My Online Education World

My Online Education World

My Online Education World, 1980-2020

A chronicle of personal anecdotes, experiences and reflections on people, events, technology and pedagogy that influenced four decades of my online education work.

By professor Morten Flate Paulsen


Read the posts written by Stephen Downes’ and the University of London about the chronicle.


Introduction to the chronicle

My Online Education World chronicle emerged as an intriguing, but daunting, idea during 2019. First when I attended the black-tie dinner hosted by Baroness Martha Lane Fox for the 50th anniversary of the UK Open University. Again when I prepared a keynote on forty years of innovations in online education at the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University‘s 40th anniversary in August 2019.

I gradually realized that I have four decades of online education experiences and many anecdotes that I hopefully have time to share after stepping down as Acting Secretary General of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE). I also realized that My Online Education World has been enabled by an unprecedented technological development, formed by all the good people I have met and evolved with my growing experiences from ICT and pedagogy in Norway and many other countries.

My ambition is to publish some relevant recollections, year by year. The approach is inspired by Ketil Bjørnstad – the multi-talented Norwegian pianist, composer, journalist and author – who shared personal anecdotes, celebrity encounters and newsworthy moments in his monumental chronicle Verden som var min (The world that was mine). Nearly hundred pages per year, one volume per decade. So far, I have read his observations and views from the sixties and seventies. Now, I dive into his next four volumes starting with the eighties.

Bjørnstad’s world is especially interesting to me since we grew up in the same time, region and cultural setting. In the same way, I hope my recollections could be of interest to online educators around the world, to my dear family and friends as well as the countless people I have encountered virtually and face-to-face in My Online Education World.

From the start, my ambition was to finish my recollections of the 1980s by the end of 2020. Then, focus on one decade per year and finish the project by the end of 2023.


The 1980s: The Dawn of Online Education

The 1980 anecdotes were chronicled during 2020

The Dawn of Online Education:

My symbolic photography at the Kragerø location Edvard Munch painted his monumental work «The Sun»

Reflections on 2020 and the 1980s

The 1980s. The decade that irrevocably hurled me into many unforeseen adult opportunities and challenges. The decade that indeed changed a modest Norway towards a more self-conscious, open, and rich country. Defining technology developments that spurred a paradigm shift in distance education. So remarkable to sum up the decade realizing that a century has passed since my father was born. Reading worrying news about the pandemic, US developments and brexit at the end of 2020. The warmest year on record in Norway. A year that certainly will define the years to come.

Transforming distance education

In 1980, distance education was synonymous with correspondence courses, educational radio and television. It was the dawn of the online education era. The eighties totally transformed our perception of distance education. Paradigm shift was a frequently used term. The main driver of the development was new technology: PCs, modems and learning management systems. In retrospect, low capacity technology without graphic and colour interfaces. But a technology upholding Moore’s law by doubling processing and storage capacity every second year foreshadowed the ability to process digital sound and video. The term ICT was introduced for Information and Communication Technology. The Internet infrastructure reached some universities, a few pioneers started to exchange e-mail and the first online courses were introduced.

The second half of the decade introduced a remarkable era for online education in Norway. The first learning management systems and online courses were developed. The World Conference for Distance Education was hosted by the Norwegian Association for Distance Education at the University of Oslo. The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) opened its permanent secretariat in Oslo. Developments that very much defined my online education world.

US developments

In the eighties, I was one of many Norwegians who viewed the US as the land of opportunities. The land of technology innovations and ICT entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Scientific excellence, NASA, high tech companies, incredible new software, reliable news, impressive athletics, superb movies and music we loved. A country I toured extensively as a tourist and visited several times to learn more about technology and online education. My homeland for two years as a doctoral student and graduate assistant at the American Center for the Study of Distance Education.

In 2020, it is devastating to see the latest development in the US. School shootings. The opioid crisis. The growing political divide. The echo chambers and conspiracy theories flourishing in social media. Twitter’s and Facebook’s decisions to flag or hide fraudulent and harmful posts from President Trump. His chaotic presidency attacking decency, allies, science, media, elections and the legal system. The frightening mismanagement of the corona pandemic.

Digital and analogue virus

The first time I was approached and quoted by a national daily newspaper (Arbeiderbladet) as an expert was in November 1988. They wanted to know if we could be infected – by computer virus? I had no idea about the dangers that loomed ahead.

The COVID-19 pandemic that defined 2020 and changed most people’s lives. Took nearly two million lives in nine months. Isolated us from family and friends. Thought many to work from home. Shut down businesses, sports and culture activities.

Isolating and working from the island Øya in the small Norwegian town of Kragerø, I enjoyed renovating our old house and researching my online education archives. Realized that print was more durable than my outdated floppy disks from the 1980s. Found it very challenging to meet family and assist next of kin with dire need for help and medical care. Stoped hugging and shaking hands. It was the first year of my adult life I did not travel abroad. The ICDE, EDEN and OEB conferences I used to attend went virtual. The Tokyo summer Olympics was postponed for at least a year.

The only concert I attended was hosted by Kragerø Rotary in the backyard of restaurant Tollboden. A concert with one of the world’s bestselling crime writers. A Norwegian author translated into 50 languages. Vocalist and songwriter for the Norwegian rock band Di Derre. I was not surprised Jo Nesbø is an excellent storyteller. But his stage anecdotes and song lyrics maybe better than his novels. Unfortunately, so hard to appreciate if you don’t speak Norwegian.

But challenging times spur innovations. Performing artists staged virtual events. Bands and orchestras started playing virtually together from several locations. Athletics introduced digital lights (pace setters) instead of human rabbits to chase records. E-sport saw new opportunities. Magnus Carlsen, the incredible Norwegian World Chess Champion transformed chess with his virtual chess tournaments.

Schools saved by online education

The pandemic suddenly closed most Norwegian schools and universities and prompted them to substitute traditional teaching with online education. For a while online education was the standard and face to face education the exception. I was privileged to work for NooA, a completely online school with no need for offices and classrooms. Fortunate to receive a fair share of the extraordinary funding to online education that the Norwegian government made available for people who were laid off or furloughed because of the pandemic.

Many institutions and teachers made an impressive effort to go online and even the most ardent antagonists of ICT realised that online education could work. Many noteworthy initiatives promoted and shared resources, experiences, and advice from established online education communities. Many course providers decided to substitute their face to face seminars with free webinars. A fine offer in times of crisis, but hardly a sustainable solution.

Access to PCs and modems was the greatest obstacle for online education in the 1980s. I wonder why access to online education technology does not seem to be an issue in Norway anymore. Is it really so that all kids and adults in Norway now have access to PCs and Internet?

Finally, most of the new online education activities seem to replicate classroom teaching. Teams, Skype and Zoom suddenly became omnipresent communication tools, but too many people started to believe that online education is equivalent with webinars. A perception that disregards decades of experience and so many of the innovative online education developments that are addressed in the first decade of my online education chronicle.

«The Computer Age and the Modern Internet: Even though internet-type signals had been transmitted from school to school in decades past, the 1980’s are the birth years of modern internet. Before this era, the internet — and online education with it — were just research experiments. The vision for the internet was primarily based in university computer labs. But online education does find its earliest entrants in the 1980’s with the first online college courses and online degrees as distance education embraces the idea of online learning. During this era, the internet reaches Europe and Asia. Infrastructure is laid down, providing for faster and more expansive internet operations and effectively opening the door for the total commercial and popular permeation of web use in the decade that would immediately follow».  (David Ferrer’s introductions to the 1980s in The History of Online Education)

Some useful resources:

Helge Høivik’s Khrono reflections in Norwegian

1980 - Graduating for Online Education?

Student Life

First digital photo of Morten Flate PaulsenIn 1980, I graduated from the Norwegian Institute of Technology (NTH, now NTNU) in Trondheim as a shy, introvert, mediocre but diligent student. I remember we were 180 electro students in the class, but only one female. The awkward lecturer who spent two hours on the blackboard not able to solve his own mathematical assignment. The often arrogant, sometimes brilliant and always rabid professor Jens Glad Balchen who many years later was commemorated on the tail wing of a Norwegian Air Shuttle.

I saw my first microprocessors and fibre optic cables. Got a print out of my first digital photograpy. We learned Fortran programming in front of a punch card machine. Delivered stacks of cards at the counter for compilation and picked up all the error messages the next morning.

Most students substituted their manual slide rules with calculators from Texas Instruments and Hewlett Packard. I had the HP 21 which could be programmed with 49 command lines, just enough for my friend Bjørn Bakken and my younger brother Frode to simulate five dices to play Yahtzee.

Long distance calls to Oslo were expensive and the telephone charges were also higher during work hours. So, every Monday at 17.00, my father called me at my landlord Fru Hagen’s telephone.

To add extra income to the student loan, I worked during vacations at the Norwegian state telecom (Televerket) and the minicomputer company Norsk Data. At Televerket we measured how many bits per second (300-4800) we could offer to future customers who would transfer data with modems over ordinary telephone lines. At Norsk Data we worked with the SIBAS database software.

US Road Trip

Leaving Trondheim, I never ever imagined that I would return as a professor of online education. I had few plans for the future. So, I embarked on a summer journey with my childhood friend and 1975-76 Interrail companion Atle Gunnari. Three countries in two months: USA, Graceland and Disneyland. We travelled from New York via Dallas, Las Vegas, Tijuana and Hawaii to Seattle when Jimmy Carter was President. Hiked Grand Canyon all the way down to Colorado River and up again in one day. Visited Pearl Harbour. Spent some days in a Santa Cruz collective after we met Anna and Paula. Do they remember the Volkswagen van excursion with Kim and her hippie friend? The excursion that culminated with his bamboo and coconut concert up in the huge redwood tree? Later, on the Greyhound bus, we realized that we needed to find San Francisco’s cheapest hotel room. It turned out to be in a gay hotel on Market street. I wanted to visit Silicon Valley, but to my astonishment none of the locals had heard about this epicentre of ICT.

On July 22 we were on the road towards Seattle when Mount St. Helen erupted with destructive force. The sky was dark with smoke and the bus driver used the windshield wipers to see through the ashes coming down from the sky.

My Mycron thesis

Returning home, I bought a NOK 35 000 one-room apartment at Ammerud in Oslo. There, I applied to have a landline telephone and was lucky enough to get one after a few months. I bought Pink Floyd’s 1979 LP The Wall and played We don’t need no education repeatedly in stereo on my gramophone. In the fall, I started working with my master thesis at the microcomputer company Mycron. It was headed by the serial entrepreneur Lars Monrad Krohn who I interviewed for educational TV in 1989.

As part of my thesis work, I designed and built the depicted central processing unit (CPU) for a microcomputer with the Intel 8086 microprocessor and 8087 co-processor. The thesis was written with the very early word processor Mytekst (developed for Mycron by Haakon Wiig) and stored on an eight-inch floppy disk.

Among many successful colleagues in Mycron were Terje Tinglum and Ingar Rune Steinsland who developed CPM 86 together with Gary Kildall. We all expected it would be the operating system for the planned IBM PC. Arild Haraldsen wrote about this in his Norwegian article Den sanne historien om PCens historie (The true history of the PC).


Video clip from my interview with Lars Monrad Krohn in 1989


Facebook Post


Some 1980 Events

  • The UN general assembly decided that Palestinians had the right to establish their own state
  • Ronald Reagan was elected President in the US
  • John Lennon was shot and killed in New York
  • 123 people died when the Norwegian offshore platform Alexander Kielland tilted in a storm
  • Norway decided to boycott the Moscow Summer Olympics along with 64 other nations
  • The American Eric Heiden won all five gold medals in speed skating in the Lake Placid Winter Olympics

My translated selections of events from


My 1980 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1980. Hovedoppgave: Ko-prosessering for Mikroprosessor. Trondheim: NTH.

1981 - Working with Microcomputers

Mycron work

After finishing my master thesis at Mycron, I continued to work there for six months as a hardware engineer. The company’s future looked bright, so unfortunately, I bought the company shares we were offered as employees. How could I foresee the impact of  MS-DOS and the 1981 introduction of the Osborne 1 portable computer and the IBM PC? It was the same year I bought my first home computer. I considered the Sinclair ZX80, but chose the Commodore VIC 20 which foreshadowed the very successful Commodore 64. I later added a cassette tape recorder to store programs and learned to program in Basic.

Analyses and acquisition of shares are often more successful in hindsight as this short clip from my 1989 interview with Bill Gates indicates:


Looking back, I realize that many of Norway’s most talented ICT personalities started their careers in Mycron. Just to mention a few I remember working with: Vigleik Eide, Monica Nøkleby and Ivar Andersen. Stein Bergsmark has been active in the climate debate and Gro Jørgensen cofounded  Tiki Data for the school market and started CyberBook – a company that provides online learning resources.

In the Navy

In the summer, I was called to do my military service in the Norwegian Navy. It started with three weeks boot camp at Madla in Stavanger. Fortunately, I was soon transferred to SMK (Sjømilitære korps) – the Navy’s vocational boarding school in Horten. There, I spent one of my best years as a quartermaster and teacher along with my university classmates Olav Stokke, Bjørn Hopland, Christopher Lund and John Harald Bergheim. Brynjulf Freberg was a frequent visitor at the old military villa we shared at Karljohansvern. As quartermasters we had privileged access to house cleaning maids, windsurf boards and sailing boats. But we worked bloody hard as teachers and duty officers.

As duty officers during weekends, we were responsible for the nearly 200 students at the military boarding school. This was especially tough when they returned from the local discos and pubs. Often hard to wake them up the morning after they received their monthly payment. But we learned that they respected and cared about us – because we cared about them.

I fondly remember my 24th birthday. When I showed up in the classroom, it was decorated with petunia flowers in five half-litre beer mugs. Respectively stolen from the school’s flower bed and the local pub. At lunch, about 200 male and 10 female students sang happy birthday in the cafeteria.

With no teaching experiences, I was thrown into teaching mathematics, chemistry and electronics. The students were nearly my age and not very motivated to learn theory. So, I soon realized that we needed some action in class. Chemistry became more interesting with explosive demonstrations and electronic lab sessions were more fun when we grilled hotdogs at 230 volts, injecting electric cords in each end. We learned that the sausages were very well done when the fuses cut. It probably went too far when I ignited a leftover military thunderflash in the teacher room during lunch break.

The school had a number of Swedish ABC 80 microcomputers and we were able to connect them in a local area network (LAN). I expect it was one of the very first LANs in Norwegian schools. On this we developed our very first online education application. A competitive arithmetic game, where the students tried to solve as many assignments as possible in a limited time period. It became very popular and the competition to be on the top ten list was fierce.

If not on duty, I went to Oslo during weekends with my first car, an old Renault 5. We installed a car computer and attached sensors to measure the flow of gas and rotation speed of the wheels so that the computer could show the current and the average gas consumption and speed of the car. Le Renault did not like steep hills, but gave a special feeling of freedom.

Freedom of choice was however not abundant in the Norwegian society. In December, Minister of Culture Lars Roar Langslet announced a list of providers that were accepted for testing local radio and television broadcasting. It ended the Norwegian state broadcasting monopoly.


My 1981 Publications

Bergsmark, S., M. F. Paulsen, C. Lied, and U. Motzfelt. 1981. DIM 2001 CPU Module: OEM User’s Manual. Oslo: Mycron. pages: 70.


