I’ve been meaning to gather my thoughts on the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) Research Workshop that I recently attended in Paris. It was my first time attending a European conference, and there was a lot to like. Paris is one of those places that you have to visit at least once in your life, so the location got top marks. Actually being inside the UNESCO building was admittedly surreal. The airport-like security to enter the building was one thing, but once inside, the combination of the highly preserved mid-century artifacts and architecture (photos coming) along with energy that only a world organization headquarters can provide made the epic adventure in and out of Charles de Gaulle airport worth the trouble.
I have mixed feelings about the EDEN research workshop itself, partly due to my own inflated expectations. Research workshop suggests less presenting, more discussion, neither of which happened. Keynote panelists went way over their time, creating a domino effect that lead to confusion during the workshop sessions, where presenters rushed to get through their presentations at the expense of discussion periods. Some keynotes were also left with no time–I for one would have like to have heard more from Sara Guri-Rosenblit from the Open University in Israel. There was a lot of talking to, at the expense of discussing with (and way too many government officials saying very little in too much time), which lead me to feel extremely frustrated by the end of Day 2. Plus, this being Paris, and conference fees in the 500 Euro range, I expected a little more quality coffee and snacks, neither of which seemed to be available in any sort of abundance. On the plus side, the wines from Bordeaux at the end of Day 2 were a nice touch.
The theme of the conference was Open Access, and the big takeaway for me was realizing that many of us are talking about different things when we talk about Open Access. In fact, one of the keynotes from the US even ranted a bit about individuals not respecting copyright agreements, which had a few of us shaking our heads and wondering whether she’d travelled to the wrong conference, and had me wondering what exactly about the semantics of open and access lead her to adopt this position. However, there is value in recognizing how vastly different we are, and I realized that perhaps the Canadian in me has lead me to adopt a view of open access that is undoubtedly left of centre.
On the plus side, I had the pleasure of meeting some key distance education people who have made such a contribution to DE that I consider them celebrities. This is the really nice part of attending a conference in person, and the informal conversations that came with this were the highlight of this conference for me, and are one of the reasons that I’ll attempt to attend the next one.
Some of the sessions were recorded (I’ll try and post the link when I can find it), and the papers are being made available, but only temporarily and only to members, if my information is correct, which seems like a bit of a contradiction in the context of the theme of the conference, and the considerable effort that went into the excellent Six Journals Call.