Acceleration Plan as laboratory for higher education

By: Huib de Jong, former chairman of the board of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

The Acceleration Plan is a wonderful laboratory for higher education. It provides students, teaching staff and management with every opportunity to experiment with new possibilities for good education. And it is used intensively. When I was asked to help direct OERs, I was surprised by the intensity of the work being done in the zones. Proposals are being developed from various perspectives and disciplines in order to give shape to the inevitable digital transformation of higher education. In the background, there is the strong involvement of the Steering Committee and the administrative Koersteam, which supports the agenda. I was also confirmed in the (more or less) silent power of SURF within the Dutch education sector. A unique partnership.

Before I became acquainted with the Acceleration Plan, my knowledge of it was limited to references to it in conversations with active colleagues. Perhaps this is because technological revolutions leave me completely cold. After all, the greatest revolution we have ever experienced is long behind us: the design of an alphabet. No reason to be alarmed by changes derived from that. After all, since the invention of the alphabet, there has been continuity, including in education. Ideally, educational institutions are consciously designed learning environments in which students and their development are central. Their aim is to provide equal opportunities for qualification, socialisation, personal development and student success. Education is thus a teacher-led public service that gives generations of students the opportunity to keep up with the times. Even the most radical technological innovation is never a threat. At least, if we can count on the professionalism with which learning is shaped within schools and technological innovations are processed as a matter of course. And I do not doubt for a moment that we can count on that.

Therefore, I see the Acceleration Plan as an expression of the continuous struggle to keep our education up to date. In this struggle, it becomes clear that the choice of learning materials is becoming increasingly important, because they will increasingly determine the form of the lesson (in addition to its content). The “book” can no longer be seen as separate from the platform on which it is offered: the publisher offers teaching material but also sets new requirements for the infrastructure on which it is used and collects information about the use of the book. All this requires a fresh look at the coherence of the curriculum and the security of the learning environment for students. Certainly where those students are no longer tied to a single study programme or a single institution. It also requires thinking about a new scale of education that transcends study programmes and institutions. This means that the struggle of professionals is also the struggle of institution boards to support those professionals. They can do so by clarifying the rules of play for the new learning environment, so that it is still possible to consciously steer towards achieving the “old” educational objectives. As a ‘cooperation of educational institutions’, SURF is a good example of an environment in which some of those rules can be laid down, so that students are not unnecessarily burdened on their learning path through the network of programmes and institutions and so that their safe learning environment (including their privacy) remains guaranteed. And also: that the necessary investments in the network structure can be made.

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