WSIS 2017 workshop outputs

This page presents the initial outputs of the Geneva Learning Foundation’s workshop at the World Summit for the Information Society (WSIS) on 12 June 2017.

Last update: 17 June 2017. This post will be updated with new content in the coming days.

Dr Patricia Charlton, an educator, researcher, and Trustee of the Geneva Learning Foundation, together with Catherine Russ of the Partnership Brokering Association (PBA), a humanitarian learning and development specialist, moderated a lively discussion. Nine panelists, focused on burning questions and challenges related to the digital transformation of learning, education, and training (LET) for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

226 participants were registered for the event, with over 80 of them attending the WSIS Forum in person.

The panel had a deliberate focus:

  • On the entire lifespan of education, including adult continuing education and professional development (where most SDG Target 4 discussions so far have been focused on basic childhood education)
  • On how to achieve SDG Target 4.7, (“by 2030 ensure all learners acquire knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development”)
  • On exploring “burning questions” where there is no consensus (yet) or that involve tackling complex problems for which there is no one solution… to determine if there is a basis for further dialogue and collaboration.

Unedited video recording of the workshop (viewing time: 1 hour 46 minutes)

Neil Blakeman, FutureLearn

Neil is Chief Business Officer at FutureLearn, the first UK-based social learning platform, offering massive open online courses (MOOCs) from leading international institutions to learners in more than 190 countries. He joined FutureLearn in September 2015 to oversee partner recruitment and development, and content and course development. Neil’s team is also responsible for creating and managing relationships with both business and government. Neil has 25 years of commercial and public sector experience in the UK, China, Central Europe and emerging markets. He has worked as a management consultant specialising in partnering, international trade and investment, with a focus on the China-UK education sector. Until late 2006, Neil was based in Beijing as the UK Government’s Director of Trade and Investment for China, supporting British businesses entering the Chinese market.

On SDG Target 4.7: “As an organisation, our purpose is to help everyone to fulfil their potential in a changing world, by transforming access to education”

“I’d like to discuss the ways in which we can contribute to target 4.7 by looking at accessibility, specifically how online platforms can reach those in the most remote corners of the globe, who may not have considered a pathway into education before. Scalability is also an important factor; how we are reaching large audiences with vast demographic backgrounds. Finally, I’d like to discuss the ways in which we can utilise partnerships to deliver world class content around important global issues.”

Pierre Dillenbourg, EPFL

A former teacher in elementary school, Pierre Dillenbourg graduated in educational science (University of Mons, Belgium). He started his research on learning technologies in 1984. He obtained a PhD in computer science from the University of Lancaster (UK), in the domain of artificial intelligence applications for education. He has been assistant professor at the University of Geneva. He joined EPFL in 2002. He is currently full professor in learning technologies in the School of Computer & Communication Sciences, where he is the head of the CHILI Lab: “Computer-Human Interaction for Learning & Instruction ». He is also the academic director of Center for Digital Education, which implements the MOOC strategy of EPFL. EPFL recently passed over 1.5 million MOOC registrations. He wrote a book entitled “Orchestration Graphs” that proposes a formal language for instructional design (EPFL Press). With EPFL colleagues, he recently launched the Swiss EdTech Collider, an incubator with 30+ start-ups in learning technologies.

Bodo Hoenen, Dev4X

Bodo Hoenen is a social entrepreneur who works on grand challenges, with a keen interest in open innovation, education and empowering children to change the world. He is the founder of Dev4X which is working on the Global Changemakers project that is empowering young people everywhere to tackle the Global Goals. They are leveraging the world’s largest network of social entrepreneurs and innovative schools to be the seed in this public platform which is aiming to open-source social innovation.

On SDG Target 4.7: “Empower changemakers of all ages to take part in designing,  developing and implementing sustainable solutions to the global goals”

“I’d like to discuss open sharing of ideas, data, approaches… Unlike the closed, siloed culture that exists today within social innovation. A culture of radical openness can be fostered within children, the youth and those aspiring changemakers that are set to make significant impact on the world in the next 15 years.  We can foster the innate curiosity, creativity, and passion of young people and empower them to tackle the world’s grand challenges as an open collective.”

Sophie Huber Kodbaye, University of Geneva

Sophie Huber Kodbaye is Director of the Centre for Continuing and Distance Education at the University of Geneva, a position she joined in 2015, after being the Deputy Director of the Executive Education Department at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies and Director of the Executive Master in International Negotiation and Policy Making with more than 12 years of experience in designing and delivering training programmes for professionals in international affairs. Since joining the University of Geneva, Sophie focused on the digitalisation of continuing education, looking at opportunities and challenges created and working to address some of them, notably in relation to e-learning literacy.

On SDG Target 4.7: “The Centre for Continuing and Distance Education was a lead actor behind the Geneva Trialogue on Knowledge and the SDGs [in 2016].”

