Happy 10th anniversary, eLene!

October 19, 2013 by Deborah Arnold   Comments (0)

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The EDEN Synergy workshop in Budapest (October 19th-21st) was the perfect opportunity to celebrate the 10th anniversary of eLene, a vibrant group of people and institutions who form a network and community of practice around e-learning related projects.

As one of the initiators of eLene, I had the honour and pleasure of telling the eLene story in the opening plenary earlier today.

eLeneY10 cake

Here is the text version of my speech:

"I'd like you to take your minds back to the dark, distant past... Rewind to 2002, a time before MOOCs, a time before the EACEA, a time before Facebook!

At the time, my university in Nancy was part of a national digital campus, CANEGE, providing online courses in business studies and economics. The French ministry of Education asked us to spend time with some Danish consultants who were doing case studies for the European Commission. We welcomed them politely, answered their questions, then heard nothing...

Until one day in 2003, we got an email from a certain Matteo Uggeri, here in this room, asking us if we'd like to join a partnership with 7 other case study institutions to submit a project in the elearning call, with a deadline of two weeks!

Of course it was unrealistic, but what came out of that initial surprise email was a long story of a fantastic group of people and institutions.

We were first invited to a meeting at the Politecnico di Milano, November 2nd 2003. Almost 10 years to the day... Looking back, we all say it was one of the strangest meetings we have ever attended! None of us really knew why we were there, and in between the rather stilted institutional presentations there was an enormous amount of awkward silence!!!! It could have all ended there... Except that we all felt there was something important happening, that we could do big things together if only we knew each other better.

Three moths later, we met again in Bremen, and things began to take shape. Not least because Maruja Guttierez Diaz graced us with her presence, thanks to Salvatore Angilletta, who was working with her in the Commission at the time. We brainstormed, had lots of coffee, a visit of Bremen with the funniest tour guide ever, and structured our priorities around four themes : pedagogy, technology, economics, strategy.

And then the elearning call came out! We held a project development meeting at the university of Nancy, used up a whole pack of post-its and selected teacher training in HE as the area most needing attention and in which we had the most synergies. What I should stress at this point is that these 3 meetings were funded entirely by the institutions involved - how many today would be willing and able to invest such time and resources in project development with no guarantee of funding?

So now wind forward to the present day. What have we achieved in those 10 years and what is still relevant today? 4 projects : eLene-TT on teacher training, and if you look at the opening up education initiative you'll see it's still a big priority ; eLene-EE on economics of elearning, and I'm sure you're aware of all the discussions on business models with respect to MOOCs today ; eLene-TLC with its competency framework for teachers, students, educational technologists and decision makers and repository of resources, which could be seen as a precursor of OERs in the field. And the current project eLene2learn, which you heard about earlier. Over and above the actual projects, we have also developed a successful model of co-design and co-construction of EU projects. The time spent in this phase makes for a highly coherent proposal to which every participant has contributed. The gains in terms of shared understanding and ownership are invaluable when it comes to actually running the project.

Over these 10 years new institutions joined the group, in particular EDEN, and new people too. Others have moved on to new things, but are still part of the extended eLene family. We've had a lot of fun (our private jokes involve a bizarre collection of reversed rabbits, bloody mushrooms, donkeys and monkeys) we've forged a community of practice with a true identity, we know that when we work together, what we produce is greater than the sum of our individual inputs, which is also what this Synergy workshop is all about. In fact one of the first synergy events I was involved in took place right here in Budapest, when eLene-TT joined the TT-campus project's final conference in 2006. With its involvement in such a variety of projects, EDEN is a perfect forum for such events and I hope there will be many more in this same vein.

So it is a great honour and a great pleasure too, as eLene grandmother, to invite you to celebrate the 10th anniversary of eLene with us. May I invite all those involved in eLene to join me here around our special birthday cake... Happy birthday eLene and here's to many more years of fun, hard work and successful projects!"