane Bozarth, North Carolina, USA
  • Marcia Conner, Consultant, USA
  • Stephen Downes, NRC, Canada
  • Nina Huntemann, edX, USA
  • Andrew Keen, author, USA
  • Diana Knodel, appCamps, Germany
  • Jeff Kortenbosch, AkzoNobel, Netherlands
  • Diana Laurillard, London Knowledge Lab, UK
  • Nadia Magnenat Thalmann, NTU, Singapore
  • Roger Schrank, Socratic Arts, USA
  • Andreas Schleicher, OECD
  • Toby Shapshak, Stuff Magazine, South Africa
  • Eric Sheninger, International Center for Educational Leadership, USA
  • Clive Shepherd, The More than Blended learning Company, UK
  • Jeff Staes, EOI Academy, Belgium
  • Mark Surman, Mozilla Foundation, USA
  • Monika Weber-Fahr, SE4All, Austria

Conference themes: 

Main theme: Owning learning: Tomorrow’s learning is about ownership. We will own our learning. We will control what, where, when and how we learn. We will access, link, combine, interpret and interact with knowledge. We will be empowered as never before. We will make learning work for us.

  • learning and ownership
  • learning without limits
  • learning and investment
  • learning and design
  • learning and connecting
  • learning and the future
  • new learning and new work
  • learning the new literacy


There are 15 pre-conference workshops

The OEB plenary debate

Motion: This House believes artificial intelligence (AI) could, should and will replace teachers


Position your brand as a market leader to the OEB community of learning, training, technology and L&D professionals.

Official conference news platform: OEB News


OEB is almost the exact opposite of the EDEN Research Workshop, and no better or worse for that. OEB’s strength is that it covers formal education, corporate training and the business of educational technology. It is a huge conference, extremely wide-ranging in topics, audiences, and quality of presentations, from the very best to the truly awful. You will come across a lot of blowhards forecasting the doom of formal education, and a lot of thoughtful contributions about the future of online learning and education. It will have over 2,000 participants, so finding your way round the program can be a problem. However, as a result you might end up attending something you would never have deliberately chosen, yet find it is one of the most interesting sessions. You will also meet people you would otherwise never meet, and may learn something really interesting from them. Let serendipity rule (if you can afford it – the conference fee alone is about US$1,000. Rooms at the Intercontinental start at around US$150 a night).

EDEN Research Workshop, October, 2016

The city of Olenburg Image: © Marcus Thielen, 2015

The city of Oldenburg
Image: © Marcus Thielen, 2015

What: Forging New Pathways of research and innovation in open and distance learning: reaching from the roots

The Ninth EDEN Research Workshop in Oldenburg, Germany, will bring together researchers from all walks of life and provide a platform for engaging in discussion and debate, exchanging research ideas, and presenting new developments in ODL, with the goal of creating dialogues and forming opportunities for research collaboration.

Workshop Themes:

  • emerging distance education systems and theories
  • management and organizational models and approaches
  • evolving practices in technology-enhanced learning and teaching


  • Olaf Zawacki-Richter, Carl von Ossietzki University, Oldenburg
  • Inge de Waard, The Open University, UK
  • Adnan Qayyum, Penn State university, USA
  • Som Naidu, Monash University, Australia
  • Paul Prinsloo, University of South Africa
  • George Veletsianos, Royal Roads University, Canada
  • Isa Jahnke, University of Missouri, USA

Types of sessions:

  • paper presentations
  • hands-on workshops
  • posters
  • demonstrations
  • ‘synergy’ sessions (to share and discuss EU projects)
  • training sessions

Where: Carl von Ossietzki University, Oldenburg, Germany. Oldenburg is a charming city in north east Germany between Bremen and Groningen.

When: 4-7 October, 2016

Who: The European Distance and e-Learning Network and the Centre for Distance Education, Carl von Ossietzki University. The university is a partner with the University of Maryland University College in offering a fully online Master in Distance Education and e-Learning, which has been running for many years. The Centre for Distance Education has published 15 books on distance education and e-learning in its ASF series.

How: Registration opens mid-August. For more details on registration, fees and accommodation go to the conference web site

Comment: EDEN Research Workshops are one of my favourite professional development activities. They bring together online learning researchers from all over Europe, and it is a remarkably efficient way to keep up to date not only with the latest research but also the technology trends in open and distance education that are getting serious attention. The conference is usually small (about 100-200 participants) and very well focused on practical aspects of research and practice in online learning and distance education.