(Online) Education in Austria needs to get a groove on

by Daniela Wolf

The more I’m reading, working and talking with people from abroad, the more it’s becoming painfully obvious that, as a country, Austria is deeply behind in (online) education. These last few months I’ve had the opportunity to visit conferences, workshops and events outside of my field of learning, as well as talking to numerous people in the field of start-ups. I have deliberately gone outside the field of learning (and international at that), because in all honesty, there doesn’t seem to be anything new to learn for me anymore at Austrian e-learning events, at which many participants are still wound up in the same old, tired discussions about course design and development, general fear of the use of technology, a disdain for social media and a misguided belief that a mere implementation of a learning management system will solve each and every problem there is.

Two weeks ago, I attended the “E-Learning Day” at FH Joanneum Graz. I was really curious to hear about what organizations were doing to challenge the status quo in their institutions when it comes to e-learning. Although it was a good opportunity to make new acquaintances, there was relatively little talk about what schools and universities are doing to address and subsequently overcome more current, “newer” issues. To me it felt like most people were hung up on expressing their discontent with the old structures and mindsets of the people in the charge of universities and schools.

I know that there are some Austrian learning entrepreneurs out there, who will stand up to conservative administrations, who spread the message of the critical need to change the way things are done in the field of education, who guide and inspire others to change behaviors and to help them work smarter. I also know that they are struggling to balance the needs of operational requirements of their business in the short term versus putting in place a strategy to deal with modern workplace challenges. These entrepreneurs are likely feeling frustrated at the slow pace of change in their organizations, and that they are unable to share their knowledge and experiences with other institutions or with the public, due to restrictions in terms of privacy, confidentiality and competition.

When it comes to the older generation, obviously, it’s easier for them to keep on doing business the way they’ve always done it. That way, they can keep things under their control and keep their power and influence. That way, they don’t need to care about redundancies, wasted resources and opportunities. That way, they can live a comfortable life until it’s time to cash in that retirement package our generation will never have. That way, they don’t need to listen to anybody, and why would they? After all, they know better, don’t they? That way, they can strangle a younger generation’s motivation, their chances and aspirations. That way, they unwittingly, and with the best of intentions, ruin their institutions while they’re at it.

It’s time for the older generation to step aside. At least partially. Or at least listen. They need to let the younger generation, the inexperienced, the people new to your institutions make decisions. They are the ones with the ideas, exuberance and the passion for doing things differently. Younger people must be supported, encouraged and their voice must be heard. The older generation needs to set aside their pride and egos, because frankly, things are moving too fast for us to wait for them to retire. We need to be able to take our very own future into our own hands. And that will be the only way for us — the younger Austrian educators — to get a groove on.

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