Some 1981 Events

Translated selections of events from

  • Two murder cases shook Norway. Arnfinn Nesset was convicted of killing 22 patients at Orkdal’s age and nursing home with the poison curacit that paralyzed the breath. Two men were shot at the Hadeland murders by a Nazi-inspired three-man group called «Germanic Arms of Norway».
  • Greece became member of the EU
  • Ronald Reagan was shot and injured
  • Francois Mitterrand became president of France
  • Pope John Paul 2. was shot and seriously injured in Rome
  • Israeli fighters bombed a nuclear reactor in Baghdad
  • Prince Charles and Princess Diana married in London
  • Soviet submarine was stuck at Karlskrona in Sweden
  • Norway beat England 2-1 in soccer as reported by the renowned reporter Bjørge Lillelien in the famous audio clip below


1982 - Gaining more Educational Experiences

1982 – Gaining more Educational Experiences

SMK highlights

The SMK officers often met in the large living room of our villa to socialize or watch a VHS video. We served beer from the bar and called the private soldiers on duty when we needed more wood for the fireplace. Frequent discussion topic among the naval officers were Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the Falkland war between England and Argentina. It started when Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands in April and ended in June when the Argentine forces surrendered.

It was a special day. King Olav V visited SMK. We were all lined up in navy uniforms and the King took time to inspect and greet everyone. My body hurt from lined up immobility. My soul was pleased with the royal handshake.

The open day for the local community and student families started with the traditional ceremony of hoisting the Norwegian flag. Maybe Thomas was among the students in the parade. At least his parents and handsome older sister were watching.

After two years of schooling, Thomas and the other SMK students continued with two year military training at the Haakonsvern naval base near Bergen. As their teachers, we got a military flight to a guided tour of the base and the submarines. I was not intrigued by travelling anywhere by submarine, but inspired by the opportunity to hop on free empty seats on military flights to northern Norway. Christoffer Lund and I used the opportunity to seek the midnight sun and visited Tromsø and Bodø during summer vacation.

At the end of the school year, my military service as a teacher ended. The students celebrated it traditionally by throwing their teachers, wearing quartermaster uniforms, into the cold Oslo fjord. It changed my interpretation of the word wetsuit.


In the spring, I applied for a position at the Norwegian correspondence school NKI that was announced in Aftenposten as shown in the figure. September 1st, after a successful job interview with Solveig Grepperud, I started as head of a project group which should investigate and develop new educational initiatives related to computer technology.

NKI produced a lot of written course material for their correspondence students and had a typewriter pool of women who typed from dictaphones and handwritten manuscripts.

One of the benefits was that the job came with affordable rent to one of the ten apartments NKI predisposed in Limsteinveien near Bekkestua in the outskirts of Oslo.

My Arab Stunt

NKI had international ambitions through ownership in ISOT – the International School of Technology. One of several ISOT-projects was a training programme in electronics for Syrian and Saudi Arabian engineers. It was part of a development program initiated by the Saudi Presidency of Civil Aviation (PCA) for Saudi technical personnel at the new airport in Jeddah.

As I recall it, Stein Tore Jenssen called me on a Friday to tell that the coming week’s teacher had withdrawn. Could I please step in and teach them PDP 11 assembly programming – in English. He argued that, since I knew some English and some assembly programming and had the whole weekend to prepare, there was no way I could decline. It was tough, but I made it. After a while, I appreciated that Stein Tore dared me to push my limits.

BBC Microcomputers

In the summer, NKI bought 400 BBC microcomputers for educational purposes. The BBC Micro was developed by Acorn for the BBC Computer Literacy Project which also included educational TV programs, textbooks and software. NKI’s intention was to use the computers for its computer courses and to get a foothold in the Norwegian school market. This effort was not especially successful since Tiki Data and IBM took over the school market.

I was however fortunate to use the BBC micro and the additional resources for personal learning and some classroom ICT courses that I developed and taught for banks and insurance companies. I learned assembly programming with the computers popular microprocessor 6502 and published a compendium with program examples and exercises.


Some 1982 Events

  • Helmut Kohl became Chancellor in West Germany
  • The Chinese population reached 1 billion
  • The Norwegian jazz singer Radka Toneff died
  • The World Ski Championships started in Oslo. The moment when Oddvar Brå broke his ski pole made an unforgettable impression on Norway’s national soul

My translated selections of events from



My 1982 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1982. Mikrodatamaskinen: Praktiske Øvelser med 6502 assembler. Stabekk: NKI-forlaget.

1983 - Establishing Norway's first private ICT College

ICT Courses for Companies and Organizations

Praktisk EDB for bedriftenIt was a general need for more ICT competence in the work force and we organized a number of short courses for business and organizations in the Oslo area. I used to teach many of these courses.

The picture shows an advertisement from Aftenposten in January including several of my NKI colleges. It also includes the BBC micros, black and white TV -monitors and cassette recorders we used in the courses.

Carnival in Brazil and Norway

In February, my neighbour and friend Arthur Knutzen invited me to the Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. He worked for the Scandinavian Airlines and had access to affordable flights. He snail mailed postcards to numerous friends whenever he travelled and always packed the Oslo telephone directory to easily find their addresses.

It was an unbelievable week of experiences. We enjoyed body surfing and getting distracted and mugged by topless girls at Copacabana. We ran from shooting in the crowds outside Maracãna stadium and rode a yellow Volkswagen Beetle taxi with an exploding tire in a tunnel towards Corcovado. Most memorable were however the penetrating samba rhythms that heated up a frozen Norwegian. The experiences started a lifelong fascination with Brazil – a country that ever since has a special place in my heart.

Back in Norway, I met Marith from Molde town at a party in Petter Tjelle’s neighbour apartment in Limsteinveien. We started jogging together, ran Oslo Marathon inspired by the two legendary, female Norwegian runners Grete Waitz and Ingrid Kristiansen. We also attended the first out of three Oslo Carnivals. Unfortunately, the cheerful but unrestrained carnival crowds did too much damage to establish a sustainable carnival tradition in Norway.

ICT Summer Schools

EDB Sommerskole

Aftenposten May 20, 1983

In the spring, I initiated EDB Sommerskole. It was a series of weeklong courses for youth and some adults who wanted to learn programming in BASIC with the BBC microcomputers. This was a newsworthy initiative which was announced in and covered by both national and local newspapers.

EDB SommerskoleOur competitors, EDB skolen, organized their three week Summer Campus in Grimstad. I guess serial entrepreneur Jan Sollid Storehaug regrets that they started one week later than us.

I engaged my brother Frode to help me with the summer school. We filled a Ford Transit with computers and monitors to arrange courses at Panorama Summer Hotel in Oslo, Dombås Youth Hostel and Skagerak Vacation House in Grimstad.

We had much fun with barbecues, bonfires and windsurfing. But I will never again agree to have 24/7 responsibility for teaching and social activities for youth on vacation away from their parents.

NKI Datahøgskolen – Norway’s first private ICT College

DatahøgskolenNKI Distance Education decided to establish NKI Datahøgskolen as a private ICT college in 1983. The first three employees were Bjørn Kristiansen, Oddvar Bentsen and me who already worked at NKI. We found a factory building at Grenseveien 107 in Oslo which we transformed into a school building with auditoriums, class rooms and 60 terminals for our HP 3000 mini computer. I vividly recall that I used shuffle and wheelbarrow to clear the basement from crushed bricks and dirt to make room for the minicomputer. Appropriate work for a hardware engineer.

When the first 60 full-time and 120 part-time students enrolled in September, the college was still partly a construction site. We had employed Hege Bjarkholm, Lilllian Askautrud, Einar Sandvik and Mona Sætrang in the administration and a number of part time teachers with experience from the ICT-field. Agnar Nilsen was engaged as ICT Manager to take care of the HP 3000 computer system which was used for COBOL programming and word processing with HP SLATE which the students often called HP LATE.

The students were motivated, challenging and nearly my age. We were a young team with much more enthusiasm than experience. We learned how hard and rewarding it was to be entrepreneurs. And how difficult it was to establish a private college that challenged the public college system. However, without this enthusiastic team, the college would not exist.

DatahøgskolenThe toughest shock came when the Ministry of Culture and Science declined our application to join the scheme for public student loans. When the news broke, I remember welcoming the TV news reporter Audgunn Oltedal from NRK Dagsrevyen. She retorted «I’m not here to be nice». However, Tore Krogdahl argued well on behalf of NKI on Dagsrevyen – the most watched News program on Norwegian television. Aftenposten, the leading Norwegian newspaper, broke the negative news on November 24, 1983.

We called an open meeting for all students who expected to receive student loans. Standing in front of more than 100 hostile students in a stuffed auditorium was not pleasant, but we negotiated an agreement with bank that offered our students loans on similar terms as they would get in public colleges. The tension abated and I still have many fond memories of the first students at Datahøgskolen.


Some 1983 Events

  • Ann-Kristin Olsen becomes Norway’s first female police chief
  • A new freezing «world record» of 89.2 degrees below zero is measured at a weather station in Antarctica
  • Norway’s first AIDS mortality
  • Scandinavia’s first heart transplant conducted in Oslo
  • Lech Walesa received the Nobel Peace Prize
  • Grete Waitz became Norway’s first athletic world champion in Helsinki
  • Rolf Falk Larsen won the World Championship in ice skating at Bislett stadium in Oslo
  • The Norwegian pop duo the Monroes released its debut album «Sunday People»


My translated selections of events from


1984 - Changing Perspectives

Else Rigmor Paulsen

Else PaulsenMother and brothers in HolmenkollenOur dear mother, Else Rigmor Paulsen (born Bådstøe), died in February of cancer at the age of 52. She was a mild tempered and careful mother and wife. She met father when they both worked at the Osram office at Drammensveien 35 in Oslo. They married in 1956 and moved to an apartment in Eiksveien 51 in Bærum. When I was close to two years old, they moved to a three room apartment in Flyveien 15 in Luftforsvarets byggelag. I still remember when she came up the stairs in 1961 with my baby brother Frode.

I was not much older the first time she took us to her uncle and I saw all his ski trophies. I was not that impressed by the six much smaller brownish medals. At the time, I was not old enough to realize that Johan Grøttumsbråten was history’s most winning Winter Olympian with six Olympic medals, three of them in gold.

Mother was a housewife who took care of her two sons from Snippen day care, Huseby primary school and Peersbråten secondary school until we left home to study at NTH in Trondheim. She was artistic, played violin with Bjølsen pikeorkester and Kringkastingsorkesteret, listened to Roger Whittaker on her cassette player and decorated our mountain cabin near Gålå with rosemaling.

Bjølsen pikeorkester i universitetets aula

Picture: Mom plays first violin for Bjølsen school orchestra at the University of Oslo in front of Edvard Munch’s famous painting of the sunrise in Kragerø.

Her world was different than ours. It was without computers. She was abroad only once – to attend her sister Lill’s wedding with Uncle Arne in Copenhagen. Altogether, her radio and TV-channel options were four.

Sogn Hagekoloni

In various ways, «Mutter’n» preserved raspberries, red currants, blackberries and gooseberries in the summer. Cherries, apples, pears and plums in the fall. It was incredible how much fruit, berries and flowers we got from the tiny garden colony lot at Sogn Hagekoloni. It was established around 1920 by Fire Chief Ole Paulsen at Hegdehaugen Fire Station. He was «Fattern’s» father and the garden colony provided welcome food resources when Oslo was occupied during the second world war.

The picture shows Dad, aunt Marit and grandma Hilda Sofie, Sogn Hagekoloni ca. 1925.

Much of the berries we picked were frozen for the winter. At that time, few people had private freezers, so we rented access to a cold storage in the basement of an apartment building at Majorstua. I still remember how creepy it was to go down there to fetch frozen berries, pork or reindeer meat from the dressed carcases the adults sometimes bought from farmers and prepared in our kitchen.

Many of my fond memories of mother is associated with weekend visits to her parents’ apartment near Sagene Church (where I was baptised) and the summer house in Ekornveien at Nesodden.

The HÅG Chair

Mother’s cousin Mary was married to Håkon Granlund who became a good friend of my father. After mother died, he took my father on a European road trip which obviously was a welcome distraction and experience.

Håkon was an energetic and innovative entrepreneur who started HÅG, an office chair company named after his initials. I remember visiting his impressing Røros Mansion and private fishing dam at Rørosvidda. HÅG soon became a cornerstone factory at the Unesco World Heritage mining town of Røros. The town became the shooting venue of many movie pictures with strong women. Pippi Longstockings, An-Magritt featuring Liv Ullmann and Ibsen’s Dollhouse with Jane Fonda as Nora. Håkon proudly told that Jane rented his Røros mansion as her residence during the filming in 1973.

I also recall several enjoyable days with Håkon, Mary and their children Erik and Nina at their summer house at Lake Tyrifjorden. It was close to the island of Utøya, the location of the July 22 massacre in 2011. Håkon had built a private fishing dam at Rørosvidda were he farmed some trout and built a log cabin. In 1970, it was dismantled and transported on a huge truck to Gålå where it was rebuilt as our mountain cabin.

Erling S. Andersen

Erling S. Andersen

My old drawing of Erling S.

In April, NKI was fortunate to engage Erling S. Andersen as Rector for Datahøgskolen. His challenge was to develop Datahøgskolen into a credible and respected institution. He immediately started to recruit a number of good academic staff members. Dag-Arne Hoberg was probably the first. Later came my good colleagues Johan Havnen, Andreas Quale, Vidar Keul, Tom Sørensen and Knut W. Hansson. The efforts soon payed off and in July we got the news that our students could apply for student loans.

Studielån for datahøyskole

Aftenposten July 3, 1984

Finally, Silicon Valley

In July, Erling took Dag-Arne and me to New York where we dined with Phil Dorn (a regular contributor to the Nordic computer journal Data which Erling edited), the National Computer Conference in Las Vegas and Hewlett Packard’s Palo Alto headquarter in Silicon Valley. I started to realize that Erling was an excellent and very inspirational boss.

The Norwegian Computer Society

Erling was an active member of the Norwegian Computer Society (Den norske dataforening – DND) and editor for its Nordic magazine Data. As chair of the organization from 1985 to 1987, he had regular opinion articles about ICT in Norway’s leading newspaper Aftenposten. He encouraged me to join DND, and I learned much from taking part in the Scandinavian NordData conferences and DND’s working group on data communication. I also enjoyed a vantage point since the long serving Secretary General Kåre Gunnari was father of my best friend. One of the early DND chairs, Haakon Branæs, was a close friend of my father.

School mergers

NKI Datahøgskolen is not well known as a brand name anymore, but the impact of our pioneer work can be better understood through the institution’s mergers and name changes:

  • 1983 – NKI Datahøgskolen
  • 1993 – NHI Datahøgskolen after merging with Norges Høyskole for Informasjonsteknologi NHI when NKI acquired NæringsAkademiet
  • 1995 – Den Polytekniske Høgskolen after merging with NKI Ingeniørhøgskolen
  • 2002 – Norges Informasjonsteknologiske Høgskole (NITH) as a result of more strategic focus on ICT
  • 2014 – Westerdals – Oslo School of Art, Communication and Technology after a merger with Westerdals. Both schools were owned by ABNU.
  • 2017 – Campus Kristiania after a it was acquired by Campus Kristiania


A 2010 post in Facebook from Frognerseteren

Some 1984 Events

  • NRK P2 started broadcasting as the second national Norwegian radio channel
  • The Norwegian diplomat Arne Treholt was arrested and charged for espionage in favour of the Soviet Union. He was later found guilty and sentenced to 20 years in prison
  • India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by his security guards
  • Winter Olympics in Sarajevo and Summer Olympics in Los Angeles
  • American sprinter Carl Lewis became the Olympics greatest athlete with four gold medals

My translated selections of events from


1985 - Discovering Modems and Electronic Bulletin Boards

Return to Rio

In February, Arthur and I celebrated carnival in Rio for the second time. He still teases me for not reaching the top of the Sugar Loaf. But a Copacabana girl offered to teach me samba at a local carnival party. I did not speak much Portuguese, but she understood that I was blown away by her appearance when I picked her up at her grandmother’s modest apartment. My beautiful Brazilian date was dressed in a minimal carnival costume and sparkled all over her body with golden glitter. We danced all night. I forgot how little samba and Portuguese I knew.

