Continuing Education and Short Learning Programmes


By its flexibility, online teaching and learning gives a new impetus to continuing education in European higher education institutions, e.g. continuous professional development for professionals, professional knowledge networks and university-business cooperations. Also OERs and MOOcs can be integrated in a continuing education policy. Because of the needs in society and in evolving careers, this sector becomes increasingly important. Since the target groups are heterogeneous, the educational objectives are diverse as well as the respective educational/training environments, the sector becomes a challenge for universities. At the same time, it is a place for innovation, which can have benefits to degree education as well.

Meet our experts on continuing education and short learning programmes
Alessandra Antonaci, European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU) [CHAIR]

Since November 2019, Alessandra is Programme Manager at EADTU, where, among others, she manages the European Short Learning Programme (E-SLP) project.

She holds a PhD in Technology Enhanced Learning, and she tackled with her research two of the main problems of MOOCs: high users’ dropout rate and low level of users’ engagement. In doing so she used a gamified approach and referred to ‘Implementation Intention’ and ‘Sense of Community’ theories.

Within E-SLP she has contributed to define the concept of short learning programmes (SLPs); defining design guidelines for scalable SLPs and draw recommendations with regards to recognition of SLPs. She is currently working on connecting the concept of SLPs with microcredentials, and on a sustainability plan for the E-SLP project.

She has contributed to the EMPOWER Envisioning report of 2020 (4th Edition)

She has organised several empowering events involving University staff from the National Association of Distance Education (NADE); Kaunas University of Technology (KTU); Katholiek Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) and AGH University of Science and Technology (AGH- UST). Furthermore a dedicated EMPOWER webinar week to SLPs where more than 11 experts contributed.

Liz Marr, Open University of the United Kingdom (OUUK)

Dr Liz Marr is Pro-Vice-Chancellor: Students at The Open University. Her responsibilities include the student experience, student voice, student engagement and student satisfaction and she also has oversight of student employability, widening access and success, the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) and Quality Monitoring and Enhancement (QME). Liz has over thirty years of experience in teaching and learning in UK Higher Education with particular interest in lifelong learning and continuing education and their role in social justice and social mobility. She is passionate about opening opportunity for all who wish to participate in learning, both formally and informally. 

Päivi Kananen, Jyväskylä University (JYU)

Päivi Kananen works as an International Coordinator at the Open University of the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. She has worked on the field of Continuous Professional Education and especially online continuous education more than sixteen years. Recently, she has developed several MOOCs in the field of education. At the moment, she develops an online short learning programme called Digitally Competent Educators. 

Earlier Päivi Kananen worked as the Programme Manager in the international online programme on the Institute of Educational Leadership, at the University of Jyväskylä. She developed and implemented the MBA programme on Educational Leadership at the Institute of educational leadership, on the basis of which the Master of Educational Management and Leadership online programme she led was constructed. 

She has sixteen years’ experience in online teaching using different online learning platforms, and in guiding students by using different web-based solutions. Päivi is actively involved in several EU funded projects in the field of continuous education and a member of several Steering groups in different EU projects. 

Päivi has contributed to these EMPOWER activities: 

  • Researcher and author in a country report, case Finland in The Changing the Pedagogical Landscape 2018 
  • EMPOWER Envisioning report (3rd Edition): Student Mobility Studying in a Virtual Mobility Context: An International Pilot in the Domain of Educational Science. Cathrin Vogel; Noëlle Diegel; FernUniversität of Hagen, Germany; Olga Firssova; Christian M. Stracke; Francis Brouns, the open University of the Netherlands, Netherlands; Päivi Kananen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland 
  • EMPOWER Envisioning report (2nd Edition): Enhancing career practitioners’ competence in the use of ICT. Jaana Kettunen, Raimo Vuorinen, Jukka Lerkkanen, Päivi Kananen University of Jyväskylä, Finland 
  • EMPOWER Short Learning Programmes webinar week in October 2020: Lessons Learned from the Pilot Digital Competent Educators (Eva Cendon and Magda Zarebski (FernUniversitet in Hagen), Aysun GÜNEŞ (Anadolu University), Päivi Kananen and Virpi Uotinen (University of Jyväskylä), Glória Bastos (Universidade Aberta) 
Jukka Lerkkanen, Jyväskylä University (JYU)

Doctor of Education

  • Managerial skills, strategic planning of open university education, proven social and communicational competence.
  • Designing and delivering career guidance and counselling services based on guidance needs.
  • Research Associate in Florida State University, Center for the Study of Technology in Counseling and Career Development.


