The et.lakes team arrived yesterday in Berlin after a 2 day drive from Helsinki, just in time for the Online Educa Berlin conference, where we plan to network with international partners to join the et.lakes initiative.
The day has started on time despite spending most of yesterday night exploring the Kreutzberg neighborhood, where the et.lakes team is sleeping. At 9am we were getting to the conference hotel to prepare the rack holding the promotional brochures we have brought from Joensuu (note to self, it is better to carry the brochures and hand them than keeping them in the brochure rack, you save money in the process as well).
The day started with the keynote speakers, which focused in big data, ultra blended learning, and the point of view of business education. In general, presentations have been of about half an hour, used to the 15 min academic presentations at conferences, these presentations have felt a unnecessary long and with little time for discussion. Still, topics were quite interesting and speakers certainly engaged with the audience. Sessions we attended were the public-private partnerships, and how universities can leverage their experience with the private sector. Also, preparing for the upcoming eLearning Africa, a Ugandan delegation of Ministers presented the state of ICT and education in the country. Ministers have been quite receptive to the idea of et.lakes, and even the Minister of ICT is willing to personally host the groups' future Cape to Cape educational tour in his house. In between, we plan to host the minister in the coming Science Festival in Joensuu.
Checking the exhibition floor, we have seen several companies re-implementing learning management systems (LMSs) with varying grade of success. LMS companies are focusing in the ease of learning material production which seems to be the low-hanging fruit. Little innovation in pedagogic online instruction is seen. The closest research based product we have seen up to now is some implementation of adaptive learning in Erudify. Adaptive learning, or data-based optimization of learning has been another hot topic in the several sessions around Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). The sheer number of students taking the same material allows for a huge amount of data to be produced and distilled to find the most efficient learning path for a student or a batch of them. Of course, MOOCs defenders also highlight the social learning benefits of learning with thousands of students from very different backgrounds.
Tomorrow apart from attending the conference we need to find a plan B for celebrating the Finnish Independence Day in Berlin, ideas anyone?