EDEN across generations: the importance of young researchers

March 9, 2016 by Antonio Moreira Teixeira   Comments (0)

The future of any community depends on how its members are able to understand it, by anticipating possibilities, preparing for its challenges and realising its opportunities today. The same principle applies to academic and professional communities as well. As the largest European organisation representing the open, distance and eLearning community, EDEN has always dedicated much attention to the preparation of the future in our field. One of the ways in which we conduct that effort is by supporting younger researchers and practitioners. We don't focus only on offering them visibility. We try to provide them a broader and more significant experience, integrating them in the community. In fact, we reward their achievements, assure them opportunities to network, to share results and experiences and also to be part of the European legacy of expertise in our field.

In the year EDEN celebrates its 25th anniversary, a new exciting and powerful generation of researchers and practitioners is emerging. As a consequence, the future of the field of open, distance and eLearning in Europe never seemed so brighter and promising.

In today's post, I've invited EDEN Fellow, Executive Committee member and friend Fabio Nascimbeni to share with us his views on this important topic. Fabio has been leading a number of EDEN initiatives aimed at supporting young researchers in our field.

In his post, Fabio shares his own personal experience as a young researcher and how it was welcomed in the EDEN community highlighting the importance of the dialogue and cooperation across generations.





When I attended my first EDEN Conference - that was back in 2001 and the conference was the never-forgotten Stockholm one - I was 26 years old and, despite the fact that I had been working on European projects for a couple of years already, joining an EDEN event was somehow a life-changing moment for the young researcher that I was at the time.

The context in 2001 was much different than today: web-based learning was still largely in an experimental phase, social media were far to come, the words MOOCs and OER had never been spelled out, and those working in European projects in the field of learning and ICT were sharing a pioneering feeling (I remember my mum trying to understand what my job was, obviously without success…).

When I joined my first EDEN Conference, I realised that an established community in the field of ODL and eLearning was thriving and was meeting periodically to advance on several issues, and - importantly - to solve problems together. Since then, I have missed just a couple of EDEN Conferences and I have been following the development of EDEN throughout my career as a researcher and as an enthusiast supporter of European collaboration in the field of open and eLearning.

One thing I always liked about EDEN was the genuine knowledge exchange between different generations of researchers and practitioners: during the EDEN events - and more recently through the online work of the Network of Academics and Professionals (NAP) - I have experience on my skin of how important it is for young researchers to be able to get feedback by peers who are working in the area since many more years. This is particularly important in a rapidly-changing field like the one of ICT for learning, where the temptation exists to think that previous generations of researchers have an obsolete view on things because they are not “born with the last technology”. Nothing is more erroneous: I have seen senior researchers commenting and helping younger fellows many times in fine-tuning their approaches and findings by providing deeper views on the status quo and by quoting the mistakes that the ODL community has been making along the way.

In the last few years the EDEN Executive Committee has taken a number of initiatives targeted to the young researchers’ population of the association, culminating with the first edition, last year during the Barcelona conference, of the Young Researchers Award. Thanks to this, being a young researcher in EDEN today can be even more profitable than back when I joined the association: through EDEN, PhD researchers and less-experienced participants can enjoy summer schools, training courses, twitter-debates and other capacity building opportunity. Nevertheless, we need to admit that the road ahead if we want to properly engage younger generations of researchers within EDEN is still long: work needs to be done to increase the number of student members of the association and to encourage EDEN institutional members in engaging with EDEN their younger generations of researchers.

If we achieve this, apart from fostering intergenerational research debates and increasing the capacities of young researchers, we will be able to provide an important contribution to the generalised problematic situation that many young researchers in Europe are facing today, in the south as well as in the north, due to research budget cuts and to the increased competitiveness of European funding schemes. By participating in EDEN activities, young generations of researchers are in fact exposed to the way colleagues are working in other EU countries, and can build long-lasting ties with peers that can represent in the long run an important richness for the European learning innovation area, and for the European Research Area as a whole.

And of course, as visible in the post picture taken at the EDEN 2005 Conference in Helsinki, working with colleagues from other generations can be extremely fun!





Fabio Nascimbeni has a degree in Economics with an international management specialisation and a PhD on Networking for Development. He works as assistant professor in the International University of La Rioja, and a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Sao Paulo (USP), where he collaborates with the CEST – Centro de Estudos sobre Tecnologia e Sociedade. He has been active in the field of innovation and ICT for learning since 1998, by designing and coordinating more than 40 research and innovation projects and promoting European collaboration in different learning areas, from school education to higher education to lifelong learning. Further, he has coordinated a number of international collaboration actions. Fabio has also been working on assignments by the European Commission (DG Education and Culture, DG INFSO, Europeaid, DG Research, DG Employment), as well as collaborating with international organisations such as UNESCO, CEPAL or ITU. Read more here.