Unfortunately, I was food poisoned the day before we returned home. It was still allowed to smoke in the back of trans-Atlantic flights. Boarding long, international flights cramped with abdominal pains next to a smoking area is not recommended.

Academic Encouragement

Erling S. Andersen encouraged me to pursue an academic career. Write articles, give presentations, enrol in relevant courses and join Dataforeningen – the Norwegian Computer Society. At Datahøgskolen, he wanted me to teach introduction to computer science, project management, data communications and operation systems. Therefore, he sent me to a week-long data communication course in Stockholm in March, a data communication seminar in Kristiansand in June and a Unix fair in Stockholm in October.

In addition, I taught introductory courses in computer science at BI – the Norwegian School of Management.

Computer Magazines

The proliferation of computers paved the way for several computer Magazines in Norway. I read them all. Contributed frequently with articles, interviews and suggestions. Datatid was introduced as a magazine for ICT professionals in 1978. PC World Norge was established in 1984. Dataforeningen distributed the newsletter DND-nytt to its members. For many years, I read Computerworld Norway every Friday.

It was a kick to see my first article «Tall blir bilder» in PC World Norge. An encouragement to reach out and make a difference.

Datakilden AS

I’ve always had an entrepreneurial bone. So, in November, I established the limited company Datakilden AS. At that time, Norwegian entrepreneurs had to invest NOK 100 000 into shares in a new limited company. Nearly the cost of a new car. In 2020 it is much easier. Only NOK 30 000, the prize of an electric bike, is required.

The company income came primarily from the writing and teaching activities I did on top of my full-time work. In hindsight, Datakilden gave welcome additional income, sometimes too much work, but definitely useful business experiences. In 2006, I dissolved the company because I gradually focused more on international activities.

The Pager

My father’s health started to worry us, so I bought a pager (personsøker) he could ping when he wanted me to call. It was a mobile pocket device which sole function was to receive the telephone number of the person who wanted you to call back. It was introduced as a public service in 1984 and terminated in 2003. Obsoleted by omnipresent mobile phones.

Marathon Records

The Norwegian female athlete Ingrid Kristiansen broke the world records for 10 000 meters (30.59.42) and Marathon (2.21.06). My personal marathon record was also improved. However, I realize that Ingrid could run her marathon, go to a movie theatre and still welcome me at the finish line.

Oddvar Bentsen

Our students at Datahøgskolen thrived and became attractive for the job market, much because of Oddvar Bentsen. He knew all students by name and always had quick, friendly and personal comments to them. Something I later found very important in online teaching.

Oddvar Bentsen

Aftenposten May 8, 1985.

Oddvar was the practitioner who implemented Erling S. Andersen’s strategies, ideas and wishes. Together they were dynamite. He worked long hours and presented himself as the janitor when he answered the school phone in the evenings.

Oddvar continuously tried to quit smoking. One of his defunct attempts was to put his cigarettes in a cover envelope addressed to himself in the morning. Then he spent the whole day waiting for the company truck to return with the mail in the afternoon. Good for him that e-mail was not yet available.

Oddvar was missed by all students and colleagues at Datahøgskolen when he died at the age of 55 in July 2004.

PC-LAN and Software

Datahøgskolen engaged Scanvest Ring Nettverkssystemer to install its first Local Area Network (LAN) for PCs. Among the first software applications on the LAN were WordPerfect, Lotus123, Turbo Pascal, Dbase II, GrafDoc and the accounting software Saga Regnskap.

I still recall how Helge Kjeilen and Øystein Moan crawled under our desks to install the network servers, cables and PC cards to get the network up and running. In 1986 they founded Cinet and in 1997 Øystein became the CEO of Visma which has become a large international ICT company.

Our NKI colleagues in Norsk DataInstitutt opened a store downtown Oslo to sell PC equipment and software. It was no commercial success, but it gave us access to all the new PC-software that entered the market. I was really thrilled by the ground-breaking opportunities provided by a deluge of new software. I read user manuals as others read poetry. Even wrote a compendium about Software for microcomputers.

No doubt that this was a technological revolution, the beginning of a new era.

Moving up the road

We moved up the road on September 9. Purchased a house with four bedrooms. A garden with cherries, apples, pears and plums. The same house where we first met in 1983. Our modest belongings were carried from the one-bedroom apartment we rented across the road in Limsteinveien.

Following the Parliament election on radio the same evening, we realized that Kåre Willoch would continue as Prime Minister in Norway. His ambitions to dissolve governmental monopolies and regulations would continue. During his government, Norway had already become a much more open and rich country fuelled by the increasing oil economy. Norway’s national esteem was improving. We were proud when Norway for the first time won the European Song Contest with Bobbysocks’ Let it Swing. Amazed when the Norwegian band A-ha reached the top Billboard Hot 100 in the US. Optimistic when Lillehammer applied to host the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Online Bulletin Boards and Modems

As microcomputers and modems became more available, a few enthusiasts started to set up Bulletin Board Systems at their private computers, enabled people to dial in with modems, exchange software and take part in online discussion forums. Among the most renown pioneers in Norway were Bergen By Byte and Odd de Presno’s Saltrød Horror Show. It was also interesting to follow FidoNet which emerged as an international network of PCs running BBS server software.

I was intrigued by the BBS systems’ potential and bought myself a 300 bit per second modem for Christmas. This was definitely a turning point in my career, because I understood that computers and data communication were the future of distance education. I also realized that I could make a difference since I worked at a computer college in a private school with much competence in distance education.

Some 1985 Events

  • 38 people died at Hysel Stadium in Brussels during riots prior to the final of the series winner’s cup between Liverpool and Juventus. Another tragedy hit football when a fire on Bradford City’s home field and 53 people lost their lives.
  • The two Norwegian authors Andre Bjerke and Inger Hagerup died leaving behind a treasure chest of poetry cherished by Norwegian children and adults.

My translated selections of events from



My 1985 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1985. Programvare for Mikromaskiner. Oslo: Datahøgskolen. sider: 40.

Paulsen, M. F. 1985. Edb-opplæring i Norge. Norsk Programvare Index 1985(2):37-38.

Paulsen, M. F. 1985. Tall blir bilder. PC World Norge, 1985(1):35-37.

1986 - Designing the first LMS for distance education

On the Soviet Border

In March we celebrated Ragnhild and Atle’s wedding in Kirkenes and used the opportunity to visit the border between Norway and the Soviet Union at Grense Jakobselv. This was during the cold war and many Norwegians had served in the military to protect the area from the Soviets. Mikhail Gorbatsjov had recently become general secretary of the Communist Party, but many Norwegians felt threatened by the communists and their nuclear arsenal.

Just a few weeks later, on April 26, we experienced the biggest nuclear accident ever when a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant failed. The Soviet authorities did not report the accident, and Norwegian researchers measured unexplained increases in radioactivity. Norwegian mushrooms, berries, moss, meat from sheep, reindeer and other game contained large amounts of radioactivity after the accident.

Norddata in Stockholm

PC-KommunikasjonThe first NordData conference was organized in Helsinki in 1968. Every year the conference was passed on to the next Nordic country in line. In June, I attended my first NordData conference in Stockholm with NKI’s ICT manager Ragnar Andersen. The presentation I prepared was titled PC-communication – The gateway to a new world. It was an enthusiastic account of my explorations of various bulletin board systems using my PC, modem and communication software.

At the conference, I met several Norwegian pundits who I still admire: Arild Haraldsen, Peter Hidas and Helge Seip. I also met Jacob Palme. The man behind PortaCom developed at the Stockholm University Computing Center. A system for computer mediated communication (CMC) that Kjell Åge Bringsrud and Dag Belsnes introduced me to when it was tested at the University of Oslo.

Gro Harlem Brundtland had just started her second period as Norwegian Prime Minister and the Swedes were still in chock after the murder of Prime Minister Olof Palme on February 28. Christer Petersson was later arrested and convicted of the murder but acquitted after being in prison for about 5 months. Palme’s killer is still unknown.

Sweden. Norway’s closest neighbour. Twice our population. The richer and bigger brother we left in 1905. The arrogant best friend we always wanted to trounce. A small country with international ambitions and influential leaders. Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the UN. Alfred Nobel and Olof Palme.

Growing up, I spent much time in the back of Volvos and SAABs. Read Astrid Lindgren. Saw Bjørn Borg play tennis and Ingemark Stenmark excel in slalom. Listened to ABBA and watched a lot of Swedish television. Heavily influenced by Swedish culture.

Looking back, Norway’s fascination and inferiority with Sweden has gradually decreased. Globalization has opened our eyes to a variety of cultures. Oil richness and growing successes in international affairs, music, literature and sports have gradually improved our national self-esteem. I think it is fair to say that Norwegians now perceive Swedes more as friends and partners than big brothers.

The EKKO Learning Management System


Inspired by my experiences with PortaCom and the PC-based Bulletin Board Systems, I suggested in February that NKI should start to offer online education. In April, NKI’s board provided funding for the project.

So, I came up with specifications for an electronic college designed for distance education. Termed it EKKO. Meaning echo in Norwegian – an awkward acronym for EleKtronisk KOmbinertundervisning. The figure shows the metaphor I draw to explain the online college concept.

The very first version of EKKO was developed in the spring of 1986 by Bjørn Mobæk and Lars Hornfeldt who were students at the NKI College of Engineering. They developed EKKO in the programming language Pascal on an HP-3000 computer, as part of their final project in the summer of 1986.

EKKO Main Menu

EKKO was first used in addition to ordinary face-to-face teaching by students at Datahøgskolen (the NKI Computer College) in the fall of 1986. I remember I posted the notes from my lectures and the assignments on EKKO’s bulletin boards. Urged the students to discuss the assignments in EKKO’s discussion forums. Asked them to deliver their assignment work via EKKO’s e-mail.

To my delight, it worked and the students were positive to the experiment.

During the developing process, my research revealed two more intriguing projects. The EIES project lead by Murray Turoff and Starr Roxanne Hilz at New Jersey Institute of Technology and the CoSy project at the University of Guelp in Canada.

A 1989 video explanation of EKKO

ERM – the Educational Resistance Movement

Change is not easy. Advocating innovation could be hard. As a pioneer, I have fought relentlessly for decades to convince educators about the benefits of online education. Luckily, challenging fights can result in sweet victories. Monica Johannesen likes to remind me how our ICT educated colleagues first reacted when I suggested that we could communicate by e-mail in EKKO. EMAIL??? No way, our offices are so close!

It took a few years to get acceptance from ICT people. Decades to convince correspondence teachers and classroom teachers.

Summer in Florida and IBM’s Boca Raton Factory

Summer vacation in Florida. Disney World. Fourth of July in Fort Lauderdale. Driving down to Key West. Cruise from Miami to Bahamas with Scandinavian Sun. A party boat with young Americans having Bloody Mary drinks for breakfast. Swimming pool competitions. How many ping-pong balls could the girls keep in their bikinis? Scarily similar to its sister ship Scandinavian Star. The ship that was set on fire in 1990 on its way from Oslo to Fredrikshavn in Denmark. 159 people died in the Scandinavian tragedy.

I was eager to visit the IBM factory that produced the new IBM PC AT. It was however harder than expected because of the many IBM PC clones that had appeared. IBM would not share their secrets with foreigners. I was however granted access after several telephone calls and arguments that I would write an article for PC World Norway.

I appreciated the opportunity to visit the factory, but must admit that it was much more low tech than I expected. Just a few people assembling standard components. I realized why there were so many successful IBM clones. Strange enough, I still remember how the workers were wired with cords to not damage the computer circuits with electric sparks.

TeleTension in Budapest

From October 17th to 27th, I attended TeleTeaching 86 in Budapest with my colleague Andreas Quale. This was my first visit to an Eastern European country and the situation felt tens when people gathered in the streets 30 years after the Soviet occupation started October 23, 1956.

The conference was organized by the John von Neumann Society for Computing Sciences and sponsored by IFIP TC3. The conference theme was: Remote Education and Informatics», and I remember meeting Fred Mulder from the Open University of the Netherlands and Sylvia Charp – editor of T.H.E. Journal. She encouraged me to submit an article to her journal and I was thrilled to see In Search of a Virtual School published in the Dec/Jan 87/88 issue.

The conference hosts organized a sightseeing tour to Lake Balaton. Halfway there, the bus driver realized that we would arrive after dark and not see anything of interest. So, he took a highway U-turn and stopped at a local taverna. Good local food was improvised along with plenty to drink. Most of the participants were challenged to sing typical songs from their home countries. I guess we all have fond memories of Lake Balaton.

The Correspondence Student

NKI was one of Norway’s largest correspondence schools and I wanted to build on these experiences in my online teaching. I therefore enrolled in the correspondence course: «Essentials in Distance Education». The course was offered by the European Home Study Council and taught by the internationally renowned expert and former ICDE President Börje Holmberg. My excitement was immense when I after a couple of weeks received the snail mail envelope with his feedback to my assignments. My disappointment was huge when I realized that I was not able to read his handwriting.

It was my first and only correspondence course. The course that taught me that distance education was ready for an online paradigm shift.

Some 1986 Events

  • Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was killed on February 28. Christer Petersson was arrested and convicted of the murder but acquitted after being in prison for about 5 months. Palme’s killer is still unknown.

My translated selections of events from


My 1986 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1986. Introduksjonshefte til Datahøgskolens Mikromaskiner. Oslo: Datahøgskolen. sider: 24.

Paulsen, M. F. 1986. Hos IBM i Boca Raton. PC mikrodata, 1986(10):42-44.

1987 - Teaching Norway's first distance students online

From Correspondence to Distance Education

In January, EADTU was established. The European Association of Distance Teaching Universities. Eleven founding members had an ambition to become a platform for collaboration with the European Commission. The five European Open Universities and several national organisations. Among them were the Norwegian Association of Distance Education (NADE, now Fleksibel utdanning Norge). The founding meeting was organized by the Open University of the Netherlands in Herleen. Erling Ljoså attended as chair of NADE. He elaborates on this in Norwegian in his personal account about international engagements and cooperation.

At the same time became aware of two more institutions that later became important to me. The International Council for Correspondence Education (ICCE) was established in 1938 and changed name to ICDE in 1982. The Association of European Correspondence Schools (AECS) was established in 1985 and changed name in 1999 to EADL – the European Association for Distance Learning.

NordData 87 in Trondheim

En virtuell skoleIn June 1987, I attended the NordData conference at NTH. The University of Technology in Trondheim. My alma mater. The University of professor Asbjørn Rolstadås. The town of educational innovators like Jan Wibe, Arvid Staupe, Per Borgersen and Thorleif Hjeltnes. People who were instrumental in establishing TISIP in December 1985. Later pivotal in the development of the NITOL network and the Learning Management System Winix.

The title of my presentation could be translated to «A Virtual School – Dream Castle or Real Construct?» It included an international overview of computer conferencing systems and some references to educational use of the systems. In addition, it presented our educational experiences with the EKKO system.

The conclusion could be translated to: Some institutions work to develop virtual schools based on computer mediated communication systems. There is still need for improved quality of content, pedagogy, administrative and social services. But the work has started. My conclusion is therefore that virtual schools are no longer dream castles, they are becoming real constructs.

