Plenary Debate "This House Believes Universities, in Their Current Form, Are Unsustainable and Should Be for the Elite Only"
Covid-19 has forced us to ask some fundamental questions about education and training. In the higher and vocational sectors, some experts want to make learning more needs-based, shifting the balance towards skills that are directly applicable to the workplace, leaving pure academic learning and research to a small number of brilliant minds.
But is this the right approach? Isn’t the flexibility and academic rigour of a traditional university education more relevant now than ever before? Aren’t the innovative steps universities now taking to introduce online learning exactly what e-learning experts always wanted? And should we be ‘throwing the baby out with the bath water’ at such a difficult time when universities contribute so much to so many economies? Or, on the contrary, is now exactly the right moment for fundamental reform? Is it time for consolidation in higher education or radical change?
Leading speakers at the annual OEB Plenary Debate are sure to set up a storm on this controversial topic.
Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland
Brian Mulligan is a Civil Engineer who originally worked in mathematical modelling and simulation and the application of information technology in engineering. He is currently Manager of Online Learning Innovation in the Centre for Online Learning at the Institute of Technology Sligo where he has lectured since 1984. He has been the key driver in the rapid growth in online distance learning in IT Sligo since 2002 and significantly involved in the growth of e-learning in Ireland since 1999, organising the EdTech series of conferences since 2000 and as a founding member of the Irish Learning Technology Association in 2002. His main areas of expertise and interest are now in web-casting, webinar management, synchronous online training, instructor-led online training, lecture capture, open education (MOOCs and OER) and the rapid development of online content. He led the Erasmus+ funded LoCoMoTion project on low-cost MOOC development (moocs4all.eu).
Matic Media Ltd, UK
Paul Bacsich is the Founder and Managing Director of Matic Media Ltd, a consultancy in the UK active in online learning since 1996. He is also Professor of Practice for the University of West Indies Open Campus, which is headquartered in Barbados.
In addition he consults for the SeroHE division of Sero Consulting Ltd as a Senior Associate: he was a member of the Sero team who recently reviewed Learning Technology Support at the University of Oxford, and currently he is leading a 12-month project at Sero to develop an accredited vocational short online course to teach teachers to teach online for Wey Education (who run Interhigh Virtual School and other similar entities).
He is also Visiting Professor for University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) in the UK.
He has a long-standing interest in Open Education via a large EU project (POERUP) and several EU/European Parliament studies: in particular he is Co-Coordinator of the Open Education Working Group and an Ambassador for the global advocacy of OER and a member of the OER Advocacy Committee of ICDE. He was a co-author for the JRC 2017 report “Policy Approaches to Open Education in 28 Member States”.
His interests in leadership in e-learning were developed during the Erasmus+ D-TRANSFORM project 2014-17, which drew on and continued his work over 20 years on management of open and distance learning.
In addition to his public work he consults for a number of international, government, commercial, venture fund and university clients on market/competitor/pricing research, policy, education funding models and retention strategies. He has recently finalised a report on credit recognition and transfer for online masters' programmes, for a university client in Canada.
In 2015-16 Paul chaired the review panel for the Vision and Strategy Appraisal of the UK Open University Library, where he interviewed over 70 staff and students and carried out substantial comparative and policy research. He also chaired the E-learning review panel for Uppsala University, with three days of intensive meetings and presentations, and spent four months chairing a task force for the National Forum for Learning and Teaching in Ireland to prepare a scoping document on infrastructure issues related to online learning.
Some of his recent thinking can be found in his UNESCO policy brief on "Alternative Models of Education Delivery" and in a paper for the "Open Education 2030" higher education workshop run by the EU. He remains very interested in "Multiversity" models and competence-based provision, based on his earlier studies on "Time and e-learning", developed from a speech given in Austria, a country with which he has increasing links.
He is a co-founder of MultEversity, a start-up in online/blended post-secondary education which aims in due course to be an accredited university and higher vocational provider. He also has had involvement in other early-stage online providers over the last six years and has done several studies of them.
In the university phase of his career he was a researcher at Oxford University, had many roles over 25 years at the UK Open University, and was for seven years Professor of Telematics at Sheffield Hallam University and then a Director at the UK e-University. He was also Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and Advisor to the Rector of the Arab Open University.
He has knowledge of and/or experience in higher education in many developed countries.
Plan B Learning, UK
Donald is an entrepreneur, CEO, Professor, speaker and blogger. He was CEO and one of the original founders of Epic Group plc, which established itself as the leading company in the UK e-learning market, floated on the Stock Market in 1996 and sold in 2005. Describing himself as ‘free from the tyranny of employment’, he now the CEO of an AI learning company WildFire, investor and Board member of PlanB learning, LearningPool and Cogbooks. He has been involved in consulting and implementing online learning in schools, FE, HE, corporate and government.
Donald has been involved in film, games, web, mobile, MOOCs, Oculus Rift and won many awards for the design and implementation of online learning. He is a regular speaker at national and international conferences, having delivered talks in the US, Europe, Far East, Middle East and Africa, and won several ‘Best speaker’ awards … also a regular (and controversial) blogger on online learning!