Open Education – also der öffentliche Zugang zu kostenloser Bildung – ist ein heisses Thema. Nicht nur bei Bildungsforschern, sondern auch bei politischen Entscheidern in Europa. In einem Wettbewerb hat die Europäische Union dazu aufgerufen, Visionen für die Zukunft der universitären Bildung zu entwerfen. Mit Dr. Daniel Staemmler (Quadriga Hochschule) und Bastian Hamann (Hertie School of Governance) habe ich mich an diesem Wettbewerb beteiligt. Wir haben eine fiktive Jubiläums-Rede der genauso fiktiven Open University of Europe im Jahr 2030 entworfen und gehören damit zu den Gewinnnern des Wettbewerbs!
Hier finden Sie die Papers aller Gewinner sowie unseren Text in englischer Sprache:
Looking back: 15 successful years of the Open University of Europe
Bastian Hamann, Claudia Musekamp, Dr. Daniel Staemmler
2030: At the Open University of Europe’s 15th anniversary, the university president talks about achievements, challenges and the future. Listen to her speech:
Today, I would like to welcome all of you to the celebration of our 15th anniversary. Founded in 2015 – only 2 years after the 1st European MOOC-Initiative, the Open University of Europe (OUE) proudly looks back to its 15 years of service to the public and our society.
Truly European experience
I am honoured and delighted as I look back to what we have achieved in the past 15 years. The Open University of Europe started with only 40 available courses, scattered over different subject matter areas. We have come a long way since then by expanding our vailable courses to cover a wide range of topics in various academic disciplines. We have managed to build and incorporate divisions for mathematics, medical, physical and life sciences, but not only that. In addition, we founded and established departments for the humanities and social sciences as well. Today we are able to offer courses in over 50 different programs and in 32 different languages. The courses offered in these different programs are being taught by an average of 5 professors per course who are from various universities in Europe. Our experience and evaluation shows that this is of great value to not only the students, but for all of the involved professors as well. The interactions across different cultures, ethnicities and between students with a wide range of experiences have fostered the idea of Europe as not only a terrain with multiple countries, but also the concept of Europe as a diverse continent that has a lot to offer.
Strong commitment to diversity
All those courses followed our code of conduct and cherished values like diversity and equality. With due respect to different cultures we were able to promote what we believe is good and right – not as an instruction or stipulation, but as an offer to the world. We also made an effort to make high quality teaching materials accessible to illiterates. We launched an initiative to create a high quality learning ecosystem with special hardware devices and specific software tools for people with visual or auditory impairment or other disabilities. This opened up educational opportunities for millions of people in the EU and was a starting point in the careers of some of our best scientists today.
Learning analytics to shape learning experiences and collaborative work
We could have stopped at offering a diverse and high quality learning experience in all sciences someone might think – but why stop there? Learning analytic tools gave us deep insights into the motivations, experiences and skills of many hundreds and thousands of
learners. They did not in the first place learn for certificates, they wanted to learn something in order to change the world. So we developed highly sophisticated collaboration tools and complex project templates to tackle real world problems. Matching algorithms helped us to form teams that fitted certain tasks. What previously had been a disconnected and coincidental process could now be controlled deliberately. We knew from our learners’ data that somebody had excellent results in many courses on modelling climatic change and proven to be a strong leader with visions and management skills so we asked them whether they would want to work as project managers. We knew others who were superior experts in their partial areas of the subject and contacted them to connect to the project. Again others would contribute with data visualization, communication campaigns, legal advice or programming skills. Those who were not experts in any necessary area, but eager to participate could do so with micro-contributions. Many clever solutions are in use today, which arose from this new way of collaboration.
Our student body mirrors the European society
Let me share with you how the innovative teamwork impacted our student body. A typical student at the end of the last millennium was male, from a middle class background and in his early twenties. Today our typical student is in his or her mid 50ties and the social background is as diverse as the European society. We have also reached an almost perfect gender balance with a slight tendency to female students. Most of our students have committed themselves to our university and agreed to the importance of lifelong learning by participating in our recall system. This participation helps them to stay abreast of the rapid changes in today’s working world. We offer our students regular tests to identify dormant competencies and remedial courses for new career challenges. Our regular Back to College-Program is extremely popular, both for the refreshed knowledge and the new motivating personal encounters on our campuses all over Europe.