Stian Flate Friisvold

Stian was born in April. When the water broke, we immediately saw that it was miscoloured. Marith was rushed away to the operating theatre, I commanded to wait outside. Extremely nervous. Don’t ask how long I waited, but the relieve was enormous when everything was fine with mother and son.

CD-players had been available in Norway since 1983. We bought the first one to entertain Stian. Torbjørn Egner was among our favourites. The Norwegian playwright, songwriter and illustrator known for his narratives for children. But «Stius» also got his dose of Aha, David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, Stones and Beatles.

I’m not a singer, but all parents should sing, read and play music for their kids. We did it a lot and enjoyed it tremendously. The kid easily learned more melodies and lyrics than I could imagine – a gift we both appreciate.

Mom used her marathon skills pushing his stroller for hours. As she did as a young girl with the kids in her Molde neighbourhood. Dad pulled him in a ski sledge. As a real Norwegian, Stian should learn to enjoy the outdoor life.

A new generation. So many opportunities. His first six months’ bucket list was fuller than my first twelve years’ list. He travelled from Havna to Hagen. One month old, he joined us at the two-day data communication seminar at Havna hotel in May. Took part in the evening boat trip around the beautiful Tjøme archipelago. Six months old in September, he flew with us to Düsseldorf where we rented a car to see the Rihne valley. Köhln, Köngswinter and Baden Baden. Including a visit to Deutsche FernUniversität in Hagen.

One early memory stuck: A sunny summer morning. Father and son playing under the cherry three in front of our house. Sun shining, son smiling. The happiest moment so far in my life.

My epitomic memory of 1987. My new-born son in my father’s wheelchair lap. Joy and sadness. Preparing to become Pater Familias.

On Top of the World Trade Center

In August Torstein Rekkedal, Bjørn Mobæk and I made a study tour to exchange experiences with the pioneers of online education in the US and Canada. We started with a Sunday in New York. Jogging in Central Park in the morning, then suppressing my fear of heights from the roof of the World Trade Center.

Just a couple of months earlier, West German Mathias Rust landed on the Red Square in Moscow with a Cessna aircraft. We were surprised that a foreigner so easily could navigate a plane into the heart of a superpower.

Visiting the Online Education Pioneers

New Jersey Institute of Technology

Star struck to meet Starr Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Turoff in their office at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Husband and wife who were known for their ground-breaking work with Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) and the EIES computer conferencing system. Got hold of the 1982 book Starr Roxanne Hiltz wrote with Elaine B. Kerr: Computer-mediated Communication Systems – Status and Evaluation.

We met Peter Haratonic at the Manhattan office of the New School for Social Research. He told us about their experiences with the EIES system. About their collaboration with Paul Levinson and his company ConnectEd.

Angela Richards and Cristine Languth welcomed us at a Long Island institution with the ambitious name American Open University.

Considered to visit Andrew Feenberg at the Western Behavioral Sciences Institute. They offered the first online college program through its School of Management and Strategic Studies in 1981. But decided to stay on the east coast. So, we rented a car and visited Michael G. More at Pennsylvania State University. A choice that later proved to be very important for me.

We stopped to see Niagara Falls. Drove up to Canada and visited Robert J. McQueen who worked with the CoSy conferencing system at the University of Guelph. The system that the Open University in UK later chose. Got the documentation from the First Guelph Symposium on Computer Mediated Communication.

We also visited Linda Harasim at the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE) and learned about her pioneer work. Her work with collaborative learning and with online discourse analysis. Her 1986 book: Educational Applications of Computer Networks.

Inger BerglandTeaching Distance Students Online

I continued to use EKKO as an online teaching supplement in all the on-campus courses i taught in 1987. Our Interns Ragnar Børsum and Bjørn Myrvold were enthusiastic supporters. In the spring we installed a modem pool to handle dial in connections to EKKO. Suddenly I could use EKKO to communicate from home with my students in their dorms. We were ready for online distance education.

So, in the fall we contacted some of the students who enrolled in NKI’s correspondence course Introduction to computer science. Four of them accepted to become our first online students with me as their online teacher.

The first challenge was to help them set up their modems and connect to EKKO. We succeeded together and proved that it was possible to use EKKO for distance education. One student completed all six study units and did well on the final voluntary exam. One completed, but did not enrol for the exam. One completed five of the six study units. One completed only the first study unit.

I concluded that technical support was crucial for online education and that we needed more students to create a social environment on line.

The picture shows an interview with Inger Bergland in the second 1988 issue of Verk og Virke. She was one of the four pioneer students in Norway’s first distance education online course.

The Devestating Disease

Henry Louis Gehrig was a renowned American baseball player who, on his 36th birthday, received a diagnose that many still know as Gehrig’s disease. More known as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). A devastating disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles. Gradually reducing muscular strength over muscles we control. Arms, legs, hands, fingers and tongue. The lungs can be attached to a ventilator. The heart continues to beat, since it is not a muscle we control. Brain, ears and eyes are less affected. Advance technology make it possible to communicate through eye movements.

The Swedish TV-journalist Ulla-Carin Lindquist wrote the touching little book «Ro uten årer«. A book about life and death written after she was diagnosed on her 50th anniversary. The Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen struggled with ALS for ten years before he died in 2003.

In November, our dear father Jon Flate Paulsen died from ALS at the age of 67.

Jon Flate Paulsen

Jon Flate Paulsen

Unknown publication from 1979

Dad’s father grew up at the tenant’s farm Flaten near Børsa in Sør-Trøndelag. That’s the origin of the middle name I have passed on to my children. Flate. A name I was not comfortable with as a kid since some people used “Fy Flate” as an acceptable substitute for a harsher curse. A name I first embraced when I started to pursue an academic career.

Dad’s mother’s family was from Harpefoss in the Gudbrandsdalen valley. A tiny place with a beautiful name. Harp Falls – the sound of River Lågen when it passed through the narrow river canyon. The Iversen family guarded the railroad gates and rails when the railroad was prolonged from Eidsvoll to Otta in 1896. According to my father, one of his relatives was killed when he tried to save his dresin from a passing train.

Dad had fond childhood memories from Harpefoss and the mountains in the area. We often visited his cousins and mother’s twin sister there. In 1970 we celebrate his 50th anniversary at the local guesthouse Grøntuva were he happily signed the property contract for the mountain plot «Måsåplassen». The home of our log cabin at Gålå.

Dad was intelligent, but not handy. When the motor of our first car, a white SAAB 96, died in the Majorstukrysset cross road, Mom carefully asked: Why don’t you open the hood and take a look at the engine? He typically retorted: Do you think it helps?

Dad finished the obligatory seven years of education at Majorstua Folkeskole, continued with four years Middelskole at Vestheim and one year office training at the Oslo Kommunale Handelsskole. Then, the second world war started.

He worked most of his life for the Osram light bulb factory. That’s probably why he introduced me to the exciting book about Thomas Alva Edison and his inventions. It probably inspired me to look for innovations and study engineering. One of many books I read as a child about famous people in the series titled «Elite serien».

I remember Dad as a wise, humorous and upright man who smoked South State cigarettes and taught us to be diligent and behave well. He was early grey. I can only recall him as white-haired. In hindsight, I understand that he looked for and supported activities that could improve his oldest son’s low self-esteem. He probably saw a little, shy boy who ran fast when scared. So, Dad wisely steered me into athletics.

Bislett Stadium

For many years, Dad took me to Bislett stadium to watch the yearly international athletics competition. I still recall Terje Pedersen’s javelin flying through the 1964 evening air – – – reaching the incredible 91.72 meters new world record. Ron Clarke’s 28-minute breaking 10 000-meter world record (27.39.4) in 1965. We witnessed many of the two dozen world records at Bislett Stadium. Lots of good memories with Norwegian role models and world stars like Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovet, Steve Cram, Henry Rono, Usain Bolt, Ingrid Kristiansen and Grete Waitz. All announced by the omnipresent speaker Jan Hemsvik. With the same steady voice that numerous times pronounced my name over the loudspeaker when I took part in local competitions for kids at Frogner, Jordal and Bislett stadium.

Dad encouraged me to train athletics. For many years we were permanent fixtures at the athletics season’s closing week competitions at Bislett. Dad as driver and bystander, Hemsvik as Speaker and myself trying all the athletic activities.

My talent was primarily in 60- and 100-meter sprint. I trained with the several capable sprinters in the athletics club Ready. Tom Bysveen, Henrik Gjertsen, Sverre Tysland and Leif Næss. And Knut Marius Stokke who were four-time Norwegian champion in 100- and 200-meter sprint. It was not easy to receive the baton from him when I ran the final leg of the 4×100 meter relay.

Some 1987 Events

  • On August 30, Norway’s first Sunday newspaper issue was published by Morgenbladet.
  • In September, Norway got a new monetary expression, 1 mong, (equivalent to NOK 3.8 billion), after Statoil’s excess costs at the Mongstad oil refinery become known.
  • On October 19, the New York Stock Exchange fell like a rock, the percentage dropped 23 %. The day has since been called Black Monday. The Oslo Stock Exchange crashed the day after. The crash did not lead to the usual economic downturn and already a year later the stock exchanges were at the same level as before the crash.
  • Einar Gerhardsen died September 19. From 1945 to 1965, he was the Labour Party’s Prime Minister for three periods. With 17 years in office, he was Norway’s the longest serving Prime Minister since the introduction of parliamentarism. He was often referred to as the Father of the Nation (Landsfaderen) and is generally considered as one of the main architects of the rebuilding of Norway after World War II.
  • The Scottish novelist Alistair MacLean, who wrote popular thrillers and adventure stories, passed away in February. His works include The Guns of Navarone and Where Eagles Dare. Both became popular movies.

My translated selections of events from


My 1987 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1987/1988. In search of a virtual school. T.H.E. Journal, (Dec./Jan.):71-76.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987. Datahøgskolens konferansesystem. PC World Norge, 1987(4):32-34.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987. Virtuelle skoler. PC World Norge, 1987(6):30-32.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987. KILDEN – et konferansesystem for DND? DND-Nytt, 3(5):16-17.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987. KILDEN: Et scenario om konferansesystemer. DATA 1987(3):62-63.

Paulsen, M. F. 1987. På leting etter en virtuell skole. DATA-Norge 3(5):38-48.

Mobæk, B. og Paulsen, M. F. Konferansesystemer – En rapport om konferansesystemer for flerbruker datamaskiner. Intern NKI-rapport. 25 sider.

1988 - Attending ICDE's World Conference in Oslo

Studying and Teaching at Connect Ed

In the winter of 87/88, I took part in the online three-credit course Computer Conferencing in Business and Education. One of several courses offered through the EIES conferencing system by Connect Ed.  Paul Levinson, the company manager, was teacher. His partner Tina Vozick handled all course administration. The course had eight study units, each scheduled for a week. Each study unit was introduced by Paul. He explained which part of the curriculum the study unit focused on and introduced some topics for discussion. He motivated the students and moderated the discussions. Students who took active part in the discussions and submitted a final course report received a course certificate.

Søren Nipper from Denmark was one of 15 students in my class. One interesting EIES feature was that we could list the names of the students that were on line. I remember feeling part of an important new movement the Saturday night we were only three students online: Muhammad, Jesus and myself.

In the summer semester, Connect Ed offered four online courses. Paul Levinson taught Issues in International Telecommunication. Partly from his home office in New York city and partly from his «electronic cottage» at Cape Cod – with three guests experts: Jerry Glenn, Terrence Wright and me. So, my first international online teaching experience was about telecommunication events and trends in the Scandinavian countries.

More of my experiences from the course is available in this Facebook post.


Free Online Education

NKI tilbyr gratis elektronisk fjernundervisning

Aftenposten, February 9, 1988.

In order to gain experience with more students, we decided to offer three online courses for free in the spring. Introduction to computer science, Pascal programming and System analysis. Together these courses were equivalent to the first semester of the part-time study program we offered to on-campus students at Datahøgskolen. Altogether 57 course enrolments and 35 course completions in the spring.

The article in the picture is from NKI-Perspektiv nr. 2, 1988. It shows some of the first online students and their three pioneer teachers: Rolf Ingebrigtsen, me and Lars Eskeland.

The experiences from the spring courses were so positive that NKI offered the same three courses with tuition fees in the fall. We also added the two courses introduction to business administration and Cobol programming. In addition, we continued to develop a conference named E-KRO (Electronic Cafe) as a social meeting place for prospective students, enrolled students, tutors and staff.

The courses were offered with fixed start-up dates and paced progression to establish a community feeling and support communication between students. Several of my colleagues were skeptical. They argued that we should allow students to decide when they wanted to start and how fast they should progress through the course.

We had two public telephone lines for 300 bit per second modems and two for autodetection of 1200 and 2400 bit per seconds. Six Datapak channels allowed students to access EKKO via local nodes that provided cheaper communication.

The experiences from our online education courses are well documented in both Norwegian and English. They became a wonderful source for research, projects, articles, paper presentations, reports and books. Fortunately, I had the opportunity to learn from and work with Torstein Rekkedal in this process. His international contacts and reputation opened a lot of doors for me.

Vellykket forsøk med elektronisk fjernundervisning

Datakomm 88 in Oslo

In February, DND’s Special Interest Group on data communication arranged the conference Datakomm 88 in Oslo. I was on the planning committee with Lasse Berntsen, Kjell Åge Bringsrud, Knut Smaaland and others. I had a presentation on distance education and data communication. There, I met Bengt Olsen who presented a paper on computer conferencing and PortaCom.

The AECS Conference in Istanbul

In April the Association of European Correspondence Schools (AECS – later EADL) conference was arranged in Istanbul. The most populous city in Europe. A third of the population on the Asian side of the Bosporus. My first intriguing taste of Asia.

Torstein Rekkedal gave a keynote presentation titled Computer Conferencing in the NKI Distance Education System. Together with a number of Norwegian delegates, I was amazed by the Grand Bazaar, the Topkapi Palace and Harem, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.

My memories of belly dancing and pictures from the One Thousand and One Nights costumes dinner are precious. Erling Ljoså, Dagny Blom and Morten Søby were colourful representatives from NKS. Tormod Carlsen dressed as a sheik. Berit Johnsen and Tove Kristiansen were princesses. Tony Kaye encouraged me to come to OUUK’s conference on computer conferencing in the fall.

NordData 88 in Helsinki

The annual NordData conference was organized in Helsinki in June. Finland, a Nordic country drawn between east and west. Still in the shadow of the Soviet Union. Urho Kekkonen had been president for my entire life until Mauno Koivisto took over in 1982.

We booked the night train from Oslo to Stockholm. Waiting for the ferry boat to Helsinki, we walked around the old city centre Gamla Stan with Stian in a stroller. The one-year-old boy whimpered more and more, so we went to the emergency reception at Stockholms Akutten.

Mother and son flew back to Oslo with a hernia. Father continued on the ferry boat passing the beautiful archipelagos in Stockholm and Helsinki. To give a presentation titled «Experiences with computermediated communication systems in distance education».

The presentation focused on our work with the EKKO system and concluded: We have experienced that computermediated conferencing (CMC) systems provide new opportunities in distance education. We have discovered challenges that need to be addressed and teaching methods that work. Our work show that CMC systems can offer and administrate pedagogical and social college environments. We believe CMC systems will be central in future distance education.

The visit reminded me of my first trip abroad. In May 1971, a couple of hundred kids from the four Nordic capitals met in Helsinki to take part in the twenty third Competitions in Athletics and Soccer. Travelling by night train from Oslo to Stockholm. With my school mates Anne Søby and Tom Bysveen. Along with Tom Inge Ørner, Torgeir Skogseth and Bjørn Gundersen. Holding my breath during take-off. My very first flight took me from Stockholm to Helsinki.