  • The National Forum of Finnish Open Universities, chair
  • EADTU EMPOWER chair for the Off-campus, online, open and flexible education expert pool
  • EADTU Supervisory Board, member

Last publications

  • Einarsdottir, S., Björnsdottir, M. D., & Lerkkanen., J. 2020. Cross-Cultural Validation of Asssessment instruments used in career counselling and guidance in Nordic countries. . In E. Haug, T. Hooley, J. Kettunen & R. Thomsen (Eds.), Career and career guidance in the Nordic countries. Career Development Series, 9. Leiden: Brill, 177–189 Sense. DOI: 10.1163/9789004428096_012
  • Andreassen, D.H., Einarsdóttir, S., Lerkkanen, J., Thomsen, R., & Wikstrand, F. 2019. Diverse histories, common ground and a shared future: The education of career guidance and counselling professionals in the Nordic countries. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. 19, (1), 1–26

See Jukka's institutional webpage here 


Paz Diez, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)

Paz is a esearcher in philology and education projects: “European Short Learning Programmes”, “Data-Driven Learning (DLL) for the English writing competence improvement. Pilot experience in MOOC, bachelor degree and master degree”, and “Gamification and ubiquitous learning in Primary Education. Development of a map of teaching, learning and parental competences and resources "GAUBI”. Candidate for PhD Research Personnel Training Aid on the Languages MOOCs line of research: “A study about the use of MOOCs in foreign languages learning: framework, strengths and weaknesses”. Scientific contributions published in educational journal and conference proceedings in language learning and MOOCs language learning areas   

Esteban Vázquez-Cano, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)

Esteban is a professor of the Faculty of Education in the Department of Didactics and School Organization. PhD in Education with Extraordinary Doctorate Award. Vice Dean of Students Affairs, Internationalization and Social Education (2017-20). Director of the Master's Degree in Educational Inspection and Supervision at UNED; his priority lines of research are: Mobile-ubiquitous Learning, Digital Language and Open and Flexible Education, with more than 200 scientific contributions published on these topics (see Google Scholar, Scopus and Publons). Currently, he is the Project Coordinator of the Research Project entitled: "Gamification and ubiquitous learning in Primary Education. Development of a map of teaching, learning and parental competences and resources "GAUBI". (RTI2018-099764-B-100) (MICINN/FEDER) financed by FEDER (European Regional Development Fund) and Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities of Spain. Associate Editor of the British Journal of Educational Technology (JCR Q1). He has been invited as technical committee of more than 60 conferences around the Word (Japan, USA, Canada, Turkey, UK, Chile, Morocco, China, Italy, Puerto Rico, Czech Republic, France, etc.). 

Mehmet Firat (Anadolu University)

Dr. Mehmet FIRAT is Associate Professor at Department of Distance Education and Deputy Head of Distance Education Department of Open Education Faculty at Anadolu University. Dr. Firat is GA member of European Distance Teaching Universities-EADTU. He has experiences in E-SLP and EMPOWER projects. He involved in many empower activities such as Innovative Student Support Solutions for Large Groups, Institutional support for prospective and new students in online and distance education, Innovative Distance Education Programs Recently Offered by Anadolu University for Providing Identical Needs of Different Target Groups. He is one of empower experts in the field of Student Support. Dr. Firat is still Deputy Director of Graduate School of Social Science at Anadolu University. His academic interest areas are open and distance learning, e-learning, learning management systems, educational technologies, learning analytics, educational hypermedia, lifelong learning, cyber behaviors, use of internet in education. He has over than 70 research articles published international journals.

Sandrine Albert (UOC)
Sandrine Albert is a freelance instructional designer and e-learning project manager. She has 11 years experience in the field of education. She coordinates the design and implementation of e-learning and blended learning programmes for the public and private sectors, in initial and further education. She has also had responsibilities as a project officer and trainer in various international educational projects (Erasmus+, H2020, etc.).
Sandrine has developed her professional activity around innovative pedagogies and technologies.

