Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Future of the Open University

(Image borrowed from Simon Buckingham Shum)

By pure coincidence, I stumbled across the recording of Martin Bean's keynote speech at this year's Alt-C conference - which I definitely plan to attend next year. Martin is the new vice-chancellor of the UK Open University.
Apart from his being a very enthousiastic speaker, his message touched on some of the issues that our own university is trying to deal with. For me, the main focus of his speech was on trying to remove the barrier between formal and informal education, but also that universities need to guard their role of providers of affordable education in the knowledge economy.
I wish I had seen his speech before I did this afternoon's interview with the Flemish newspaper "De Morgen" about the use of new technologies in (higher) education, then I could have referred the journalist to his speech, where he says: First you have to get the people in place, then the processes and only at the last stage get the technology in. This is more or less the message I gave the journalist, but Martin Bean's way of putting it was so much more forceful.
In a sense, Martin Bean's speech also struck me as being very parallel to the discussion we're having with the Dutch public libraries, in our efforts to design, develop and implement a Library School which offers both formal, informal and non-formal education, trying to balance between Innovation, Tradition and Context. Public libraries face a similar challenge as educational institutions, since their role in a fast-changing knowledge society is changing drastically, and they have to establish their position in that society on the crossroads between Society, Culture and Technology. Quite an interesting theme, I think.

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