Contribution from Martine Vidal, Vice President
EDEN had kindly been invited by Airina Volungeviciene, Centre of Distance Study at Vitautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, to take part in the international conference on “Adult learning and e-learning quality” organised by the university on November 25th and 26th, and I have been very happy to be the spokeswoman for EDEN on that occasion.
Many pleasant events and encounters made the journey to Kaunas and the conference particularly rewarding.
First of all, at Vienna airport I met Ildiko Mazar from EDEN Secretariat, in charge with the follow up of all the European projects EDEN is involved in, and it was nice traveling half the way with her. She was coming for a presentation on e-learning initiatives and quality references in Europe and also for the kick-off meeting of the REVIVE project on the occasion of the conference.
Then I had a hearty welcome from Danguole Rutkauskiene, who took me around the Kaunas University of Technology (KTU) where she is heading the “E-learning technology centre”. At the centre I visited the video-conferencing room where a lecture was taking place, with a group of students in the amphitheatre and eight other ones attending the lecture via the Internet. The system developed by the centre, VIPS, holds several hundreds of modules, each with easy direct access to each slide and to the corresponding comments from the teacher, and other useful and interactive refinements for distance or autonomous learners. It is very user friendly and has been adopted by other universities, among which Bologna medical university. The engineers from her centre have been in charge with the recording and direct broadcasting of the conference for the next two days.
On the second day of the conference, while Ildiko was attending the REVIVE project presentations, and was being impressed by the very professional preparation of it, I had the opportunity to listen to several more engineers explaining about further developments for the VIPS system, some in partnership with other universities.
The conference itself was really interesting, with presentations tackling quality from different quarters and angles, and, usually, they were comfortingly merging in focus and perspectives.
Some presentations were in Lithuanian, like the one Danguole made on “Mobile technology and new challenges for Quality of E-learning” with her team, others in English. But we had the benefit of a bilingual issue of the journal “The quality of higher education” prepared for the occasion, with all article translated in English: that is very much appreciated.
Nevertheless, later on I also attended a session in Lithuanian, for librarians, just to hear how the language and discussion flow smoothly when they take place in native language – it ended in a rather passionate way, and I was explained by Margarita Tereseviciene, from the department of Educational sciences at Vytautas Magnus University, that the librarians were pleading for a better recognition from the rest of academics – quite rightly too, and not very different from what happens in my own country.
But we were not just having a conference by ourselves in Kaunas… networks were being activated meanwhile, the sessions were broadcasted live. Ildiko even received an SMS from Scotland after her presentation on “E-learning Initiatives and Quality References in Europe” requesting more information and links to the projects she had mentioned.
And then we had a grand Internet finale for that day.
Two participants of the Eurovision Song Contest, one from Lithuania, Julia (of the “4Fun”), who was in the conference room in Kaunas with her guitar player and the e-learning centre technicians, and “Walters and Kazha” from Latvia, who at the same moment were being hosted by Riga University, sang together in perfect harmony and synchronisation (image and sound), a song they had composed together.
I forgot to say we had started the first day in music, with a lovely tune played on “kankles”, a Lithuanian sitar by a student from the University.
Danguole also showed me glimpses of snowy Kaunas by night, old and new, made me cross as many bridges as possible over the Nemunas and the Neris, and, very appropriately the bell of knowledge in Raudondvaris, close to Kaunas. (Sorry I did not hear its music, too high for either Danga’s or my own levels of knowledge.)
More music was in store though, as Nijole Saugeniene, Director of Centre of Distance studies at Mykolas Romeris University, kindly drove me back to Vilnius, accompanied by lovely daughter and with Irena Zemaitaityte, the Vice Dean of the Faculty of social policy in the same university in Vilnius: we played lots of musicals from former time in the car, and I was explained all the joy of the Lindy Hop dance. But we also briefly stopped at Trakai castle on the way.