Technologies and facilities for ubiquitous learning
Back in our founding years, MOOCs, informal learning on wearable devices, adaptive learning algorithms and gamification challenged the way we were thinking about higher education. On the one hand we had to find out how to integrate those technologies into the classical university. Together with our international counterparts we developed new standards for multi-factor-authentication technologies and user-controlled privacy frameworks in order to be able to assess students all over the world and allow an easy and secure transfer of certifications between higher education institutions worldwide, be they online or offline. On the other hand we wanted to make sure our students have the possibility of real life interaction. We started our Learn anywhere program and build a network of small learning facilities on campuses of traditional universities all over Europe. They were equipped with back then fascinating technological options like holographic projectors, gesture based sensors or Virtual Reality environments that were hardly affordable for anyone at home and soon became centres of lively exchange, debate and learning.
Lifelong learning community
As our students are nowadays experienced professionals, the division of labour between teachers, researches, publicists and students has mellowed: During their life time engagement and sometimes even in the same class, a participant may take the role of the teacher in one session and be a student in the next one. In our Mentor Program we asked retirees to share their vast amount of experience and knowledge with the younger generation. We developed a political framework, smart interfaces and social networking tools tailored for this kind of communication between the elder and the younger. Soon thousands of retirees became teachers and advisors to kids, students and even business project managers in Europe and all over the world.
Promoting a joint European identity
With our open for all policy and available programs at no cost we lived up to the idea of education for all. In conjunction we truly built a vibrant online community of over hundreds of teachers and thousands of scholars that excel in academic freedom and across institutionalized organizations. From the very beginning, the OUE put emphasis on offering learning experiences in all languages spoken in the member states of the European Union to deepen understanding and exchange between our cultures and steadily shaping a common body of knowledge and memes. It is safe to assume that this contributed greatly to the growth and solidarity of the European identity.
Full integration into the European university system
In the beginning we encountered multiple obstacles. But in cooperation with our stakeholders who bought into the idea of basic, introductory and free education for all who seek it, we were able to diminish them. Today we are excited about our transfer system that allows all universities in Europe to accept OUE credits with a value of up to 30% of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). This is very encouraging. Our evaluations show that up to 70% of our students are taking advantage of this opportunity and proceed with their course work and in-depth studies into one of the residential universities.
Lively exchange with our neighbours
Beyond that, our Digital Neighbourhood Program offered every country in the world the opportunity to have the 100 most attended learning journeys (LearnEys) of each year translated into their local languages in exchange for providing up-to-date introductory courses on their country’s culture, language, history, geography and political system. We will soon see in the Arab world, China, India and elsewhere a generation of young people entering professional life as politicians, religious leaders, artists, chief engineers and company founders who have attended free OUE courses on all aspects of life. The best and most motivated were invited to free exchange programs and visited our member countries and universities for a year or for the whole duration of study. They made friends in the countries they lived and studied in and I know quite a few are in the audience today, which I am very happy about.
Strong ties with the Americas
Today I am very satisfied with the established and strengthened connections between the Open Universities in the United States of America and Latin America. I want to take this opportunity to thank our board of professors from all six continents for their continuous and hard work to forge this alliance. We all are more than willing to keep up our work to extend our alliance to all those who believe in free education. This alliance so far enabled all parties to strengthen their countries relationships and the value they put on education as one of the measures to overcome cultural and ethical differences, to better understand each others needs and demands, how to help in situations of crisis and show solidarity.
When we founded the OUE back in 2015 we knew a modern university would have to find
answers to global challenges such as an aging society, climate change and a growing demand for resources. And we did:
Nursing in an aging society
We are currently conducting various experiments with haptic spaces in fields ranging from the sciences to health care. Let me mention one particularly exciting project in which we work with computer experts from Japan. The project in our Innovative Nursing Department develops new forms of elder health care. With a decreasing young population, we have to work with distant nurses that care for our elders with dementia in providing haptic therapy. The actual results of the services are very promising, however the cost of the equipment remains an issue, which hopefully will be solved in the next years.
Renewable energies for China and Europe
We will expand our cooperation with the Open University of China in the field of Renewable Energies. After the dramatic turnaround in environmental policies in 2023, the need for mobility-, production-, energy- and software engineers as well as educators and social scientists has increased more than tenfold. We are working with the Chinese government and companies from all over Europe. Our young brains are in high demand in Europe, so we decided to pick up the idea of a Senior Expert Service and bring it into life in this project. Specialists, most of them in their late career or retirement, are reluctant to spend a longer time of their life in China. Therefore, we created an integrated travel and work experience with our Intercultural Learning Department, in which they pay brief visits to the country and work on solving renewable energies problems in virtual work groups, using holographic projector systems and 3D-printing to foster the quality of communication and collaboration.
