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The global, cross-sector conference and exhibition
on technology-supported learning and training

Berlin, December 1 — 3, 2021

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Plenary Debate

Plenary Debate "This House Believes Universities, in Their Current Form, Are Unsustainable as Mass-participant Institutions"

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?

Chaired by Paul Bacsich, Professor of Practice for the University of West Indies Open Campus and consultant at Matic Media Ltd, the Debate includes keynote speakers Brian Mulligan, founding member of the Irish Learning Technology Association and Manager of Online Learning Innovation at the Institute of Technology Sligo; Jane Bozarth, online training solutions specialist and author, The Learning Guild; Marie Cini, former president of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Chief Strategy Officer at ED2WORK and; Donald Clark, blogger, VR and AI for learning specialist and consultant at Plan B Learning.

Join them at the annual OEB Debate on Dec 2 from 18:00 - 19:00 CET for a discussion about the fundamentals of education - and cast your vote online!

The two sides are already preparing to do battle.

Donald Clark quotes Roger Schank in support of his cause and adds to it: "Roger Schank says “There are only two things wrong with education: 1) What we teach; 2) How we teach it." I'd add some more, that Higher Education is now a bloated, expensive sector that has resulted in an increase in inequality and social strife."

Brian Mulligan states: "After 36 years in higher education I have come to the conclusion that because of both dysfunctional internal processes and self-interest, the sector is incapable of providing the mass post-secondary education that we need in the future at a cost that we can afford.  Universities should return to their roots, where a particular elite, the brilliant and curious, can work freely to discover new knowledge, and we should build a different system for the rest of us."

Jane Bozarth and Marie Cini, who will oppose the motion, say:

Jane Bozarth: "I believe an educated citizenry is important to a functioning society, and advancement in fields like the arts and sciences contribute to progress of a vibrant community. Additionally, reserving higher education only for those interested in research and knowledge advancement severely limits work and quality-of-life opportunities for women and minorities."

Marie Cini: "On the contrary, Universities ought to be mass-participant institutions, serving even a broader array of learners than they currently do. A strong example is Arizona State University in the US--which innovates, using its many resources to reach a larger number of students than ever before. Another example is the University of Maryland Global Campus--a mass-participant University where I served as a dean and then provost. Without such universities literally tens of thousands of students would not have achieved undergraduate and graduate degrees. We need more learning opportunities for all learners of all ages, not fewer. Smaller niche colleges are well and good, but they don't have the resources to reach the increasingly larger numbers of students who require post-secondary learning. We actually need more mass-participant Universities, and we need to strengthen them."

The debate will be chaired by Paul Bacsich, who is expecting a very lively discussion. He says, “after the leading speakers have set out their case, I’ll throw the discussion open to the floor and cannot wait for the virtual votes to come in!"

OEB speaker Paul Bacsich

Paul Bacsich

Professor of Practice for the University of West Indies Open Campus and consultant at Matic Media Ltd, UK
Session PLE336

OEB speaker Jane Bozarth

Jane Bozarth

Online training solutions specialist, author and Director of Research, The Learning Guild, USA
Session PLE336

OEB speaker Marie Cini

Marie Cini

Chief Strategy Officer at ED2WORK and Former President of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, USA
Session PLE336

OEB speaker Donald Clark

Donald Clark

eLearning Expert and Strategist at Plan B Learning, UK
Session PLE336

OEB speaker Brian Mulligan

Brian Mulligan

Irish Learning Technology Association and Head of Online Learning Innovation, Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland
Session PLE336