Envisioning the future of technology and education. A chronicle of the Next Generation by Design Symposium 2019

7 June, 2019

The Next Generation By Design Symposium was held at the Palau Macaya in Barcelona from 21st to 23rd May. It was jointly organized by DXtera Institute, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and the technology partners Strada Education Network, German Alliance for Education (Bündnis für Bildung), EduCloud Alliance and MindCet, in collaboration with “La Caixa” Foundation.

DXtera is an American consortium founded in 2016, which the UOC joined in 2017, whose objective is to optimize the use of data created in the learning process and find shared and innovative solutions to overcome technological barriers. UOC acts as European Hub of Dxtera and is member of the Board of Directors and the Technical Board, represented by, respectively, Dr. Antoni Perez-Navarro (Deputy Director of Research, at eLearn Center) and Francesc Santanach, member of the technical team of eLearn Center.

The name of the meeting, Next Generation By Design (NGBD), refers to the transformation of current market options leading the industry in a new direction to give the consumer greater control while understanding the opportunities, limitations and risks associated with the most advanced applications. The symposium was a meeting point for innovators, influencers, leaders and investors where state-of-the-art education environments were reviewed to help students have a successful education. Each day of the symposium featured debates in breakout sessions comprising small groups dealing with a theme chosen within each panel, which was picked up in the regroup and discussion sessions.  

Tuesday began with the presentation on behalf of the UOC by Antoni Pérez Navarro, and Marta Aymerich, Vice President of Strategic Planning and Research, who welcomed the attendants and set out the University’s concerns regarding innovation.  

Next, Dale Allen, President and Co-Founder of DXtera Institute, described the themes that would form the basis of the symposium, such as enabling smart demand, the use of artificial intelligence (AI), fostering innovation in education, learner controlled education records and emerging trends to transform the education market and future cooperation projects.

Jeff Merriman, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder of DXtera Institute, defined the pillars of success in the NGBD. Next, the theme of enabling smart demand began with a presentation by Mark Brown, professor of Digital Learning and Director of the National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL) at Dublin City University (DCU). Brown focused on the future of digital education as a means rather than an end of training students, workers and, in short, citizens and how this must be at the service of great ideas.  

The panel was moderated by Antoni Pérez-Navarro, and participants included Jeff Merriman,  Francesc Santanach and Linda McCarthy, Technical Director of Student & Academic Application Services at Boston College. Merriman talked about his work with Tom Copetto in the project Next Generation Digital Learning Architecture at the UOC and Santanach talked about the UOC’s complex digital process.

On Wednesday 22 May the welcome was given by the President of the UOC, Dr. Josep A. Planell, who argued that the objective had to be to improve higher education and the role of technology to help expand our knowledge.

On the topic of scalability of AI usage, the first presentation was given by Valtencir Mendes, Project Officer in the Education Sector at UNESCO, who provided an inclusive and comprehensive vision of how AI is used in education, highlighting the challenges that still have to be overcome and giving examples of specific initiatives to face this. According to Mendes, AI is a “disruptive creator” between worlds and sectors.  

One of the participants in the panel entitled Scaling the Use of Artificial Intelligence was Timo Bechger, Lead Research Scientist in Advanced Psychometrics at ACTNext, who talked about how so-called “RAD research” works and the need for communication between students, items and resources.

David Bañeras, Professor at the UOC, talked about the research on smart tutoring systems being carried out at the University, the LIS project.

Brian Co, Senior Vice President and Head of The Product Studio and Strada Education Network, talked about virtual assistants in the education world and the work of the company InsideTrack.

Fostering innovation in education was the theme of the presentation by Teuvo Sankila, Publishing Director of Otava Learning/Otava Publishing Company. Sankila talked about Finnish schools and the work being carried out to improve learning. Some of the measures concern improving materials in the context of the boom of digital contents in the classroom and data processing with personalization through learning analytics.

The panel entitled Fostering Innovation in Education was moderated by Timo Väliharju, Executive Director of Educloud Alliance, with participation by the UOC’s Vice President for Competitiveness and Employability, Àngels Fitó, who talked about the change of paradigm in innovation, the impact of the digital transformation on the labour market and the UOC’s innovation ecosystem.

She was followed by the Senior Architect of DXtera, Scott Thorne, talking about innovation from learning management systems to student success, and Peter Gillis, Innovation Services Team Lead and Senior Researcher at Learnovate Centre. Gillis explained the research being done on motivation and learning with the use of the so-called “nudges” to fight against the so-called “amotivation” or demotivation of students.  

On the theme of student-controlled education, Matt Gee, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of BrightHive, talked about the creation of a student-controlled education record with digital information exchange between learning environments, business intelligence and learning analytics. He used the metaphor of an ecosystem based on data to search for career pathways for the student that should be vibrant, open, connected and focused on the individual just like an app that searches for a burger restaurant.  

Participants on the panel were Dale Allen, as contributor and moderator, talking about DXtera and Chris Heron, CEO of Vivagogy considering the 4th Industrial Revolution and blockchain through individual learning channels, as well as the interdisciplinary skills often not taught in class but demanded in the workplace. Simone Ravaioli, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Digitary, discussed data, the need for digital credentials and signatures in education and the legal framework of these credentials.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

On Thursday 23, Antoni Pérez-Navarro introduced the third panel dealing with emerging trends to transform the education market, and showed the reasons for which UOC is part of DxTera.

In the theme of education trends and the transformation of the education market, Scott Fleming, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial and Product Officer at Strada Education Network, talked about the transformation of the range of education available and the emerging trends, providing ideas for changing the market with investments, strategic affiliations and collaborative actions.

The last panel was moderated by Dale Allen and comprised Michael Bourque, Vice President of Information Technology and CIO of Boston College, who described some of the concerns about the penetration of ICT in education; Timo Väliharju, Executive Director of Educloud Alliance, who discussed issues around Finnish education; and Alejandro Jara Weitzmann, CEO and Co-Founder of Smart Republic, who gave an inclusive and philanthropic point of view on the subject.

Dale Allen and Antoni Pérez-Navarro made some closing remarks to conclude the event.

The consortium’s next meeting, DXtera Academy, will take place in Indianapolis from 10 to 12 June 2019.  And next, year, the NGBD symposium will take place between 26th and 28th, May, 2020.


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About the author
Desirée Gómez Cardosa
Specialist in educational innovation in the Observation Operative Group of the eLearning Innovation Center of the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. Her speciality is the detection and analysis of educational trends, innovation and technology in the Observatory of Educational Trends and Innovation of the eLinC. She holds a BA and MA in Art History from the Universitat de Barcelona and a Postgraduate Degree in e-learning Management from the UOC.
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