Fond memories of being hosted by the Öhman family in Kantelevägen. Luckily, they belonged to the Swedish speaking community, since the Scandinavian languages have much more in common with English than Finnish. The only Finnish word I could say to them was kiitos – which is takk in Norwegian and thank you in English.

The ICDE World Conference

In 1988, ICDE – the International Council for Open and Distance Education celebrated its 50th anniversary. And the 14th ICDE World Conference was held at the University of Oslo in August. 700 participants from 60 countries. Arranged by Norsk Forbund for Fjernundervisning – the Norwegian Association for Distance Education. The organization in which Erling Ljoså was president, Reidar Roll and Turid Widerø worked.

I was there, giving a presentation titled Computer Conferencing in Distance Education: Experiences with the implementation of computer conferencing in distance education. More spectacular was our attempt to erect the world largest tower cake at Henie Onstad art centre.

Flipping through the old conference proceeding, I was surprised to see so many familiar names. Scholars whose research I have studied carefully. Colleagues I have enjoyed meeting and exchanging experiences with. Among the them who have influenced my online education world are: ICDE Presidents Börje Holberg, Sir John Daniel and David Sewart. Greville Rumble, Paul Bacsich, Tony Bates, Liz Burge, Fabio Chacon, Keith Harry, Michael G. Moore, David Murphy, Som Naidu, Jason Ohler, Bruce Scriven and Armando Villaroel.

One of the papers caught my attention. Angela Castro’s introduction started:  In the last two years, a small silver platter called the CD-ROM which uses optical storage technology, has made inroads into academic libraries, art galleries and museums. This small disk measuring only 12.5 centimeters, and made from heavily coated polycarbonate plastic which renders it extremely hard, is capable of holding information equivalent to the content of 1,500 floppy disks, or 500 average sized books.

I also found the paper I wrote with Torstein Rekkedal in the proceedings. Computer conferencing: A breakthrough in distance learning or just another technological gadget?

ICDE conference in Oslo

Pictures in ICDE’sReport from the Fourteenth World Conference

ICDE settled in Oslo

The Oslo conference was indeed a breakthrough for ICDE. Our late King Olav V was present along with Norway’s Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland who stated that the Norwegian Government would support a permanent ICDE secretariat in Norway.

Just after the conference, the ICDE secretariat was established in Oslo with Reidar Roll as its first secretary general. Among the employees I remember meeting in the early days of ICDE, was Turi Widerøe who is recognized as the first female pilot in a major airline and Trond Waage who later became Ombudsman for Children in Norway. A few years later, I also met Ana Perona who made important contributions as ICDE’s Assistant Secretary General.

An Electronic University in a Medieval Monastery

Jostein Soland invited me to give a presentation about our online learning experiences at a post conference seminar arranged by Electronic University Norway at the 800 years old monastery Utstein kloster. We arrived by boat from Norway’s oil capital Stavanger and slept in the modest chambers that were used by the monks.

I wanted to make a live demonstration of the NKI Online College in the monastery library were the seminar took place. To do so, I needed to connect my PC-modem to the monastery’s only telephone outlet which was in the main office. Luckily, I found a 20-meter electric cord which could work as a telephone cable extension and climbed outside the meter-thick monastery stone walls to connect my modem to the telephone line. It felt like bridging the medieval time with the computer age. It was also a boost to hear the American guests of honour from EUN were envious of some of our LMS features and impressed by my live demonstration of our online courses.

USA-studier via PC i stuen

Aftenposten, August 2, 1988

Open University in October

In October, I gave a presentation about my online education experiences at the conference Computer Conferencing in Distance Education at OUUK – the Open University in Milton Keynes. The presentation was titled EKKO – A Virtual School.

At the conference, I learned that OUUK was planning to introduce its first online course based on CoSy in 1989.

It was my first visit to the Open University. Milton Keynes, an impressive university campus. Without students. But plenty of course designers, support staff, esteemed academics and radio and television studios operated in collaboration with BBC. Founded in 1969 by the Labour government under Prime Minister Harold Wilson. A model for many of the open universities that later were established around the world.

Incredible that I later had the honour to attend its 50th anniversary gala dinner with prominent Sir John Daniel, Robert Wilson and David Attenborough.

Some 1988 Events

  • Lillehammer was awarded the 1994 Winter Olympics
  • Gorbachev elected Soviet president
  • George Bush elected US president
  • The Norwegian women’s soccer team became world champion after beating Sweden 1-0 in the final in China.

My translated selections of events from


My 1988 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1988. Deltidsstudier i New York – via PC. PC World Norge, 1988(4):62-64.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1988. Computer conferencing: A breakthrough in distance learning or just another technological gadget? In Proceedings of The World Conference of the International Council for Distance Education, 362-365. Oslo, Norway: International Council for Distance Education.

1989 - Gaining International Attention

1989 – Gaining International Attention

Ups and downs

On the international scene, it was disturbing to see the huge student led protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. We followed the development from the protests started on April 15 until it was forcibly suppressed on June 4. when the People’s Liberation Army occupied central parts of Beijing.

We were much more excited to see the symbolic fall of the Berlin Wall in November. After several weeks of civil unrest, the East German government sent out a press release on November 9. The travel ban for GDR citizens was lifted and all citizens could visit West Germany and West Berlin. This initiated a wave of optimism for the future of  Europe.

Privately, we were really happy as parents and delighted to be pregnant again. Three times in two years. Devastated by three subsequent miscarriages. Uneasy with the prospect that Stian should grow up without siblings.

Online teaching innovations in EKKO

In 1989 the NKI electronic college had nearly 150 course enrolments in six different online courses. The growing number of courses and students made it possible for us to experiment with various teaching approaches as described in the following.

Online course catalogueIn the Fall 1988 Monica Johannesen taught the Information Systems course. In a conference, she presented a case and assigned each student a role. The case described a company planning to invest in a new computer-based office automation system. The students were assigned roles as users, accounting officer, project manager, labour union representative, etc. Over a period of about fourteen days the students were expected to elucidate the different facets of this project, as reflected through the different roles.

Ragnar Børsum taught the Pascal and Cobol programming courses every semester since the Fall of 1988. In the Pascal course, the students programmed in Turbo Pascal on their home PC. The program source code was posted to the instructor or shared with the other students in the conferencing system. In this way the teacher and the students could download the program codes, change them if they desired, and execute them on their local computers. In the Cobol course he experimented with letting the students access the host computer’s Cobol compiler. This was bothersome, but it worked. The important lesson was, however, that distant students could access host computer applications such as compilers, database systems, statistics software, etc.

Henny Lindland used the EKKO online multiple-choice database we developed as a part of the Introduction to Computer Science course, for the first time in the Fall 1989. The students could download multiple-choice questions, spend some time to figure out the answers, and then upload their suggestions and let the database score them.


MosteAll children and grandchildren in the family called him Moste. The nick name coming out of my toddler mouth when my parents urged me to say Morfar (mother’s father).

I adored him and missed him a lot when he passed away at the age of 93 in May. He made up scary fairy tales about trolls, showed us the cave they lived in and explained that trolls only appeared at night because they burst in sunshine. A chubby handyman who made bows and arrows from defunct umbrellas and feathered headgear so that we could dress up as Indians. An artist who made furniture and fishing gear with the kids.

As a young electrician, Thoralf Baadstøe worked to connect the houses in the Sørkedalen Valley to the electricity grid. At Grøttumsbråten, he was greeted by Petra Jensine (Pedersdatter) Grøttumsbråten. There, the electric sparks were all around my future grandparents.

As a pensioner, he lived much of the year at the Nesodden summer house. My summer dream. Where I looked up to my older cousins Stein and Dag. Many memories captured in my detailed 1969 drawing. Moste spent hours fishing and smoking his pipe in the tiny rowing boat that fit perfectly around his waist. When the boat capsized, he had to swim ashore with money notes in his pockets – tugging the boat, wearing his cap, looking through his glasses and puffing his pipe.

Neodden drawing

He gradually lost his hearing and it became more and more difficult to communicate with him. His hearing aids were primitive and uncomfortable. So sad for both of us that SMS messages, e-mail and social media communication was not available in his world.

I thought about Moste when I read Norman Coomb’s 1989 article Using CMC to Overcome Physical Disabilities in Mindweave. About online courses with a blind teacher and hearing-impaired students. I realized I wanted to use ICT to make education more available for people with all kinds of social and physical challenges.

Mindweave and Milton Keynes

Back in the United Kingdom. The cultural empire that influenced my generation of Norwegian teenagers immensly. We identified with Rolling Stones or the Beatles. Loved James Bond and Alistair MacLean movies. Watched countless hours of British TV series on the only TV channel available in Norway. Studied British English (and culture) as our first foreign language. When schools cut down from six to five days a week, we often spent Saturday afternoons watching Premier League as passionate supporters of Manchester United, Liverpool or Arsenal.

In May, I returned to Milton Keynes to attend the MTED Workshop. Gave the presentation EKKO – Experiences and learned more about OUUK’s first large-scale online course. Using the Canadian computer conferencing system CoSy they enrolled 1400 students in the world’s first large-scale online course Introduction to ICT and social issues.

As a follow up of the conference I attended in Milton Keynes the year before, Robin Mason and Anthony Kaye introduced the very influential book: Mindweave: Communication, Computers and Distance Education which was published by Pergamon Press in 1989.

I contributed with the paper EKKO: a virtual school and read all 31 contributions with great interest.

Among the other prominent pioneers who contributed to Mindweave were Andrew Feenberg, Paul Levinson, Linda Harasim, Søren Nipper, Lynn Davie, Elaine McCreary, Greville Rumble, Annette Lorentsen, Judith Van Duren, Gary Boyd, Paul Bacsich, Stephen Ehrmann and Norman Coombs.

NordData 89 in Copenhagen

Copenhagen. The capital of Denmark. Arguably the most important city throughout Norway’s history. At least between 1380 and 1814 when our two countries were unified. For many years Copenhagen international airport was my gateway to the world.

Joined my older cousin Stein on my first visit in 1973. Lodged in the fashionable apartment of an elderly couple he knew from his upbringing in the city. Shocked that they drank the bitter liquor Gammel Dansk with Sunday breakfast and ended the meal with cigars.

Best Presentation Award NordData

In June, we took the overnight ferry from Oslo to Copenhagen with our two-year-old son. A very recommendable journey along the beautiful Oslo fjord. Passed the narrow strait of Drøbak where two torpedoes from Oscarsborg fortress sank Blücher. The German warship that led a flotilla into the Oslo fjord on the night of April 8th 1940 to seize the Norwegian capital.

Stayed in our friend Sidsel’s Klampenborg apartment just north of Copenhagen. Took the kid to the aquarium and the nice Dyrehavsbakken park nearby. Went to the conference located at the Danish Technical University and enjoyed the jazzparade organized by Leonardo Pedersen’s Jazzkapell on the campus lawn.

Celebrated with a good bottle of wine after I received the Best Presentation Award for Trends in international electronic distance education at the NordData 89 conference. The picture shows the valuable moment when Erik Bruhn, editor of the Nordic journal Data, congratulated me and handed over the prize along with NOK 15.000.

Educational programs on local TV channels

During the 1980s, there was a growing interest in local TV channels distributed via cable TV. More and more households were connected. In 1984, NFL (Norske Fjernsynsselskapers Landsforbund) was established as an association for local TV channels. Most members were local and regional newspapers. Our local channel, ABTV (Asker og Bærum Lokal-TV) was one of the first. Started regular programming around 1986. The channels struggled financially since TV commercials were not allowed in Norway until 1991. They had limited resources to produce in-house content and scarce finances to buy content elsewhere. Many were interested if you could offer free content of general interest.

In this environment, I produced six half-hour TV programmes as supplementary content to NKI’s online course Introduction to ICT. All programs were shown several times on many of the local channels.

Video interviews

The first programme was initiated by a notice I read in Computerworld Norway. Rumours indicated that Bill Gates should join Microsoft’s delegation at an ICT fair at Info-Rama outside Oslo. So, I phoned Microsoft’s Nordic head quarter in Stockholm and asked if I could book an interview with him for educational TV.

In the second program, I introduced telecommunication trends, ISDN and new value-added services. The program also included a video on ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) produced by the Norwegian Telecom and an overview of valueaded services presented by Anders Fongen.

Video clip from my presentation on telecommunication trends


The third video included Torstein Rekkedal, Henny Lindland and myself taking about our online education experiences. The remaining three programs included interviews with Norwegian ICT celebrities.

Helge Seip focused on ICT and privacy issues. He was an influential Norwegian Politician for many years. In 1980 he was appointed as the first director of the Norwegian Data Inspectorate. From 1989 to 1995 he worked as Data Protection Commissioner for the Council of Europe.

Kristen Nygaard concentrated on his work with Ole Johan Dahl when they invented object-oriented programming and developed the programming language Simula in the 1960’s.

Lars Monrad-Krohn talked about microcomputers and his work as a serial ICT entrepreneur. The program also showed Apple’s video Knowledge Navigator which gave an impressive prediction of how personal computing works today.

Some 1989 Events

  • The first ever papal visit to Norway (1/6)
  • First Sami Parliament opened (9/10)
  • Norwegian scholar Trygve Haavelmo received the Nobel Prize in Economics (11/10)
  • Nicolae Ceausescu, General secretary of the Romanian Communist Party, was overthrown (22/12) and executed with his wife (25/12)
  • Vaclav Havel became President of Czechoslovakia (29/12)
  • Ayatollah Khomeini announces fatwa against Salman Rushdie (14/2)
  • Ayatollah Khomeini, Iranian head of state, died (3/6)
  • Exxon Valdez spilled huge amount of oil off Alaska (24/3)
  • Yassir Arafat became Palestine president (2/4)
  • 42 lose their lives when a Soviet nuclear submarine sank and caught fire off Bjørnøya (7/4)
  • Spanish surrealist painter Salvador Dali died at the age of 84 (23/19)

My translated selections of events from


My 1989 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. EKKO: A virtual school. In Mindweave: Communication, Computers, and Distance Education, eds. R. Mason and A. Kaye, 201-7. Oxford: Pergamon Press.

Rekkedal, T. and M. F. Paulsen. 1989. Computer conferencing in distance education: Status and trends. European Journal of Education, 24(1):61-72.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1989. Experiences with the EKKO computer-conferencing system at NKI. Epistolodidaktika, the European Journal of Distance Education, 1989(1):66-76.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. En Virtuell Skole: Del I, Fundamentet i EKKO-prosjektet. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget. Sider: 80.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. En Virtuell Skole: Del II, Erfaringer fra EKKO-prosjektet. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget. Sider: 149.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. Det elektroniske universitet kjenner ingen grenser. Datatid, 11(1):40-42.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. Den elektroniske høgskolen. Datatid, 11(2):60-67.

Johnsen, B. and M. F. Paulsen. 1989. Datateknologi i fjernundervisning – voksenopplæring uten grenser. Nytt om Data i Skolen, 1989(1):3-7.

Paulsen, M. F. 1989. Elektronisk fjernundervisning. DND-nytt, 5(5):24-25.


The 1990s: Early Adaptors of Online Education

The 1990 anecdotes were chronicled during 2021

Soria Moria Castle

My perception of online education in the 1990s was like this view of Soria Moria Castle. A Norwegian fairy tale about eternal search for happiness. Painted by Theodor Kittelsen born in Kragerø 1857.

