Networked learning conference Maastricht 2012
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Welcome Messages

Welcome from the Networked Learning Conference series Co-Chairs

A warm welcome to the 8th International Networked Learning Conference!
The Networked Learning conference series began 14 years ago. Even though we are pleased that other conferences put networked learning on their roster, the Networked Learning conference is the oldest and most prominent event on this topic. It is the only conference that covers networked learning in its full meaning, from its pedagogical underpinnings and applications in formal higher education, to its significance for lifelong learning and professional development.

After a very successful conference in Aalborg, Denmark in 2010 this year's conference has moved to the old and beautiful city of Maastricht in The Netherlands. It is hosted by our colleagues from the Open University of The Netherlands: Peter Sloep, Maarten de Laat, Wim Didderen, Mieke Haemers and various other people at the OUNL who have all worked hard to make the this year’s conference as successful as its predecessors.
Following on from the novel and successful series of hosted online hot seats, we have run a similar series prior to this year’s conference to warm you up to current issue and themes of the conference. To it, again, various people in the networked learning field have wholeheartedly contributed. We would in particular like to thank Maarten de Laat once more for all his work in organising the hot seats, supported by Jeffrey Keefer and Steve Wright. We hope you found the hot seats as stimulating and valuable as we did.

We hope you will enjoy the 2012 conference, which will be the last for us as Co-chairs. We have thoroughly enjoyed our 12 years as co-chairs of the conference series. We believe the conference is now firmly established as a leading international research conference in the field. We have therefore decided to step down as co-chairs and hand over the role of co-chairs to Thomas Ryberg from Aalborg University and Maarten de Laat from the Open University of the Netherlands, both of whom we are sure are well known to many of you. It has been a privilege to be co-chairs of the conference, which attracts so many interesting and stimulating participants year on year. It has been a great and rewarding experience and we feel we are leaving the conference in very safe hands with Maarten and Thomas as co-chairs.

Many people have been involved in making the Networked Learning Conference the success it is today, but in particular we would like to mention Alice Jesmont who has worked so diligently as the conference administrator, and Chris Jones who has for many years made a significant contribution as a member of the Steering Committee. Both will continue to support the new co-chairs and the next Networked Learning 2014 conference, as indeed we will. We sincerely thank them and everyone else who has contributed to running the conference.

Vivien Hodgson and David McConnell, Founding Co-chairs of the Networked Learning Conference Series

Welcome from the organisers at the Open University in The Netherlands

We are very happy to welcome you to the Open University in the Netherlands (OUNL) and to the city of Maastricht as the venue chosen for the 8th International Networked Learning Conference in April 2012.

With its brief to provide higher, open and distance education, the OUNL has had a keen interest in networked forms of learning ever since the Internet became available to the public. In 2004, this resulted in the establishment of a research programme on Learning Networks, later on in research efforts specifically dedicated to networked learning for teacher training and now culminating in the hosting of the 8th issue of the Networked Learning Conference.

The OUNL is a fairly young university, established in 1983. It has earned itself a solid footing in the academic world, nationally and internationally. Year after year Dutch students publicly praise the quality of its educational approach, earning the OUNL high rankings in national comparisons. Its two expertise centres Ruud de Moor Centrum and Centre for Learning Sciences and Technologies (CELSTEC), the staff of which contributed to the organisation of the present conference, have an international reputation and both carry out research on networked learning.

When the Internet became available to the public at large, the OUNL immediately saw its potential for a more intense engagement with its students. Up to then, students had to physically go to study centres to meet their tutors and peers. Not only was this time consuming and inefficient, students only had access to a selected group of their peers, those who took the trouble to travel. The OUNL's first web presence dates back to 1995 and was called StudyNet. It offered students unprecedented opportunities to access content and interact with each other and tutors, even though in those early days not everyone had the equipment (computer, modem) nor technical abilities to do so. To date, when computers are abundant and free Internet access is about to become a human right, a new social network infrastructure has been launched, OpenU. It embraces the principles of Open Educational Resources and networked learning. More specifically, it tries to make the benefits of social media available for education without its downsides of privacy loss and unsolicited advertisements.

However, the OUNL casts its net wider than higher education only. Acknowledging the need to establish a knowledge society, which demands innovative if not radically new conceptions of education, the OUNL actively researches the value of forms of networked learning for lifelong education and professional development. Ours is the age of networking. Networked learning reflects a small yet powerful movement in a society that ever more explores the realm of the virtual and, in doing so, increasingly investigates, values and utilises the power of networks for how we socialise, learn and work. In that sense, our conference sits at the cutting edge of societal innovation.

We hope this conference will be a meeting place for people from around the world, for theorists and practitioners, for seasoned researchers and brave students, for the mere denizens of a networked society and its policy makers. For only in the meeting of divergent minds, the creativity flourishes that may advance the state of the art of networked learning.

We wish you a pleasant and rewarding conference!

Peter B. Sloep & Maarten de Laat


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