EDEN is Different

June 13, 2016 by Antonio Moreira Teixeira   Comments (0)

This is the week of the EDEN16, the largest and probably the best academic and professional conference in Europe in the field of open, distance and eLearning. Year after year since 1992, the community is gathering in June for the EDEN Annual Conference. After the first one in Krakow, 20 other major European cities have hosted the conference at its 25 occasions so far. No less than ten thousand delegates had attended the different editions and shared the EDEN Conference experience. Looking back and forward to the history of such major annual event, what did actually strike us the most? What have we learned? What can we expect in the future? What surprises has EDEN prepared for the Budapest conference?

To inspire you on your reflection about this questions, I've invited today my good friend Andras Szucs, Secretary General of EDEN, to share with you his insights and personal recollections of the many editions of the EDEN conference. Naturally, to reflect on the 25 various EDEN conferences is also the sharing of a personal account about the experience of belonging to the EDEN community and also to analyse the evolution of the Association throughout these 25 years of service. Andras has kindly accepted that challenge too.

The connection of Andras to EDEN is deep and enduring. He has been the Association's Secretary General since 1997, accumulating in the process a truly amazing experience, almost without parallel, that has been a tremendously valuable asset for our organisation. The continuity of EDEN throughout these decades is in many ways a result of the solid organisational development work carried out by the Association's Secretariat under the responsibility of Andras and also his capability to advise wisely the Presidents and the Executive Committee. During my term, I had the opportunity to fully benefit from this great advantage as a leader.

In his most interesting post, Andras looks into the history of EDEN and shares a significant episode of the early days. His conclusion, that EDEN has become a pillar for the modernisation of education, is very appropriate. It should be said though that Andras was a major contributor to that reality we're so proud of.

I hope to see you soon in Budapest, at the EDEN16. Come and join us for the celebrations of the Association's Silver Jubilee.

António

 


 

Whilst being away on missions often around Europe on behalf of EDEN, it has always been heart-warming to experience the awareness about our Association, the activities and events and a general positive feeling around them. There are several similar organisations in our field but EDEN has become, to a certain extent, different, carrying distinguishing characteristics and attractive sides to inspire and involve the interested stakeholders and professionals.

When we say that EDEN is “a smart network for the community of experts – and a professional community for smart learning”, this is not just a slogan but also a mission statement. What does EDEN offer to its members? What services do we provide? How do we attract the knowledgeable people to join our community as members like more sustained affiliation, or as conference delegates for special, highlighted occasions, maybe partners in research, development, networking projects and as partners in a well identified activity?

One of the keys has probably been the attention paid to organisation building in my view. We experience continuously that the great people, serving as Directors of EDEN in the Executive Committee and the colleagues working in the Secretariat team, have always been passionate about establishing more than a smart machinery for international learning innovation.

This passion works when we are building up the strategic relations of the Association, leading to EDEN becoming really a central player on the European (and increasingly, global) scene of education, a catalyst and promoter of important sensible links amongst academics and professionals. Besides the hard work, it is a joy and intellectual excitement to recognise the momentum and diversity of the content of the conferences, where hundreds of leading experts from dozens of countries from all around the world find a platform to meet each other and present and exchange their valuable views and scholarly resources.

 

 

The EDEN portal on the web – the relaunch and renewal of which will be announced and presented in Budapest at the Anniversary Conference – is a very rich and, for everyone, open resource of structured professional information in our field.

The ever-improving performance of IT devices and the development of networking infrastructure have transformed the information society –generally outside institutional settings and often along unexpected pathways. This has led to the rapid spread of cutting-edge technologies, resulting in a spectacular increase in demand for them and in their use. Reliable information and guidance is badly needed for the countless groups of teachers, developers and instructors to identify, if not the best, at least correct solutions in the jungle of tools and concepts. The knowledge in our field (as well) is growing exponentially but being a new inter-sectoral discipline, the consolidated, structured, verified understanding and expertise is rare. This is what the EDEN platform and organisational activities aim to improve.

The changing notion of access, accompanied by the increasing volume and improving quality of digital content, and the radically transforming habits and expectations of users have generated new interpretations concerning several related concepts and have repositioned the social impact of ICTs in learning as well, leading our community towards new tasks and challenges.

Professional associations should create good platforms and help effective networking between members and partners from outside the network, to be opening doors to access organisational resources. This hopefully also leads to a quality gain - challenging each other in the network communities. We should care for relevant and useful information and knowledge in order to serve its members and the community outside, highlighting and supporting research activities.

We have reached the critical mass to strive for leadership, to be able to act and reach impact on large scale. EDEN has achieved the high profile attitude that deserves to be followed.

The 25th Anniversary of EDEN is a great occasion, also a challenge – whether we can say something new, a message relevant to the jubilee, appreciating the achievements of the past, suggesting a content meanwhile for the future, to find a balance between celebration, forecast and positioning our potential role in the amazingly rapidly changing environment, in the atmosphere of uncertainty and hope.

When we look at the list of prominent personalities joining us in Budapest, I think we can be delighted and touched. Most of those who left their fingerprints on the substantial developments of open, distance and e-learning in the last decades, will be present at our Anniversary Conference.

I am proud of having enjoyed, for almost twenty years, the trust of our Executive Committee to work in the EDEN management. I remember well when in June 1992 in Krakow, after the closing of the first EDEN conference we were sitting in the magnificent but then already empty Ceremony Hall of the University of Mining with Tamas Lajos, Sir John Daniel and Erling Ljosa (I was just a kind of assistant to Professor Lajos at the time). The sun was going down, just some last beams reached the hundreds years old paintings on the wall of the antique room through the slots of the heavy curtains. Just 60 people were attending this first conference. Europe was in the middle of huge political, economic and social transformations. How to direct further the just launched European association for distance education? Shall EDEN take the perhaps easier way and focus just on Eastern-Europe?

There was an encouragement felt to go for the more ambitious solution and build a strong pan-European academic and professional association.

EDEN is now 25 years old, became a pillar for the modernisation of education and is looking ahead for new challenges.

Let’s celebrate together!

 


 

Dr. András Szucs has been first Executive Director (from 1997 to 2000) and since 2000 is Secretary General of EDEN. He is also the Vice-President of the Lifelong Learning Platform (until recently called EUCIS LLL).

He graduated as bio-engineer in 1980. After ten years of university teaching at the Technical University of Budapest, from 1990 held international posts as Director of the EU TEMPUS Programme in Hungary (1990-95), Director of the EU Phare Central-Eastern European Distance Education Programme (1994-96), Director of the European Communication Strategy Programme of the Hungarian Government (1996).

From 2000 to 2015 he has been Director of the Centre for Learning Innovation and Adult Learning at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. In 1996-97, Secretary General, since 1998 President of the Supervisory Board of the Hungarian Association of Technology Parks. Delegated member in the European Economic and Social Committee (Consultative Committee of Industrial Change, CCMI) 2004-2010.