She has been working for UOC since 2018 on various international higher education projects. Her responsibilities there include instructional design of programmes, guides and educational supports; the monitoring and quality control of co-designed programmes, the coordination of international design teams, and the training of educational staff.

In the context of the E-SLP project, she has co-developed the “Compendium of Good Practices” and the “Design Guidelines for Flexible and Scalable SLPs”.

She participated in Empower activities by contributing to the article: Good practices in European Short Learning Programmes (E-SLP) Marcelo Maina; Lourdes Guàrdia; Sandrine Albert, Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain and performing a Webinar on SLPs design for the EMPOWER webinar week dedicated to Short Learning Programmes.

Marcelo Fabian Maina (UOC)
Associate professor of Educational Technology at the Department of Psychology and Education at UOC, Director of the Master in Education and ICT (e-learning). He teaches courses in this master and also the Master of Evaluation and Quality Management in Higher Education. 
Researcher of the Edul@b research group (UOC). He has participated in numerous European projects like the recent H2020 CRISS selected for publication on the EU’s Innovation Radar platform and H2020 EPICA recognized as a distinctive innovation being published in the EMPOWER Envisioning report of 2020 (4th Edition). His research focuses on technologies, education, and lifelong learning, and includes such topics as learning ecologies, learning design methods and tools, emerging digital pedagogies, personalized learning, course and program design, and open education. 
Within the E-SLP project, he has coordinated and participated together with Lourdes Guàrdia and Sandrine Albert in the development of the Compendium of good practices and the  Design guidelines for flexible and scalable SLPs.
PhD in the Information and Knowledge Society Programme from Universitat Oberta de Catalunya; Master in Communication Sciences from Université de Montreal (Canada), and BA in Communications and Education from Universidad Nacional de Entre Ríos (Argentina).

Lourdes Guardia (UOC)

Deputy dean of teaching at Psychology and Educational Sciences Department at UOC. She is associate professor of Educational Technology. She teaches courses in the Master in Education and ICT (e-learning).  

Researcher of the Edul@b research group (UOC). She has participated in numerous European projects like the recent H2020 CRISS selected for publication on the EU’s Innovation Radar platform (leading WP3) and H2020 EPICA (leading WP4)  recognized as a distinctive innovation being published in the EMPOWER Envisioning report of 2020 (4th Edition), but also in national research projects funded by the Ministry of education, currently e-Feedskills project. Her research focuses on eAssessment, ePortfolios, educational technologies, teaching professional development, including such topics as learning design methods and tools, emerging digital pedagogies, schools innovation, personalized learning, course and program design, and open education. 

Within the E-SLP project, she has coordinated and participated together with Marcelo Maina and Sandrine Albert in the development of the Compendium of good practices and the  Design guidelines for flexible and scalable SLPs

PhD in Educational Sciences at Basc Country University (UPV/EHU).

Postgraduate program in teaching Second Language Acquisition (University of Barcelona)

Virpi Uotinen, University of Jyväskylä

Virpi Uotinen is working as an university teacher at the Open University of the University of Jyväskylä (JYUOpen), Finland. Her subjects of teaching are psychology (in which she has PhD) and gerontology. She has worked in the field of Continuous Professional Education almost two decades. During those years, the development and implementation of flexible modes of online education has been essential part of her work.  

In the field of international course collaboration, she has recent experience in coordinating and developing the online short learning programme called Digitally Competent Educators (DCE) within the European Short Learning Programme -project (E-SLP). Within this project, she has contributed to define the concept of short learning programmes (SLPs) that included definition of design guidelines for flexible and scalable SLPs.   

Her earlier work as a university lecturer of the Nordic Master’ Programme in Gerontology and as a coordinator of the Nordplus Gerontology Network, she has experience in curriculum development and ICT practices in higher education in the context of international co-operation. Planning and organising joint intensive courses in gerontology that combined e-learning and one week stay at the host university were part of her work. These positions provided a possibility to get an overview of variation of practices in higher education in Finland and in other Nordic countries. Her earlier career at JYU has comprised of various positions such as a research assistant, PhD student (PhD in psychology in year 2005), researcher, coordinator and education planner at University of Jyväskylä. 