Burning question: “I would like to address the issues of skills / new skills needed to really benefit from digitalized education.”

Michaela Laemmler, Global Head of openSAP University

On SDG Target 4.7: “openSAP is SAP’s Open Online Courses platform to educate and improve people’s live around the globe according to sustainable goals. My Team and I are delivering these MOOCs open to anyone interested in the world free-of-charge (in the name of our Company SAP SE).”

Burning question: “I’d like to talk about how openSAP contributes to the sustainable development goals – As an Enterprise to develop sustainable products but also to share knowledge to educate the current and future workforce.”

Diana Laurillard, RELIEF Centre Project

Professor of Learning with Digital Technologies, UCL Knowledge Lab, Institute of Education. Developing the Learning Designer tools for teachers. Running a professional development MOOC on Blended Learning Essentials for teachers in Vocational Education via FutureLearn. Running a project on the Transformational Potential of MOOCs in the Centre for Global HE at UCL-IOE, and a project on Future Education in the RELIEF Centre (Refugees, Education, Learning, IT, and Entrepreneurship for the Future). Collaborating with the Advanced Innovation Centre for the Future of Education, Beijing Normal University, on the Building teacher community knowledge of blended learning project to engage teachers in developing blended learning for new pedagogies. Formerly Head of the e-Learning Strategy Unit at the government Department for Education and Skills; Pro-Vice Chancellor for learning technologies and teaching at the Open University. Currently on the Board of the Learning Foundation, and Education Advisory Board for Climate KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community). Most recent book is Teaching as a Design Science, Routledge, 2012.

On SDG Target 4.7: “We are developing an innovative and integrated approach to sustainable prosperity for ‘hosts’ and ‘refugees’ in Lebanon based on social and economic inclusiveness, with concrete and locally specific learning and knowledge transfer outcomes at the core. We wish to use digital technologies to build new knowledge sharing platforms for innovative forms of collaboration between Universities and communities, both for research and for capacity development and knowledge transfer.”

Gaell Mainguy, Center for interdisciplinary research (CRI)

Gaëll Mainguy is Director of Development and International Relations at CRI (Centre de Recherches Interdisciplinaires), a groundbreaking interdisciplinary research institute based in Paris. CRI develops innovative approaches to learning through science, which is stimulating a generation of young innovators to tackle SDGs in hands-on ways, both in the lab and on the Web. In March 2017, CRI handed over a report on how to design an R&D system for a Learning Society to Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, the French Minister of Education, Higher Education and Research. Gaëll has a pronounced taste for breaking silos. He developed projects successively in neuroscience, open and participatory science, sustainability (in particular, he contributed a report for UNEP on metrics for sustainability) and education for non-profit, public and private organizations. Gaëll is a pupil of Ecole Normale Supérieure (Paris) and has a PhD in Neurobiology.

On SDG Target 4.7: “We ambition to educate students by involving them in open research projects that tackle the SDGs in relevant disciplines (essentially on the issues of health, nutrition and the environment at CRI). How can we engage students to tackle SDGs?”

Aape Pohjavirta, founder and chief evangelist of Funzi

Aape Pohjavirta is the chief evangelist and founder of Funzi, a mobile learning service ecosystem for the emerging markets, and an entrepreneurship coach and lecturer in Startup Sauna, Aalto University, DTBi and other institutions.

On SDG Target 4.7: “Be one of the transformation & change agents from grassroots to global policy creation and for-profit to humanitarian.”

Field experience: “My startup is running an SDG course for politicians in Finland in collaboration with the UN Association, with an aim to scale it to global during 2017.”

Reda Sadki, president, The Geneva Learning Foundation

Reda is an educational innovator and social entrepreneur. After two decades in the United Nations and at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), he founded Learning Strategies International ( in 2014 and the Geneva Learning Foundation in 2016.

On SDG Target 4.7: “The Geneva Learning Foundation is launching its first Call for Proposals to support  community-based capacity building initiatives. For the cost of a Geneva-based workshop for 25 people, we can build an open, scalable initiative in which participants produce their own locally-relevant knowledge but do so in a shared, global network.”

Call for applications (2016): Become a #DigitalScholar

We are pleased to inform you that applications are now open for the 2017 edition of the #DigitalScholar course. Learn more

The Geneva Learning Foundation, in partnership with the University of Illinois College of Education and Learning Strategies International (LSi), is pleased to announce an open access course to support the development of scalable digital learning.

How to apply

Please apply early, although we will accept applications until 3 July 2016. The course will run for four weeks from 4 until 29 July 2016. See detailed announcement for details.

