My visit to the Open University of Catalonia and the eLearn Center
During September-October, I spent 10 days as a visiting Researcher at the Open University of Catalonia (UoC) in Barcelona, and specifically with the gracious and hospitable researchers, designers, and faculty members of the eLearn Center. The eLearn Center manages an impressive array of projects, events, and resources, a large number of which are funded by the European Union. It also funds researcher visits to the UoC for knowledge exchange and exploration of collaborative work, and I was very fortunate to be invited to participate in this program.
A custom-built system, dubbed “home lab,” is mailed to each UoC engineering student for hands-on work
The Open University of Catalonia is strikingly similar to Royal Roads. The institution was established in 1994 when a group of creative individuals came together and envisioned a virtual institution that would capitalize on the opportunities of a nascent Internet to serve adult learners and working professionals. While these ideas might sound familiar in 2013, they were quite bold and innovative in 1994, bringing traditional distance education into new and uncharted waters. UoC, like Royal Roads, has an institution-wide educational model that focuses on progressive pedagogies, highlighting and valuing interdisciplinary thinking, collaborative learning, and ongoing assessment (here is a copy of Royal Road’s teaching and learning model to compare). I was especially excited to see the institution’s support for open access and open scholarship.
While in Barcelona, I spent a lot of time talking with colleagues and discussing opportunities for collaboration. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting with individual doctoral students and advising them on their research. It was especially fun to spend an hour or so with Antonella Esposito who studies doctoral students’ digital practices, as her work relates to the concept of Networked Participatory Scholarship that Royce Kimmons and I have been investigating since 2011. I also gave a seminar on qualitative methodologies for analyzing learners and educators’ naturalistic online participation and a lecture with a very long title: The significant opportunities and challenges that learners, educators, researchers, and learning institutions are facing in the age of “open” and “connected.”