Learners In The Driving Seat - Guest post by Wim van Petegem

June 3, 2015 by Antonio Moreira Teixeira   Comments (0)


All EDEN's efforts are ultimately directed at improving the learners experience as well as their empowerment. We are much aware of this. As such, learners should become ever more present and actively engaged in our activities, namely the conferences.

In the final guest post of this special series on the EDEN conference experiences, the focus will be on the learners role. The invited writer today is my colleague and friend Wim van Petegem. You can find more about Wim' background, work and interests here.

Similarly to Costas Tsolakidis, Wim also has a long connection with EDEN and his memory goes far back. However, in his contribution, Wim focus specifically on his experience of the EDEN RW7, held in Leuven in 2012. He has played a key role in the organization of the event and recalls our attention to the importance of the significant discussion held there on topic of learner engagement. In fact, this guest topic repeats the title of the RW7: «Learners in the Driving Seat».

Wim has prepared for us an analysis of the role of learners in the EDEN conferences and presents some important suggestions for the future which go in line with the recent efforts of our association to involve ever more students and learners in our initiatives and to address their specific needs and aspirations.

I hope you'll enjoy reading this excellent blog post by Wim.

As we conclude this special series, let me also thank so much the great contributions received from the guest bloggers Sandra Kucina Softic, Lisa Marie Blaschke, Costas Tsolakidis and Wim van Petegem. With their inspiring stories they demonstrated once again the richness, diversity and significance of the EDEN conference experience.

See you all soon in Barcelona for the #EDEN15!


Users? – Partners? – Consumers? – Peers? Where are we heading to?

When we talk about learner-centred approaches in higher education nowadays, we should realize that this is not just putting students in the middle and us, teachers and instructors, circling around them. The challenge is to fundamentally change our views on the role students, or better: learners, have with regard to their own learning process, and to the way that process is designed, with or without support of ICT.

In October 2012 we organized one of EDEN’s research workshops around this theme, ‘Learners in the Driving Seat’. How are students driving teachers and instructors, and… where is the map? What are the drivers for driven learners in the driving seat? Is ICT actually helping the learner to drive? Is student-centred learning a fact, a challenge or a myth? These were only some of the key questions participants discussed in Leuven.

Source: Wikimedia



We were glad to have students participating in the research workshop. All too often they are underrepresented in the EDEN meetings, while they are key players. Although we avoid calling them ‘consumers’ and ‘users’ of distance and/or e-learning activities, they are, of course. Moreover, they can be ‘partners’ and even ‘peers’ when it comes to designing a proper learning environment. They can even become ‘co-creators’ of new knowledge, creative and curious not only in the field to be learnt, but also in the teaching and learning process itself. This was clearly illustrated in the way students and learners were interacting with teachers and instructors in a variety of workshop formats.

So, how come the learners themselves are not (sufficiently) participating in EDEN conferences or workshops? Are they not motivated? Is the program or the format not attractive for them? Is the location too far and too expensive? All hard to believe, although we can always do better. Maybe the main reason is that we tend to forget that we should really consider them as ‘partners in crime’ :) . This goes hand-in-hand with the changing role we, teachers and instructors, should adopt: from sage on the stage to guide on the side. Only then we could fully implement student-centred learning. This mind shift is probably the most important challenge for the next coming years. It is my personal wish EDEN could contribute by being more open and ‘inviting’ to learners and students, as we can only together change the future landscape of distance and e-learning in Europe and beyond.