Download this course announcement

Who this course is for

  • Training providers transitioning their face-to-face courses to digital;
  • Consultants who offer training or capacity-building services to their clients;
  • Technical experts who wish to develop effective digital learning that can scale to transfer knowledge, skills and competencies (behaviours);
  • Trainers and coaches interested in deploying their face-to-face skills in a digital environment;
  • Knowledge managers who need to rapidly develop case studies, build a community of practice, or foster collaboration across silos; and
  • Other learning leaders and managers interested in staying current with the latest digital learning pedagogies and new business models for learning, education, and training (LET).

What will you gain?

  1. Practical, accelerated learning of cutting-edge pedagogies and digital learning practices, with a focus on knowledge co-construction.
  2. Each participant will develop their own course outline using Scholar’s innovative peer-to-peer knowledge co-construction approach.
  3. The outline is intended to be immediately usable to offer your own Scholar course to staff, clients, customers, students, or other stakeholders.
  4. Participants who successfully complete the course will be eligible to use Scholar to offer their own digital courses.

What is special about this course?

The course addresses the growing need for rapid, low-cost development of digital learning courses, a tangible sign of the ongoing digital transformation of learning, education and training (LET).

It will introduce you to general principles of effective digital learning through the use of Scholar, an online learning environment developed by Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis of the University of Illinois College of Education. Scholar’s pedagogical pattern:

  • can teach both foundational and expert knowledge;
  • is designed to produce (and not simply consume) knowledge;
  • fosters higher-order thinking, analysis, reflection, evaluation, and application;
  • connects peers to each other, modelling new forms of leadership and collaboration that enable people in complex contexts to think, learn and work together to solve problems;
  • has other applications that include capacity-building, leadership development, action learning, case study development, communities of practice, and fostering collaboration across silos.

Course team

  • Bill Cope (Wikipedia | LinkedIn) is a Professor in the Department of Educational Policy Studies at the University of Illinois. He is Principal Investigator in a series of projects funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences in the US Department of Education and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation researching and developing multimodal writing and assessment spaces.
  • Catherine Russ (Twitter | LinkedIn) has both researched and led change in large humanitarian organizations to move the learning agenda forward. She is an adult education and learning specialist with expertise in learning strategy and programme development, capacity building and partnership brokering, working both as an independent consultant and a senior LSi Associate.
  • Reda Sadki (Twitter | Blog | LinkedIn) is an educational innovator and social entrepreneur. After two decades in the United Nations and at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), he founded Learning Strategies International ( in 2014 and the Geneva Learning Foundation in 2016.

What will you do in this course?

Each participant will develop a project outline for their own scalable, digital learning course. In the course of developing this project, participants will:

  1. Explore and reflect on how teaching and learning are currently organized across different industries.
  2. Distinguish learning approaches based on information transmission from knowledge co-construction.
  3. Explore the relevance of knowledge co-construction for your industry.
  4. Compare Scholar’s co-construction approach with other learning environments or management systems that you have used.
  5. Determine the use cases for Scholar in your own context.
  6. Identify and describe your market (audience), learning objectives, structure and organization, and other aspects needed to outline their own digital learning course.

Requirements and prerequisites

  • Information technology: Participants will need to have access to a reliable Internet connection and a modern browser (Safari 5+, Firefox, or Chrome). A headset with a microphone is necessary to participate in the weekly group discussion. You will need to access the course web site on a daily basis.
  • Learning expertise and experience: Some prior knowledge of learning theory and practice is helpful, but not required.


Application, enrollment, and participation in this course are free of charge to individuals. Interested organisations should use this form to request one or more seats in the course.


Participants who successfully fulfil all requirements of the course will qualify for optional, paid certification from the Geneva Learning Foundation.


  • Participants should be expected to dedicate 3-4 hours a week to the course.
  • Those with limited fluency in English or digital (i.e., you find online tools difficult to use) should schedule an additional 1-2 hours per week.

Each participant will develop their own project draft, then review the drafts of three peers, and finally revise their own draft. This process will be broken down into short daily tasks (30 minutes each) to complete each day, Monday through Friday. We encourage you to complete each task on the day it is posted. Nevertheless, you are free to catch up any time during the week, preferably before the Thursday discussion group. As each week builds on the preceding week’s activities, it is important that you do not fall behind the schedule.

Weekly 30-minute meetings will be held as virtual web meetings every Thursday and start at 20h00 Geneva (CET), on 7, 14, 21, and 28 July 2016.


WeekDatesLive discussion groupTime req.
Week 14–8 JulyThursday, 7 July3–4 hours
Week 211–15 JulyThursday, 14 July3–4 hours
Week 318–22 JulyThursday, 21 July3–4 hours
Week 425–29 JulyThursday 28 July3–4 hours

Question or comment?

Please check the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) before sending a message. Please use this form to send us your questions or comments. If you are interested in this course but not available during its scheduled run, please register your interest.

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