The decade that introduced PCs with colour and graphic interfaces, online journals, the web, web-based learning management systems, digital cameras and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

1990 - Embracing opportunities

Big changes in Europe. The Nobel Peace Prize 1990 was awarded to Mikhail Gorbachev for his leading role in the radical changes in East-West relations. Glastnost and perestroika. Russia declares independence with Boris Jeltsin as president. Ukraine, Belarus, Bosnia Hercegovina and Armenia follow suit. Vaclav Havel and Lech Walesa are elected presidents in Czechoslovakia and Poland. John Major takes over as Prime Minister in the UK after Margaret Thatcher.

Tim Berners-Lee published the first web site, which described the project itself, in December.

In Norway, SOFF (Sentralorganet for fleksibel læring, changed name to Norgesuniversitetet in 2004) was established to support flexible education initiatives in Norwegian higher education. Gunnar Grepperud was the first director before Jan Atle Toska took over in 1994. Gro Harlem Bruntland becomes Prime Minister for the third time after Jan P. Syse in November. The Scandinavian Star ferry boat was set on fire in April 1990 on its way from Oslo to Fredrikshavn in Denmark. 159 people died in the tragedy. Norway`s largest unsolved murder case in modern times was later documented in a 2020 NRK-TV series.

INDC-90 in Lillehammer

Lillehammer, March 26 – 29. The 3rd International Conference on Information Network and Data Communication (INDC-90). Organized by the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) and hosted by the Norwegian Computer Society (DND). As a member of the program committee chaired by Frank Eliassen, I checked in early at the hotel. Got the key, left my suitcase in the room and went to the conference venue. After a full day of conference preparation, I had a few minutes to brush my teeth and change clothes before the informal get together. As soon as I saw the fashionable female garments in my cupboard, I realized that the toothbrush in my hand was red. The reception apologized for having moved me to another room. But I still wonder who I shared the first room and toothbrush with.

The Third Guelph Symposium on Computer Mediated Communication

Celebrated May 17th, the Norwegian Constitution day, in Canada with my Norwegian colleagues Torstein Rekkedal and Morten Søby. Maybe the three foremost proponents of online education in Scandinavia at the time. Travelled via Boston and Toronto to Guelph. Went all the way up the acrophobic glass elevator in CN Tower.

University of Guelph, home of Cosy. My conference presentation was titled «Organizing an electronic college». Morten Søby, who headed the NKS Electronic College project in Norway, focused on «The Postmodern Condition and Distance Education Computer Conferencing and Communicative Competence». My Danish colleagues Hanne Shapiro and Mette Ringsted gave a presentation with Starr Roxanne Hiltz on «Collaborative Teaching in a Virtual Classroom». Other prominent presenters I recall were Lynne Schrum, Norman Coombs, Robin Mason, Trevor Owen, Robert J. McQeen, Terry Anderson, Peter and Trudy Johnson-Lenz, Elain K. McCreary and Barbara Florini.

Embraced opportunity

My generation Norwegians grew up in an environment much influenced by the US and the English language. The Apollo program, Hollywood, Rock Music, Levi’s 501 jeans and NATO bases. An opportunity to experience the American way of life allured me to apply The Royal Norwegian Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (NTNF) for a grant to enrol in a doctoral program abroad.

I considered applying to Penn State and Carnegie Mellon. So, I visited Pittsburgh to see if there were openings for me in Carnegie Mellon’s Andrew Project on computer-aided instruction in distributed computing environment. Returned to Penn State the day Nelson Mandela was released from Robben Island February 11. There, I decided that my best choice was to accept Michel G. Moore’s kind invitation to choose Penn State and the American Center for the Study of Distance Education.

Franklin Speaking AceI soon realized that I needed to improve my English and pass the TOEFL and GRE tests. So, I subscribed to the two weekly magazines Time and Newsweek and bought the amazing new electronic gadgets from Franklin with speaking dictionaries and thesauruses. Used the gadgets to look up all unknown words to be familiar with every single word in a complete Magazine. My English writing skills improved considerably when I systematically started to use PC software to check spelling, grammar and readability. These tools were extremely useful for a computer geek with limited proficiency in the English language.

My hardest decision was whether I could afford to leave a full-time job in Norway and finance a family of three as a student in the US. We decided that the NTNF grant was enough as a start. Hoped to find additional income later. Looking back, I had no need to worry. Renting out our house, reduced taxes and some support from my employer in Norway. Reduced tuition fees and monthly payments as a graduate assistant in the US.

What I learned? Embrace opportunities that come your way.

Penn State

We arrived at University Park Airport with six suitcases. Babs and Diane welcomed us and shuttled us to Nittany Lion In.

The Nittany Lion

An airport owned by the University in a town named State College. 36 000 students and 12 000 employees out of a 60 000 population. Beaver Football Stadium with 96 000 packed seats whenever Nittany Lions played home matches. Surrounded by farmland. A substantial presence of Amish farms, people, horses and carriages. Devastating to read in the local Centre Daily News about several Amish barn arsons. Amazing to see the collective Amish efforts to rebuild the barns.

The town hierarchy was clear. Three men on the podium. Bronze medal to the Mayor. Silver to the University President. Gold to JoePa. The legendary football coach featured in the TV drama Paterno with Al Pacino as Joe Paterno. A long and impressive career until his disturbing dismissal following the university’s child sex abuse scandal in 2011.

Could only afford to live a week at Nittany Lion Inn. One week to find a place to live, a day care for the three-year-old, wheels and new friends. In totally new environment without internet and mobile phones. We ended up with Heritage Oaks, First Impressions Day Care, a Jeep Cherokee and a lot of good friends from many countries.

I spent nearly $ 3000 on a Compaq LTE notebook computer. Every day I carried it to the university in my backpack. Still based on DOS, it was among the first to include both a built-in hard disk and a 3.5-inch floppy drive. A 4800 bit per second Hayes compatible modem with a built-in fax connected me to the university e-mail and some offices in Norway.

Practicing and Preaching

My first memory of being a student at Penn State was from Professor Kyle Peck’s introductory course in instructional design. He entered the classroom with the unexpected question: What is fun?

To my surprise, the query stirred a very interesting two-hour discussion. My important take away was that American students and teachers were much more engaged in discussion and interaction than I was used to from Norwegian education. I started to ponder: How can we emulate this in online education?

The instructional design course also introduced us to the Apple Macintosh with its revolutionary graphic interface Finder and HyperCard. My first stack used hyperlinks to demonstrate the functionality of the EKKO LMS.

Once a week we had class in the video studio connected to video studios at the Altoona, Eire and Harrisburg Campuses. There, Professor Jovita Ross-Gordon taught an introductory course on adult education with impressive video conferencing skills and technology.

Penn State Education Alumni Magazine 2011

Professor Michael G. Moore’s course International and Comparative Adult Education was a real eye opener. He taught each class from a different campus. Every week students in the four campuses were hooked up with an international expert in a telephone conference. There we had one hour to ask the international guru of the week about their work and the articles they faxed us prior to the conference. Eight guest experts from England, Eastern Germany, Finland, Canada, China, India and Spain. A real motivation to engage in global online education.

Professor Peter S. Cookson was very encouraging and supportive as he prepared for a sabbatical year at the University for Peace in Costa Rica. A year we were fortunate to rent his very nice house in Crabapple Court. A house large enough to sublet rooms downstairs. Wei Runfang stayed there a short while and I still have her 2008 comparative study of China’s Radio and TV Universities and The British Open University. Later we shared the house with my good friend Phil Pinder from Spanish Wells, Bahamas.

The picture presents some reflections about this period when I was featured as alumni in the 2011 issue of Penn State Education Alumni Magazine.

DEOS – The Distance Education Online Symposium

Starting at Penn State in August, I soon got a graduate assistantship at the American Journal of Distance Education. Appreciated to share offices with Margareth Koble and Melody Thompson. The editor, Michael G. Moore, introduced me to the colourful Toni Garcia and challenged us to establish communication services to support the printed journal.

We sat up and tested a CompuServe account (Compuserve: 76436,350) because it was the major commercial online service provider around. However, we soon realized that academics in our field were hard to reach via CompuServe.

Our supportive professor Peter Cookson recommended us to check the automated mailing list management application Listserve developed by Éric Thomas. An appealing freeware managed completely via e-mail messages. Its potential as an online journal dawned on me as I got my first personal e-mail address (MFP101@PSUVM.PSU.EDU) along with all students and employees at Penn State. I soon realized that free e-mail services would revolutionize international communication among academics.

DEOS FlierSo, we started to develop DEOS – the Distance Education Online Symposium. Much more interactive than printed journals. With more frequent publications. Free of charge since we had no printing and shipping cost. Promoting the printed journal and increasing the number of subscriptions.

We approached authors of good contributions that we could not include in the printed journal. Most of them pleased to be published in DEOS. Asked international scholars and pioneers to contribute and received a lot of positive feedback and support.

Wow, I became editor of DEOSNEWS – one of the world’s first online journals. The first issue was published in April 91. A year later, one of the world’s first electronic journals that obtained an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN: 1062-9416).

The ICDE World Conference in Venezuela

In November, we drove down to the Norwegian consulate in Philadelphia to obtain my visa for ICDE’s 15th World Conference in Venezuela. Used the opportunity to see two of the most iconic sites in American history: Liberty Bells and Gettysburg.

Michael G. Moore took his graduate students to arrange the American Center’s ICDE preconference workshop on research in distance education. Phil Pinder, Christopher Clark, Toni Garcia and myself in the Caribbean resort town of Macuto on Venezuela’s north coast. Where we met 50 researchers from six continents. Börje Holmberg, Dan Coldeway, Liz Burge, Fabio Chacon. Wow.

From Macuto we left for the main conference in Caracas – the first ICDE World Conference situated in Latin America. 1300 participants from 60 countries attended the conference at the Universidad Nacional Abierta. The book of abstract was edited by Marian Croft who later became ICDE’s first female president in 1992.

Memories that stuck were the abundance of old, gas-guzzling American cars. The reception at the Norwegian embassy with Torstein Rekkedal, Morten Søby and other invited delegates.

Christmas in the US

Drove to New York City for Christmas shopping and to pick up my brother Frode at the airport. Visited a Pittsburgh exhibition on Santa Claus outfits from around the world. Surprised to see that Norwegians allegedly dressed him up in an unrecognizable, blue costume. But really enjoyed the Bellefonte Victorian Christmas Events and the traditional Swedish Christmas food with professor Sverker Persson’s family on December 24.

Christopher Clark invited us to celebrate Christmas Day with his family. Following Norwegian traditions, I dressed up with polished black shoes, red tie, white shirt and a dark suit. Chris welcomed us in the doorway in his t-shirt, Bermuda-shorts and slippers. We had a big laugh, a quick costume realignment and a wonderful Christmas day with his wife and kids. Remembered the episode with a smile every time we received a Christmas card from the Clarcks.

I really enjoyed playing racket ball with Chris. A local version of squash which I’ve played most of my life. Wanted to meet him again as my guide on the Camino de Santiago when I discovered his free 2020 e-book «Blessings for the Backpack of the Soul».

Some 1990 Events

  • Iraq attacks Kuwait 2/8
  • Saddam declares that Iraq has annexed Kuwait 8/8

My translated selections of events from


My 1990 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. and P. W. Pinder. 1990. Workshop Report. Research in Distance Education: Setting a Global Agenda for the Nineties. The American Journal of Distance Education, 4(3):83-84.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1990. The Electronic College: Selected Articles from the EKKO project. Bekkestua, Norway: NKI Forlaget. Pages: 131.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. EKKO: experiences. In Media and technology in European distance education, ed. A. W. Bates, 235-39. Milton Keynes: Open University for the EADTU.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. The Seven Entities of Computer Conferencing. An Electronic College Approach. I Datakonferanser og Fjernundervisning, ed. Paulsen, M. F. and M. Søby. Oslo: The Norwegian Centre for Distance Education.:125-138.

Paulsen, M. F. og M. Søby (red), 1990. Datakonferanser og Fjernundervisning. Oslo: The Norwegian Centre for Distance Education. Sider: 240.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1990. Den Elektroniske Høgskolen: EKKO Prosjektet, Del III. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget. Sider: 118.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. Norsk åpent universitet: Et scenario. I Datakonferanser og Fjernundervisning, red. Paulsen, M. F. og M. Søby. Oslo: The Norwegian Centre for Distance Education.:46-47.

Paulsen, M. F. 1990. Konferansesystemet EKKO. I Datakonferanser og Fjernundervisning, red.

1991 - Trailing the American dream

1991 started dramatically with Soviet soldiers storming the department of defence and the TV-tower in Vilnius to prevent Lithuania’s independence process. Resulting in declarations of independence in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia and Slovenia. The Gulf War started January 17 with a massive U.S.-led air offensive known as Operation Desert Storm.

The same day, Norway’s popular «People’s King» Olav V died 87 years old. For several days Norwegians mourned publicly, lighting hundreds of thousands of candles outside the Royal Palace.

News channels

It was hard to get news from home. In 1991, King Olav V’s death was the only news about Norway in our local News Paper – the Centre Daily Times. We could hardly afford to call long distance to Norway, even though it was thrilling to walk around the house with our new cordless phone.

Luckily, I found out that Computer World Norway had reasonable subscription fees for over sea subscribers in the US. So, I read ICT news from Norway with great interest every time the weekly newspaper arrived.

When the weather conditions were good, we could tune in on short wave radio frequencies to listen to Radio Norway International (1938-2003).


EDEN 20th anniversary reflections

Slide from my 20th anniversary speech

Hungary was in many ways in front of the independence process when the Soviet Union broke down. So, ICDE initiated a European meeting in Budapest in the summer of 1990 to facilitate open education activities across the former Iron Curtain. The initiative instigated the European Distance Education Network (EDEN) which formally was established in Prague in 1991.

With the help of Kerry Mann, EDEN’s Executive Secretary in the UK, I was later able to distribute the first issue of the EDEN newsletter in DEOSNEWS.

According to the newsletter, my Norwegian role model Erling Ljoså was the first president of EDEN. Vice Presidents were Armando Rocha Trindade from Universidade Aberta and Tamas Lajos from the Technical University of Budapest. Executive committee members were John Daniel from Open University, Fred Nickolmann from Deutche FernUniversitat and Bernard Loing from Centre National d’Enseignement` Distance. Reidar Roll was observer for ICDE. Kerry Mann and Andras Szucs represented the secretariat in UK and Hungary.

It was far beyond my imagination that I should celebrate EDEN’s 20th anniversary as its elected President. That I should salute EDEN’s founding president Erling Ljoså at the opening of EDEN’s 2013 conference in Oslo. And that he should send me his conference dinner speech along with a picture from the first meeting in EDEN’s Interim Executive Committee in Warszawa in 1991.

EDEN Interim Excecutive Committee Meeting - Warszawa 1991

In the picture from left to right: Tamás Lajos (Technical University Budapest), Armando Trindade (Universidade Aberta), Alan Tait (representing John Daniel, OU), Erling Ljosa, Depty Minister Tadeusz Diem, Polen and an unidentified participant.

Her is my excerpt from Erling’s speech:

“The first pan-European meeting at the Technical University of Budapest in May 1990 gave all us who were present a strong feeling of witnessing an historic event. I was particularly impressed by the openness and strength of the appeals from Professor Tamàs Lajos and from the Polish Deputy Minister Tadeusz Diem, urging us to open all the bridges and channels of communication so long closed in Europe. This was an invitation which could not be refused. The meeting decided that there should be a follow-up under the name of The Budapest Platform, with a Steering Committee to meet in Milton Keynes, UK, in the autumn.

