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Will the universities survive the e-learning revolution? And how?

Thursday November 20, 2014, 14.00-18.00

13th Ethical Forum of the University Foundation

Ever since their medieval birth, universities have been communities of scholars and students sharing a place and a time for the sake of teaching and learning.  21st century technology has made physical proximity unnecessary for instantaneous verbal communication and multiplied the ways in which learning can be organized and supported. Sophisticated MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) constitute only one, among the most glamorous, of the many manners in which this potential is being exploited. Can this and other forms of e-learning be expected to keep growing at the expense of traditional face to face teaching? Will they gradually turn the university into some form of Open University? How will they affect the role and status of local university professors and their relationship to their students? How can they be coupled with a fair and efficient assessment of student performance? Will they lead to the equalization of higher education thanks to costless access to up to date high-quality courses?  And/or will they deepen the gap between top and peripheral universities: whereas the former would gain attractiveness by increasing the fame of their star professors and mass revenues by delivering certificates for the courses they provide, the latter would be turned into their sheer intellectual subsidiaries ? For short: does e-learning provide a fantastic way of making high-quality higher education available at all times, at all ages and in all places? Or will it irreversibly undermine some essential aspects of university education and life, inseparable from a shared space and time, while further boosting global inequalities? 


The aim of this Ethical Forum was to stimulate reflection on the following question:

 Will university professors and universities become completely redundant in the near future as they can be replaced by Personal Computers and MOOCs ?


Organizing committee:  M. Gevers (coordinator), G. Van der Perre  (co-coordinator), E. De Keuleneer, H. Garmyn, M. Gérard, P. Loobuyck, B. Pattyn, P. Van Parijs, D. Willems, J. Willems.