Currently, she is working in the ONE Meeting project (years 2020 to 2022). Aim of this project is to enhance sustainability and green values in higher education institutions in EU area. This is done by encouraging project leaders to use more effective virtual tools in their multinational project collaboration.  

She has contributed to publications by E-SLP Project and the EMPOWER Envisioning Reports (4th and 5th Editions). Currently she is involved in a study focusing on factors explaining the dropout rate and low level of users’ engagement in online courses among psychology students at JYUOpen. 

Jeroen Winkels, Open University of The Netherlands (OUNL)
Sebastián Rubén Gómez Palomo, Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
Carla Maria Bispo Padrel de Oliveira, Universidade Aberta (UAb)
Maria Amata Garito, Università telematica internazionale  (UNINETTUNO)
Alessandro Caforio, Università telematica internazionale (UNINETTUNO)
Achilles Kameas, Hellenic Open University (HOU)
Virpi Uotinen, University of Jyväskylä (JYU)

EMPOWER offers

By online continuing education and short learning programmes, universities can upscale their initiatives and organise them directly in an international context, which contributes to the reputation of the staff and the institution. 

The EMPOWER expert pool delivers examples of good practice with a variety of formats, based on practice within their institutions, relevant for continuing education and short learning programmes. It deals as well with the development of organisational and business models, with which universities are less familiar. Especially, the organisation of continuing education by multi-disciplinary teams with allocation models, directly linked to departments are important for a successful implementation.


Tools & resources


Innovating Education in new modes of teaching and learning webinar week:

20 & 21 November 2018

Changing patterns in interactive learning design

Current trends in distance education point to changing patterns in business models and in learning design, these were clearly interconnected, and the solutions reside in both high level and low-level decisions. The higher-level decisions are related to personalised learning, practical subjects, shorter programme cycles, partnerships for face-to-face sessions and technologies for seamless learning. The lower level decisions imply the design of learning environments and the implementation of learner support strategies. So, this talk will explore the processes and suitable technologies for learning design, including the design and application of digital media in teaching and learning, and a critical analysis of the benefits of technologies in education. By José Bidarra, Universidade Aberta

Collaborative Learning in Open and Distance Learning

I'm pretty sure all distance educators like the concept of students learning collaboratively. But nothing's straightforward in ODL and it's worth asking some questions:

  1. Why do we like collaborative learning? Is it to improve learning, overcome isolation or to save money?
  2. What's the best way to help students get together? - forums, mentoring, 'study dating'?
  3. Do students really like it? Or do some find it unhelpful and even threatening?
  4. What are the potential pitfalls? Group assessment? Internet harassment?
  5. Most importantly! - does it work?

By Ormond Simpson, University of London

Transforming Higher Education with Blended Learning: Managing Expectations and Bridging Gaps:

With blended learning having become “the new normal” (Dziuban, Graham, Moskal, Norberg, & Sicilia, 2018), even traditional on-campus universities work on creating new learning designs to meet their students’ needs for flexibility, mostly concerning work/life/study balance and opportunities for lifelong learning. Implementing such programs comes with a set of challenges in the realms of pedagogy, technology, and management, however. In this webinar, I will introduce the first blended learning bachelor program at the University of Graz in Austria. Focusing on some challenges faced and lessons learned, I will offer insight into the process of implementation that could be used for future projects in blended learning, particularly in other “brick-and-mortar” higher education institutions. By Simone Adams, University of Graz

Understanding student paths in higher education blended-learning:

Beyond success and dropout

This study first aimed to identify critical instances that characterise common student paths and deviations that lead to certification, interruption of studies or dropout in blended-learning. We then crossed the path types and degrees of completion with available student characteristics to infer various student profiles. Using time and credits required to graduate to identify path deviations may provide insights on early warning signs of potential dropout and lead to seeing dropout, not only as an academic failure but also as possible fulfilment of learning goals independent of certification, particularly. These results will allow us to understand various paths and goals students follow in higher-education blended-learning study programs that particularly attract non-traditional students, to propose guidelines for designing curricula that are more open and flexible in their delivery while maintaining support for learning progression to achieve program learning outcomes. By Kalliopi Benetos, Université de Genève

EMPOWER is carried out with the support of the European Commission, Dg EAC, under the Erasmus+ Programme, however, sole responsibility for this website lies with the EADTU and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.