The Budapest meeting had been initiated and organized by ICDE, whose President at the time was Dr. David Sewart from the Open University in the UK, and with a newly established Secretariat in Oslo. When we discussed the situation in Milton Keynes, it became clear that there were many bridges to build and channels to open up in Western Europe as well. The European Community had quite recently taken up “Open and Distance Learning” as a field of interest, and some programs had been established, particularly concerning new technologies within vocational and continuing education. Countries outside the EU itself were supposed gradually to become involved. However, we had no open and transparent frameworks, mechanisms or organizations in Western Europe which would cover the whole field. The meeting in Budapest thus offered a golden opportunity not only for Central and Eastern Europe, but for all parts of Europe and for all sectors of distance education.

The Chair of the Budapest meeting and Platform was Dr. Gottfried Leibbrandt, founding President of the Dutch Open Universiteit. As a preparation for the next meeting in Prague 1991 he asked me, who was Director of a private correspondence school, and Professor Armando Trindade, Rector of the Portuguese Universidade Aberta, to help drafting a constitution for a new pan-European Network with the euphonious name EDEN. The constitution was adopted and EDEN became real. The new network aimed from the beginning towards being open to all types of institutions, networks, project participants and even individuals, membership driven with a democratic structure».

Spring break in Mexico

My Easter vacations were synonymous with log cabins and skiing in Norwegian mountains. My American spring break was different. At the airport in Philadelphia, we were very distressed to see hundreds of young boys and girls in military uniforms. Troops on their way to fight in the Gulf War. Such a contrast to see American students’ wild parties in Cancún later in the evening. The next day to reflect on the rise and fall of civilizations from the top of a pyramid in the ruins of the old Maya city Chichen Itza.

Constitution Day in Norway

We returned to Oslo to celebrate the Norwegian Constitution Day on May 17th. So many friends to visit in just a few days. So many impressions to share. That the US was not so free and advanced as we thought. That beaches did not open before the lifeguards arrived. That forests closed for visitors by sunset. That we had to pay invoices by sending checks in envelopes through the mail. That we could not pay gasoline with credit cards at the pumps.

Applauding Columbus, Ohio

June 1991. Drove the Jeep Cherokee to the arch city of Ohio. To attend an international symposium at Ohio State University titled Applications of Computer Conferencing to Teacher Education and Human Resource Development. Among the presentations I appreciated is Teaching by Computer Conferencing by Linda Harasim, Guidelines for constructing Instructional Discussions on a Computer Conference by Mark E. Eisly and Developing a Learning Community in Distance Education by Robin Mason.

Stian liked the opportunity to visit the Columbus zoo and the Sea World of Ohio. We stayed in a motel with a pool and watched TV. The war came so close when mothers and other family members of the soldiers were constantly interviewed on local TV stations. Remarkable to experience that military transport planes were applauded in the streets when they passed over the city with returning soldiers from the Gulf War.

French speaking Canada

Later in June, we ventured into French speaking Canada. Explored Erie, Niagara Falls, Toronto and Montreal. Continued north along the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City. My school French was rusty, but I was surprised to see how strong the French community wanted its independence.

Good Wibes in Santa Barbara

August 5-9. The IFIP TC 3 / WG 3.1 Working Conference on impact of Informatics on the Organization of Education. We flew to LA. Rented a car to visit Disneyland and Universal Studios. Drove Highway 1 to Santa Barbara. Went to the windy beach, rented roller skates and visited Santa Barbara Zoo. Spent a day in Solvang, the Danish village located in Hans Christian Andersen Park.

The conference was organized by Brian Samways and Tom J. van Weert. My presentation was titled: A goal-oriented method for establishing an electronic college. Rolf Kristiansen talked about changes in teacher attitudes toward computers in education and Lone Dircknick-Holmfeld discussed how computer conferences affect learning. I remember the pleasure of meeting Betty Collis and Jef Moonen from the University of Twente. Several Scandinavians participated and I vividly remember socialising with the dedicated and energetic Norwegian educator Jan Wibe and his wife. After a few drinks, he offered me a tailor-made suit if I would engage in the upcoming TeleTeaching 93 conference in Trondheim.

Packed in Madison, Wisconsin

August 13-16 1991. The Seventh Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning. According to Terry Anderson’s review in the American Journal, there were 325 participants at the Holiday Inn hotel. Alone in the elevator for breakfast when it stopped at the 3rd floor. Four enormous men entered and surrounded me. Felt really small when the elevator was packed with muscles looking down at me. So relieved when they invited me to watch them play professional American football in the evening. The Green Bay Packers stayed at the hotel.

The conference included Ports of Entry, a national satellite videoconference about major case studies of distance education. It was introduced by Chere Gibson and confirmed my impression on how advanced US higher education institutions were regarding educational broadcasting and videoconferencing.

Birthday on ice

In October, I rented the local ice-skating hall and invited all our friends to celebrate my 34th birthday. Lucky no one was hurt, but it was hilarious to see my friends from around the world mimicking the Bambi cartoon when they ventured onto the slippery ice. Obviously a first-time experience for my friends from the Caribbean and Latin America.

St. Louis comrades

St. Louis November 1991. ADCIS – The Association for the Development of Computer-Based Instruction of Systems. I was there to present the paper Computer Communication: Four Innovative Projects at Penn State University with Barbara Grabowski, Ellen Taracani, Tim Leso, and David Popp.

We were four students in the car from Penn State. I controlled the cassette player from the front passenger seat. Used the opportunity to play the popular Norwegian group Gitarkameratene. Surprised to hear the back-seat comment: It is the first time I have listened to a full tape without understanding a single word. It started an interesting discussion on exposure to second languages through schools, popular music and TV-subtitles.

Devoted to DEOS

DEOS became my passion and dedication. It was thrilling to reach out to distance educators around the world. To include some of my own writing in Deosnews. To connect with so many dedicated authors and readers. To start and moderate Deos-l as a global discussion forum for distance educators. A network of committed people that I still relish and benefit from.

Altogether, I published 52 issues as editor of Deosnews. My last one, Volume 3.2, was distributed in February 1993 from my home office in Oslo as shown in the local newspaper Budstikka on February 5, 1993.

Deosnews and Deos-l was carried on by the American Center for the Study of Distance Education for another decade with Kenneth W. Borland, Mauri Collins and Melody Thompson as editors. DEOSNEWS 14.1 was the last issue published in January 2005. A complete list of issues is available at

DEOS Tidsskrift uten papir

Here is the status report I wrote for the editorial in DEOSNEWS Vol. 1 No. 25:

This is the last issue of DEOSNEWS, Volume 1. Since the introduction in April 1991, 25 issues have been published. A list of all these issues is attached at the end of this file. DEOSNEWS now has about 700 subscribers around the world. Although it can be difficult to identify which countries all e-mail addresses correspond to, a review of the subscriber list indicates that DEOSNEWS has subscribers in these 33 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Please notify if there are any countries missing on this list. DEOS-L, which was announced in DEOSNEWS #17, already has about 300 subscribers. Although it has not found its final form, DEOS-L has proved that it can be a useful information channel for distance education.

This has been a year with impressive achievements for DEOS as a result of hard work and enthusiastic support from subscribers, authors, and the people at the American Center for the Study of Distance Education. A thank you, to you all and a special thank you to Philip W. Pinder, Janet L. Hartranft, Edward Desautels, Margaret Koble, Melody M. Thompson, Toni Garcia, and Michael G. Moore. Without your support, DEOS could not exist.

DEOSNEWS will be back in January 1992. Until then, enjoy many Happy Holidays.

Morten Flate Paulsen

PS. DEOSNEWS would appreciate old-fashioned Holiday Cards from the subscribers.

DEOS acknowledges and is grateful for the financial support provided by the Annenberg/CPB Project.

To subscribe to DEOSNEWS and DEOS-L (a discussion forum), just post the following commands to LISTSERV@PSUVM or LISTSERV@PSUVM.PSU.EDU:


Articles in DEOSNEWS Volume 1

Some 1991 Events

  • Iraq accepts the conditions set by the UN for a ceasefire 3/3
  • President Boris Yeltsin of Russia demands that President Mikhail Gorbachev of the Soviet Union) resign. 6/3
  • The Warsaw Treaty Organization was dissolved 31/3
  • The Soviet Union was formally dissolved 21/12
  • Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Croatia and Slovenia declare themselves independent
  • The Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder publish Sophie’s World. The English translation was published in 1995, and the book was reported to be the best-selling book in the world

My translated selections of events from

My 1991 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. The ICDL Database for Distance education. The American Journal of Distance Education, 5(2):69-72.

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. The Electronic University: Computer Conferencing in Mass Education. DEOSNEWS 1(20).

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. Innovative Computer Conferencing Courses. DEOSNEWS 1(14).

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. Computer-Mediated Communication and Distance Education around the WorldDEOSNEWS 1(10).

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. Bibliography on Computer Mediated Communication in Distance Education. DEOSNEWS 1(6).

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. Bibliography on Computer Mediated Communication in Distance Education. Journal of distance education 1 (1), 41-57

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. The ICDL Database for Distance Education. DEOSNEWS 1(5).

Paulsen, M. F. 1991. GO MEEC! A Goal Oriented Method for Establishment of an Electronic College. DEOSNEWS 1(2).

Paulsen, M. F. og M. Søby, 1991. Datamaskinbasert kommunikasjon. I Fjernundervisning – Læring Uten Grenser, red. Rekkedal, T. et al., 150-156. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget.

1992 - Returning to Norway with online luggage

Tourists and rioters in Washington DC

We took the four hour drive down to Washington DC several times. Pennsylvania Avenue and the Mall. Took the elevator to the top of the Washington Monument. Had a nice view of The White House where President George H. W. Bush presided. Were overwhelmed by the Korea and Vietnam war memorials. Headed to the impressive Smithsonian. Touched the moon rock at the national air and space museum.

Washington. So far from my desk on Øya in Kragerø. Still very close when I watch Veronica Westhrin’s disturbing reports from Pennsylvania Avenue on Norwegian Television. NRK’s US correspondent is also a neighbour with home office on Øya.

US Capitol. Perceived by many as the temple of democracy. Our guided tour stands out in memory as I write this during the frightening riots incited by President Trump January 6th, 2020.

Oleona lure

During Christmas break, we drove north to Potter County in Pennsylvania. To Oleona – a huge piece of land the grandiose Norwegian violinist Ole Bull bought in 1852. The first year 700 immigrants settled there – lured by his intention to build a New Norway as a perfect community of Scandinavian settlers. An ambitious initiative that still resonates in Norwegian history.

Reality check. We found a road sign spelling out Oleona. In the middle of an unfriendly forest. A few log cabins trying to attract potential tourists. Closed. No wonder many of the immigrants went on and found their American dream in the Mid West. Probably more successful with Oleona than Ole Bull, Pete Seeger popularized a translated version of the parodic Norwegian folk song.

Analogue video and commercial TV

TV2, Norway’s second national TV channel, was due to open in September. To be financed by TV-commercials. A development that motivated me to enrol in a course on video and television production. VHS cameras were available for the students to carry home. So big and heavy that they needed shoulder support. Got hands on experience with studio recording and tedious editing of analogue video. Dreamed about a digital future that made video editing as easy as text editing.

From Bulletin Boards to Electronic Universities

From Bulletin Boards to Electronic Universities

Thank you to the Penn State professors who allowed me to focus on online education in my course work. And to Michael G. Moore who agreed to publish a collection of my course papers as a research monograph at the American Center for the Study of Distance Education.

A 66-page monograph titled From Bulletin Boards to Electronic Universities – Distance Education, Computer-Mediated Communication, and Online Education. Comprising seven of the papers I wrote as Penn State student. Foreword by Linda Harasim and afterword by Robin Mason, two of the most respected scholars in the field.

Several of the articles foreshadowed my dissertation work on teaching techniques for computer-mediated communication. The final article titled The Hexagon on Cooperative Freedom was the seminal version of my theory on cooperative freedom and transparency in online education. A developing theory that ever since has been the guiding star of my online education work.


The hexagon of cooperative freedom

From Fry Drive to Hersey Park

When the Cooksons returned from sabbatical, we moved from Crabapple Court to 222 Fry Drive. A nice brick house without furniture. We bought what we needed at local garage sales. Furniture we garage sold when we returned to Norway in the fall. Announced it in the local newspaper. Woke up at seven the next morning by curious bargain hunters peeping through our bedroom windows. Everything was sold before evening. The next weekend we spent all the money in The Hersey Amusement Park in Harrisburg.

Health care experiences

All foreign Penn State students had to undertake a screen test for tuberculosis. Three-year-old son Stian came along to the medical centre and still remembers the two policemen who accompanied a big black man in hand cuffs sitting next to him in the waiting area.

We also made a few expensive, but unsuccessful visits to a local fertility clinic. One evening Marith got a severe head ace. So, we drove to Center County Community Hospital. They recommended an overnight examination. Luckily, everything was fine, and she could go home in the morning. Next week, we received a bill from the hospital. More than thousand 1992 dollars. Then, one more thousand plus dollar bill arrived to cover medical personnel. Finally, a third large bill appeared for the use of medical tests. Experiences that strengthened our appreciation of the Norwegian health care system.

The best man

Woke up in the middle of the night by a phone call. A cheerful Norwegian voice: Would you like to be my best man?

My long-time friend and neighbour on the phone. Arthur – who introduced me to the carnival in Rio. The host of “Radio Frihet” FM 103.9 who called us on live radio – just in time to reveal our secret honeymoon departure to Vienna. The adopted baby who lost his father when he was three and his mother at seventeen. The lonesome teenager who gradually developed a large social network.

The bachelor who invited potential girlfriends to decorate his Christmas three. Every day in December. Not a single needle left on Christmas Eve.

The young man who found his biological mother. Then identified his biological father as an acquainted co-worker in the company they worked for. Just weeks before the father died.

The newly married house owner who built a concrete floor for the garden greenhouse. Who jumped barefooted into the wet concrete to spread it nicely. Who denied to cancel our ferry trip to Copenhagen the next week. So we had to push his severely concrete-burned legs around in a wheelchair.

The father who took his growing family on numerous spontaneous travels around the world. Said to his oldest kids: You like glam rock, we go Wig Wam concert Saturday. Without concert tickets on arrival in Tokyo, they ended up backstage with the Norwegian glam rock band and special guest tickets.

The grown up, respected family man with an impressive bunch of biological and foster children. The first runner up to become Mayor in his county. The self-made and not so handy man with a lifetime of funny stories about his calamities.

So, we spent a nice summer in Norway with many friends and a memorable summer wedding at the popular Tryvannstua ski and hiking resort in Oslo.

The land of lawn and order

Returning from summer holidays in Norway, we fond a red note from Stage College Health Department on our front door. Stating that we would receive a fine if we did not move our lawn. Some of the grass was too high. The next day the mail man showed up with a fifty dollar fine accompanied with a warning of imprisonment if it was ignored. My illusion of America as the land of freedom never recovered.

Returning home with online luggage

After two years of doctoral studies, it was time to say goodbye to friends, students and faculty at the adult education program. To think of Fred Ralston, Kenneth W. Borland and Patricia Gonzalves. To give a big hug to the outstanding Cathy Watson who ran the department with firm hands.

All coursework completed. All exams passed. “Just” needed to finish the dissertation back home in Norway.

What did I learn as a doctoral student in the US?

