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24 October 2004 / erikduval

EADTU conference on “mass-individualisation”

The European Association of Distance Teaching Universities organized a conference on “Mass-individualisation of higher education for the knowledge-based society” on October 21-23. I could only participate on the opening afternoon. By far the best presentation in my opinion was the one on “Mass-individualisation: setting the conference theme” by Ton Van Asseldonk and Fred Mulder. They drew very interesting parallels with the the way mass individualization has been applied in the industrial and commercial way. Interesting piece of knowledge: only 7% of products that make it to the shelves of supermarkets actually survive their introduction period. That is after market research that eliminates most product ideas before they make it to the shelves! Made me wonder about the qaulity of our offerings in academia: I think we would score much less than 7%… The difference is that our students don’t have a choice if they want to pass our exams. Another interesting theme in their presentation (which I can’t find on-line?) is the comparison between traffic lights, where everybody needs to stop for red light, even if there is no other traffic, and roundabouts, where the rule is simple and clear (don’t proceed if there is another vehicle on the roundabout) and drivers make autonomous decisions, that lead to a safe and smooth emerging behaviour. We should build more learning roundabounts rather than traffic lights! Had some fun with my own presentation on “Removing barriers for me-learning”. In my session, every keynoter had about 17 mins to do his presentation. As I was the last in the session, I was keen on helping the chair to not allow anyone to overrun his time and I noticed that neither being stopped halfway through a presentation, nor trying to make as many points as possible as fast as possible were very effective ways to deal with the timing constraints. So, I tried to condense my message as much as I could and mentioned that I had only 4 points to make: 1/ We need more “stuff” 2/ We need Easier to use “stuff” 3/ We need Better learning “stuff” 4/ We need to better understand what happens when people learn with this “stuff” I then used the remaining 15 mins to throw some slogans to the audience and show them some illustrations of what I meant and why it mattered. From the reactions, it seems like this was a more effective way to try and do something useful with their and my time…

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