1996 was a landmark year for electronic networking in the EAIE, the
beginning of 'a new era of communications efficiency.' Through the
cooperation of Secretariat staff and the "Electronic Networks and
Information Sharing Committee" (ENIS), 1088 EAIE members from 52 countries
(as of mid-January) are now linked with the Secretariat and with each
other through our EAIE-L e-mail list <email@example.com>. With the
majority of EAIE's membership on the list, EAIE-L now provides the
capability for us to work together more effectively in professional
development activities, as well as to relay almost instantly to colleagues
worldwide information relevant to European educational mobility.
Popular EAIE Website
A new EAIE website has also emerged, to expand and replace the gopher
archives. By autumn the www.csc.fi/forum/EAIE address via
the Center for Scientific Computing in Finland was already well familiar
to EAIE members with WWW access, but use of the EAIE website rocketed
during October and November in the run-up to the Eighth Annual Conference
in Budapest. Over 900 'hits' a day were recorded on EAIE web pages,
especially on four items that had never before been available on-line:
- Conference registration and hotel reservation forms that
could be downloaded from the website and then completed and
forwarded to Amsterdam or Budapest for processing;
- A list of participants in the Eighth Conference (with
their titles, institutional affiliation, and telephone,
telefax, and e-mail address data) which was updated biweekly
from October onwards and eventually even daily in late
November as the registrations continued to flow in;
- Updates on the addition of new sessions, changes in the
presenters or schedules for some events, the availability of
remaining space in pre-conference excursions and workshops,
and other refinements of August's printed pre-Conference
- Individual pages, on an experimental basis, for five ENIS
Track workshops and sessions that included more background on
the focus and objectives of each event than could be printed
in the regular Program, plus biodatas for the Chairs and
Presenters, full texts or abstracts of their presentations,
and WWW hyperlinks to further information on the topics
covered, papers presented, and related conference sessions.
The greater availability of such new communications tools, and
increased use of them by EAIE members, was not just coincidence. It
follows from the grip of new information technologies on the imagination
of educators worldwide during the past two years. Within Europe, it
follows the need for improved communications that is essential for greater
cooperation among European higher education institutions.
Within the EAIE, improved electronic networking capability was also one
of the goals of 1996 President Marianne Hildebrand. And while much was
accomplished last year, much still remains to be done. Even as Marianne
commended ENIS' 1996 efforts during her 'Report from the President' at the
Budapest General Meeting, she also reminded us all that we have only taken
our first steps down the road toward effective use of new information
technologies throughout the Association.
As Marianne put it in her Opening Plenary address, one of the key roles
for EAIE members should now be to use our new electronic capability to
SUPPORT and ENCOURAGE each other, STIMULATE ourselves and the Association
toward increased professional development, and aspire to COOPERATE more
fully in, and ENHANCE more effectively our efforts toward a greater
integration and wider global outreach of European higher education.
This is a worthy challenge as the Association approaches the
tenth anniversary of its founding, two years hence. It prompts
the question of what needs to be done to meet this challenge.
How can we better support, encourage, stimulate, cooperate and
enhance each other through our communications tools? What is
lacking at present? What are the immediate tasks at hand?
One might examine the impact of Budapest Conference information in the
new EAIE website last October and November for a context of where and why
we need to improve. Electronic information can reach a larger audience
much more rapidly and cost-effectively than traditional print
communications. For an Association like EAIE, faced with a
continually-expanding responsibility for the timely dissemination of
information to its members at the same time as it is forced by budgetary
realities to keep overhead cost in check, there is little option but to
increase its reliance on electronic communications. And if one considers
the possible impact on conference registration, the significance of
on-line information is apparent.
For the Budapest conference, a number of the registrations received
were printouts of on-line forms in the website. One could assume that
most came from people who had not received printed conference information
via regular mail since they were not on the Association's mailing list.
They may not even have heard of the EAIE before. However, once learning
of EAIE and its conference via the website, they were able to download and
complete the forms and submit their registrations without incurring the
additional cost and further delay of obtaining printed forms by airmail,
fax or courier. The availability of the forms and conference details in
the website enhanced EAIE's outreach to non- (but potential) members and
those who had not attended an EAIE conference before.
The on-line participant list can also influence conference attendance.
The original intention was to facilitate networking among registered
participants, as well as to allow participants to check their
registrations. However, potential participants were also able to use the
list to see who had already registered. Did this ability to see on-line
the total number of attendees, plus who they were and which institutions,
agencies and/or countries they represented, result in additional
registrations? How many participants used the on-line listings to arrange
appointments with colleagues in advance? The result in either case is a
more effective and productive conference.
