On March 27th I participated in the 4th Innovatium Conference. This was the last time that the conference was organised by the Digital University, the Dutch Higher Education consortium that will formally end by July 1st. I also visited the 2nd and 3rd edition of Innovatium, which can surely be characterized as a series of conferences being held in inspiring and creative environments. Remember the conferences in Evoluon (Eindhoven) and the Rabo City Theatre (Hengelo)? This time the conference was hosted by Passenger Terminal Amsterdam, right next to the water. It was possible for delegates to take short boat tours during the lunch break.
The number of delegates was rather high (over 500) which creates a sort of mixed feeling. On the one hand there is the large number of people joining a lot of interesting presentations and workshops. On the other hand there was the perception that the DU will formally end, and the question what will happen with all of the nice products and the collaborative networks that have been established. The workshops I visited in the morning were completely full and there were lively discussions going on. After lunch it was my turn to stay at the Sakai booth of the SURF Special Interest Group. I was scheduled for only 45 minutes and had several interesting conversations with people passing the booth. As a result of those talks I spent a lot more time around the booth than foreseen, but I was still in time to join the plenary end session by Norbert Verbraak. When something comes to an end, there is time to look back. Six years of Digital University, a lot of very interesting projects and products. I heard some people saying that the nice thing of the DU was, that a lot of projects were going on in which people actively worked together on the delivery of innovative educational products. Of course not all projects were succesful, but the majority of the projects did achieve good results and deliverables. The inheritance of the DU is now being integrated into SURF Foundation. Some of the DU program managers also found a new job at SURF. But the big question is how to proceed from here. SURF Foundation is perceived as a different type of organisation than the DU. Will DU products be used in the future or will they 'disappear' in the archives of SURF?
In my opinion there is also a great personal asset that should not be forgotten. Thanks to the many DU projects and the roles one may have had, there was a context in which you really could collaborate with colleagues in the field of higher education. So 6 years of DU has also brought us a strong higher education community. This was demonstrated at the end in which a group of about 100 delegates was invited to a formal closure dinner. During on of the speeches Michiel van Geloven mentioned that about 80% sent a positive reply to the dinner invitation within 48 hours which implies a lot of appreciation for what the DU has brought us in six years.