Demand for resources
The growing and endless demand for resources was one of the main reasons to expand our topic and focus on „Demand and Securing Resources“. Within the next year we will set up research labs for companies to work and research how renewable energy, infrastructure and equal distribution models can help to solve these needs. Businesses will have the opportunity to outsource research and development projects and benefit from the know-how of Europe’s best and brightest scientists. At the same time our university profits from the enriched learning environment built by these projects and the additional source of revenues. To make things work we had to increase our own research and practice activities in virtual project management and have become experts in that field with businesses tapping into our knowledge.
A sustainable business model
We are proud that we were able to secure stable and sustainable funding for our institution. As a public institution we receive our basic funding from the European Commission. As the major provider of introductory courses for universities all over Europe we managed to establish a trading model with those who benefit from them. Universities trade by lending professors and academic staff to us and provide their infrastructure to students who want to participate in our course syllabus. Additionally they provide learning and research materials for our courses and for use in our Custom Creation Center. Not to neglect the revenues we receive from businesses for which we tailor classes to their particulate business needs. We have become the corporate university for major European companies. I am very proud to say that we do not only cater to the needs of big corporations. We are also able to provide important educational services to small and medium sized enterprises through our SME Open Access Program that bundles the SME’s financial potential. An unexpected source of income has been the publication department that we established in the last years. We do offer all our academic publications as open source. At the same time, our Custom Creation Service caters to companies that need access to highly specialized research literature.
In summary, the core mission of the Open University of Europe has always been to deliver open educational resources for everybody. Universities took our courses to complement their syllabi. Businesses used our materials to teach their staff and to build diverse business models around it. Digital goods are copied and distributed at nearly no cost, which makes the broadening of the digital commons such a worthwhile goal for politics and NGOs. We see „open“ not as the opposite of „commercial“, but as the soil on which solutions for global challenges and innovations will grow.
Encouraging civic participation
Businesses are an important stakeholder for our university, the same holds true for the citizens of Europe. On our Internet platform we ask for civic participation and allow the people of Europe to vote on our teaching and research agenda within different timeframes. Thus we make sure our science does not happen in the ivory tower, but keeps a meaningful connection to our practical concerns and the needs of citizens. Often those calls for participation stimulate passionate debates on which society we want to live in and what we expect technologies to contribute to this.
Our roadmap for the next 5 years
Before closing, I briefly would like to shed light on two of the projects that will be our main milestones of our endeavour for the next 5 years:
· Open University of Africa
The rise of Africa as a powerhouse in sustainable production has enforced the need for skilled labour. We will be working with the Open University of Africa in addressing problems of sustainable production, health care and ecological agriculture.
· Integrating new technologies
While we have already achieved a sufficient level of expertise in working with haptic spaces, we have seen in the last decade the slow but relentless rise of the Neuroweb. Brain-body-computer-interfaces of various types have emerged. Combined with ubiquitous sensors they give us unprecedented precision in determining mental states and provide meaningful real-time-data about the emotions, thoughts and physical conditions of our students. Back in our founding years we already anticipated an Internet that would finally link up with bodies and brains of people. The scientific community created within the OUE received our best support for self-reflecting on those developments when they were still in their infancy. OUE scientists were contributing a lot to the European research agenda and attended to the main difficulties of privacy and authentication.
Aligned with our ongoing efforts in the Human Brain Project and through a long cooperation with the US American Brain Activity Map Project and the Wikimedia Foundation we are now on the brink of establishing globally accepted neuro-educational standards. We might soon be able to measure conceptual knowledge and skills like we did with the distance of planets hundreds of years ago. This also compromises the picture we have of ourselves as free human beings. People are afraid of being part of a hyperefficient, but soulless human machinery.
We have to and will make sure that the Neuroweb is fully adjusted to our values. It should make our life easier and our economy more efficient and innovative, but this must be all the time a means to promote the freedom, wellbeing, diversity and fairness of the society we live in, in Europe and around the world.
A promising future
As I stand before you today I am very proud of what we have achieved so far. And I am also more than confident that we will be able to take important steps to achieve our further goals that lead to a future of open education globally for all mankind.