Without proper analysis, one can only speculate about what may seem to
be 'causes and effects', but it has already been planned that in 1997 we
will endeavor to make more information available on-line via the
EAIE website subdirectory that has contained since November
1996 the announcement and Call for Papers for the Ninth Annual Conference
in Barcelona next November.
It has also been decided that two of the most urgent priorities for ENIS
in 1997 will be to help EAIE members use EAIE-L and the EAIE website more
effectively, and to work with the leadership of EAIE's Professional
Sections toward getting a substantial volume of PS expertise into the EAIE
website. And with an eye on Barcelona, ENIS also hopes to work with one
or more Sections in a larger-scale experiment toward getting more workshop
and session information on-line, using the ENIS track example from
The need to improve in these areas is vital for the Association, and a
direct result of the (apparent) effectiveness of the data we already have
on-line. If EAIE's electronic media are indeed often providing 'first
contacts' to the Association for potential new members, or other future
partners, it is essential that we project a balanced picture of EAIE
resources and activity.
Balance is Lacking
At present, this balance is lacking. Visitors to the website or list may
be influenced as much by what they don't see, as that which they do. As
only one example, with the growing volume of Secretariat and Conference
information in the website, the activity of EAIE's Professional Sections
is conspicuous by its absence. The eight Professional Sections are among
EAIE's most significant sectors, our principal venues for professional
development activity in their areas of educational mobility.
The EAIE Website
During the past eight years, the Professional Sections have each compiled
a rich treasury of position papers, working guidelines, proficiency
skills, survey results, orientation models, and other expertise. This is
mostly information that would be available at no cost beyond what is
required to disseminate it, and if made available would be an invaluable
learning resource and public relations benefit to both the Professional
Section(s) concerned and to the Association as a whole. It would be
evidence of our past activity and accomplishment, and of considerable
appeal as we progress on expanding our membership base.
Yet at present the website contains none of this. Why is it vital to
add it? What might the implication be of an absence of such broad
resources of member activity for potential new members and new conference
attendees who look to the website for information on the Association?
Judging by the evidence before one on-line, visitors could be left with
the impression of a Secretariat that is abuzz with activity but a
membership that is dormant. Such an impression would not be flattering, or
accurate. Yet where is the evidence to show that it is wrong?
EAIE-L: Our Association-Wide E-Mail Forum
A similar situation prevails on EAIE-L. By sending the 'index EAIE-L'
command to <firstname.lastname@example.org> any subscriber can obtain a list of
EAIE-L archive logs dating back to the list's founding in 1993. Copies of
every posting ever sent to EAIE-L are available in the logs for whoever
wishes to read them. Should one check, one would see that fewer than 2% of
all EAIE-L subscribers have ever posted a message to the list, and that
some of our basic activities have never had any message relayed via the
list. The potential of EAIE-L has hardly begun to be used. Again, where
is the evidence of EAIE's member activity?
The need to address these concerns is clear. We must learn to use our new
technologies. At the same time, the NEWNESS of these 'new technologies'
must be borne in mind when looking at areas where improvement is needed.
The EAIE website is less than a year old. While it does provide a new
and cost-effective means of disseminating our expertise, it is not a
simple task to collect the vast reserves of member knowledge from the past
eight years, translate this into a format suitable for the web, upload it
to the website, and organize and administer it effectively. How to do
this will require much discussion during the coming months.
Likewise, most EAIE-L subscribers have only recently joined the list.
Time is needed for each subscriber to become comfortable with how (s)he
wants to use the list. And to say that we should use EAIE-L more is not
to suggest that everyone must send regular postings to the list. There is
nothing wrong with using EAIE-L primarily to receive Secretariat
information and read the views of others. Quality should prevail over
quantity on the list, and we must also consider those whose capacity for
e-mail is limited.
Yet we do need to project a more balanced picture of EAIE history,
activity, resources and involvement through both the EAIE website and
EAIE-L. And for the Association to grow and to prosper, we must learn how
to share our knowledge and to support each other better through our
There Is Much Still to be Done
There is much still to be done as we begin our 'new era of communications
efficiency', and face the challenge given us in Budapest to "support,
encourage, stimulate, cooperate and enhance." The first step has been
taken: we now have the technologies to use. Our next step is to learn to
use these technologies responsibly and effectively toward our common