  1. That online education had a bright future, and that the internet was the highway to get there.
  2. That the internet made it possible to build a global network of colleagues and friends.
  3. That it is far more interesting to be an adult student with work experience than to be a young student without.
  4. That academic knowledge and degrees open many doors.
  5. That interviews, articles and presentations often have greater impact in English than in Norwegian. Even in Norway.
  6. That Norwegians could learn from Americans to be more self-confident, speak up and promote good achievements.
  7. That a Norwegian editor of an international journal can improve the writing of native English speakers.

What did I learn as a doctoral student in the US

Motivated by Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland’s 1992 New Year Speech? Was she right to claim that «it is typically Norwegian to be good»? Anyway, I returned to Norway in the fall. With improved self-confidence and grand ambitions to become an advocate of online education on the internet.

The Bangkok project

ICDE’s 16th World conference in Bangkok – the same year Thailand was connected to the Internet. It was my first dual mode conference. Helped Terry Anderson and Robin Mason to promote and organize the virtual Bangkok Project. Before attending the conference at the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU) in November.

In DEOSNEWS 2.7, I interviewed program chair Bruce Scriven about the conference. Reading it again during the 2021 pandemic when most international conferences struggle to go online, I see the Bangkok Project as real pioneer work – and maybe as the world’s first MOOC:

“In order to expand the dialogue and information sharing associated with the ICDE XVI Congress, an innovative use of computer mediated communications is being planned. The project will port discussions and interactions relevant to the Congress themes on a variety of Internet, UseNet, K12net and Bitnet computer networks. The project will commence one month prior to the Congress and include interactions with the delegates in Bangkok. Softwords has donated a CoSy conferencing system to be used by delegates in Bangkok. Distance educators from around the globe can participate by accessing established or new distance education discussion lists carried on the various international networks.”

In DEOSNEWS 2.24, I followed up interviewing Lani Gunawardena, Torstein Rekkedal, Phyllis Olmstead, Elske Heeren, Tony Bates, Bruce Scriven and David Murphy about their conference experiences. Tony Bates reported on his efforts as moderator of one of the six tracks in the online preconference. Elske Heeren’s remarks are also telling:

“As a final remark I would like to mention the six world-wide computer-conferences that have been called the «Bangkok project». I have followed some of these conferences through the DEOS conference list, and would like to conclude that the «Bangkok project» has been more than a great alternative for those who had to stay at home. I have enjoyed both the real conference and the computer conferences.”

ICDE conference in BangkokGrateful that Torstein Rekkedal found money on a tight travel budget to take me along to Bangkok. Shared a downtown hotel room with just one bed before we moved on to the university dorms with Morten Søby.

Had good conversations with Kjell Åge Bringsrud and Odd Rudjord. Several great tourist moments at the Grand Palace and on Chao Phraya river. Joined a group of Norwegians on a pub-to-pub tour in one of Bangkok’s go-go districts. Somewhat uncomfortable with the forthright and sparsely dressed female clientele in some of the bars. So happy to have Ingeborg Bø as my chaperon.

Enjoyed the opening reception with the floating candlelight ceremony in conjunction with the Loi Krathong festival. Gave a presentation titled DEOS: The Distance Education Online Symposium. Established new relations among the 800 delegates from 50 counties. Wanted to come back sometime in the future – a dream that came through when I was invited as keynote speaker for the Open University’s 40th anniversary.


Some 1992 Events

  • Winter Olympics in Albertville 8/2
  • The Summer Olympics in Barcelona 25/7
  • Fighting breaks out in Bosnia 16/3
  • Serbia and Montenegro form a republic 27/4
  • Riots in Los Angeles, when the court acquits four white police officers for abusing Rodney King 30/4
  • TV2 starts broadcasting in Norway 5/9
  • Bill Clinton becomes President of the United States 3/11

My translated selections of events from


My 1992 Publications

Paulsen, M. F., T. Rekkedal and M. Søby. 1992. Distance Education in Norway. DEOSNEWS 2(19)

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. The NKI Electronic College: Five years of computer conferencing in distance education. DEOSNEWS 2(9).

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. Innovative uses of computer conferencing. Telecommunications in Education News, 3(3):4-5.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. Recommended reading. CAUSE/EFFECT, 15(2):53-55.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. From Bulletin Boards to Electronic Universities: Distance Education, Computer-mediated Communication, and Online Education. 1992. University Park, Pennsylvania: The American Center for the Study of Distance Education. Pages: 67.

Paulsen, M. F. 1992. A goal-oriented method for establishing an electronic college. In Impact of Informatics on the Organization of Education, eds B. Samways and T.J. van Weert, 113- 118. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

1993 - Embracing Brazil

Twenty million people with access to affordable internet services


ANSA – the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad. I wrote an article for the December issue of their magazine ANSA -nytt about useful internet services. Titled “Internet: your contact with Norway”. Estimated that 20 million people in the world had access to internet. Most of them at universities and research institutions in first world countries. 25 thousand through the Norwegian university network Uninett.

Most important – internet gave access to people and digital resources all around the world – for free or just the price of a local telephone call.

The most common internet service was e-mail. But just about 25,000 people in Norway had an e-mail account. And it was hard to find their addresses.

Less known services were:

  • NetNews, a distributed conferencing system with thousands of Newsgroups and about three million users. The University of Oslo carried about 1800 of the newsgroups.
  • Gopher, a menu driven service that provided access to information and services on the internet.
  • Telnet, a service for remote login on computers on the internet.
  • FTP, a service for file transfer.
  • Archie, a catalogue service for finding files that could be downloaded with FTP.
  • Listserv, a system that could archive and distribute e-mail to subscribers of various lists.

These services were difficult to use with text-based and often obscure user interfaces. Impressive services in need for a unified and better solution. Built for the new generation of PCs with colour screens and window interfaces. Some sort of a graphic and colourful world wide web.

Norwaves and Norweave

Morgenbladet januar 27 1995

Picture of an article by Thomas Gramstad in Morgenbladet on January 27, 1995

My Norwaves idea was conceived in Pennsylvania. Realized how little news I received about Norway and how much I appreciated what I got. Returning to Norway, I found out that Norwegian embassies communicated via fax – since they did not have access to e-mail. So, I decided to introduce an online news service about Norway.

Then, I contacted Karin Bruun and Ragnvald Berggrav at the Norinform press office who agreed to provide Norwaves with news from Norway in English.

The first issue was published in January 1993. After that, Norwaves was distributed as e-mail via Listserv almost every week until November 1998. A typical issue included ten pages of news from the previous week. All issues were available and searchable in the Norwaves Archive.

After one year of operation, we had about 1000 subscribers in more than 25 countries.

Norwaves received many requests from subscribers who wanted a discussion forum. So, we established NorWeave as a moderated forum for Norwegians and friends of Norway in September 1993 as a supplementary service to Norwaves. The network, which had several hundred subscribers, was established to provide mutual help and support as well as to share information of interest to the Norwegian community. Norweave was first moderated by Kathleen Fletcher, later by Thor Larsen, both volunteers I was able to recruit in the US.

From 1994, the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs agreed to snail-mail me weekly news on a 3.5-inch floppy disk. For formatting and distribution. The same information they distributed to the Norwegian embassies via fax. Old-fashioned, but I distributed the online news voluntarily for five years. Imagined that I worked as Norway’s first honorary consul on the Internet.

In March 1994, Norwaves was assigned an ISSN number as the first electronic journal in Norway (see Bok og bibliotek. 1994 Vol. 61 Nr. 8). The National Library chose Norwaves as the first electronic journal to be archived according to the Act of June 9, 1989 «Lov om avleveringsplikt for allment tilgjengelige dokumenter«.



NATO workshop in Segovia

Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance LearningCan’t remember why I was invited to the “NATO Advanced Research Workshop on Collaborative dialogue technologies in distance learning» in Segovia. Pondered what NATO would become after the cold war ended and the Warsaw Pact was disolved in 1991. But a trip to Spain in April sounded as a good opportunity to escape the cold Norwegian winter. Especially after reading about Erling Kagge in the international edition of Time Magazine in March. The Norwegian adventurer who completed the first unsupported and solo expedition to the South Pole. 1,310 km in 50 days without radio contact to the outside world.

So, I packed my summer clothes for the flight to Madrid. One hour bus drive north towards the mountains in Sierra de Guadarrama. It started to snow near the altitude of one thousand meters.

Saw the impressive Roman aqueducts and the Alcázar castle. Had a delicious Cochinillo dinner. Roast suckling pig so soft and tender that it was cut with a plate. Huge glasses of local brandy were passed around the table.

The workshop was productive and resulted in a 23-chapter book published by Springer in 1994. Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance Learning. Edited by Felisa Verdejo and Stefano Cerri.

I was first author of first chapter “A Pedagogical Framework for CMC Programmes”. In the third chapter titled “A Pedagogical Framework for CMC Programmes”, I presented the framework below with 31 different online teaching techniques which became a central part of my dissertation work.

Some pedagogical CMC techniques

Our Oslo Fjord

Living two years in Pennsylvania, it gradually dawned on us how much we missed the sea. That we needed access to salt water. To have a boat. So, we bought an old 22 feet Windrace day cruiser. Nick named Bob Bob Sue. Found a waterfront port nearby. Could be in the boat 20 minutes after work, spend the night there and wake up with the seagulls for a morning swim before work.

Discovered and appreciated the Oslo Fjord as a unique recreational area. Sometimes possible to ice skate in the winter. Usually, good weather conditions and relatively warm water (16-24 centigrades) from May to September. Hundreds of islands and so many places to stay the night in a boat or a tent. Most of the area open for the public. Happy to know that the noisy Fornebu international airport was soon to be closed. More than excited when we spotted killer whales larger than the boat.

Harness Hernes

Knut Bråtane, who worked for the Norwegian Ministry of Education, paid us a friendly visit i State College. There, I demonstrated the Listserv we used for DEOS and he immediately saw its potential.

Back in Norway, Knut asked me to set up an informal Listserv group for people working for and with the Ministry. The most controversial educational topic at the time was the reform of the Norwegian secondary school system called Reform 94. People marched in the streets to protest the reform and condemn Minister of Education Gudmund Hernes. The demonstrators unified under the catchy Norwegian slogan «Hernes må fjernes». Meaning – Hernes must be removed. Harness Hernes is a catchier translation, with a less blunt connotation.

I was asked to add Hernes to our Listserv group the same week Computerworld Norway announced his e-mail address in a news article. The journalist prized him as the first Norwegian minister with a personal e-mail account. This resulted in so many e-mail requests that the Ministry had to add an automatic thank you reply to his account.

The reply obviously was received by all members of our Listserv group – including Hernes. So, starting Friday evening, his automatic reply was repeated every hour in an annoying loop. Checking my e-mail Saturday morning, as the system administrator, I realized that Hernes må fjernes – and I actually did.

Teleteaching 93 in Trondheim

Seven years after attending the very first Teleteaching conference in Budapest, I was proud to be on the advisory committee for the third international Teleteaching conference in Trondheim. Interviewed Programme Chair Jan Wibe and IFIP President Asbjørn Rolstadås about the upcoming conference in Deosnews 2.18.

Jan Wibe and Gudmund Hernes

Back on the NTH campus on August 20. The day the first Oslo Accord was signed between the Government of Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Washington D.C. Thirteen years after my graduation. Three years before the merger that changed the university name to NTNU.

Impressed by the work of Jan Wibe and his colleagues in Trondheim. Excited to see Rosalie Wells, Tony Bates and Bruce Scriven among the keynote speakers. To befriend Kjell Atle Halvorsen. To talk with Håkon Wium Lie who had just introduced Norway’s first web page named MultiTorg. To meet new Nordic colleagues – Salvor Gissurardottir and Lára Stefánsdóttir from Iceland – Kari Lampikoski from Finland and Mette Ringsted from Denmark.

Now, browsing through my thousand-page proceedings filled with colourful notes, I’m impressed by the list of international scholars we enrolled. The quality of the papers. The broad scope of projects presented by Norwegian colleagues. Many from northern Norway. Papers about EKKO, MUNIN, JITOL, WINIX, SPINN and KIDNET. Altogether, a manifestation of my conviction that tiny Norway was among the five most advanced online education countries in the world. The other four? The much larger, English-speaking countries US, Canada, UK and maybe Australia.

To compliment some of the Norwegian pioneers and their early projects, I have extracted the below list of Norwegian presenters from the conference proceeding’s table of content:

  • Klingsheim, T. Kristiansen: The importance of user participation in telecommunication development.
  • Sigmund Akselsen, Svein-Ivar Lillehaug: Teaching and learning aspects of remote medical consultations.
  • Knut Braatane: Teachers in network.
  • Kjell Age Bringsud, Geir Pedersen: The MUNIN project – distributed electronic classrooms with large electronic white boards.
  • Annie-Cecilie Fagerlie: Technology is key to supporting Andersen Consulting and Arthur Andersen education strategies.
  • Annita Fjuk: The pedagogical and technological challenges in computer-mediated communication in distance education.
  • Anne Gjerløw: Datacommunication – a tool in planning and bringing through the SPINN project.
  • Ola Hansen: LUPEN – a project in the teaching of literature at elementary levels in secondary school.
  • Harald Haugen: Just in time open learning – a European project from a Norwegian point of view.
  • Asbjørn Hoem: Distance education that is human, low-cost and high tech.
  • Hovig, Håkon Wium Lie: Teleteaching in a graduate seminar: practical experiences and a look ahead.
  • Unni Hovstad: San passeport: learning French in Norwegian schools.
  • Astrid Elisabeth Jensen: Learning computer network services by using them in familiar surroundings.
  • Terje Kristensen: A pedagogical network of schools in the Bergen region.
  • Wiggo Lindseth: Distance education in Finnmark, North Norway: a SPINN project.
  • Morten Flate Paulsen: Pedagogical techniques for computer-mediated communication.
  • Svein Arne Rasmussen: International E-mail in language instruction.
  • Torstein Rekkedal: Experiences with computer conferencing and teleteaching at NKI, Norway.
  • Frode Rønning, Haakon Waadeland, Jan Wibe: Conference based teaching of a fist year university course in mathematics.
  • Ottar Sande, Jan Eide: The FILAM project: a low profile approach to computerized distance teaching.
  • Oluf Magnus Solvik: Communication and distance education.
  • Anne Weeks, Ola Røyrvik: Using E-mail in an English class at NKI.

Paper abstracts from Teleteaching93

The picture shows «random clips of good looking» Norwegian presenters from the book of conference abstracts.


Andrea experiences her first snowWe waited about nine months for the VARIG flight to Sao Paulo. The domestic flight landed in two small towns before we reached our destination. Through the window of the tiny Brazilian aircraft, we spotted only three people in front of the modest terminal building. Two adult women and a cute little girl in a blue dress. Heartbeaten, we immediately understood it was Andrea.

On the ground, we met a smiling two-and-a-half-year-old with a vivid Brazilian temper. The two women were Andrea’s foster mother and the local adoption representative.

They took us to our home for the next number of weeks. In an area and a time with no chance of internet access. A nice hotel with swimming pool, mini zoo and hummingbirds in the reception. There, they left us with Andrea who soon stretched our Portuguese: Mais água, açúcar, sorriso, banho, dedo do pé, meu carrinho.

When do Brazilian toddlers sleep? The first night, we turned out all lights in our hotel room at eight. For several hours we heard her playing and talking content with herself in the dark.

The days were happy, exiting, challenging and filled with feelings. Six-year-old big brother had mixed feelings. Mostly proud and joyous, sometimes jealous to share his parents’ attention. It helped when «Andrea» bought him the Nintendo Game Boy. We also got welcome company from Snorre and Wenche who stayed a couple of weeks at our hotel.

It was a delightful pleasure to visit Andrea’s caring foster family of five and learn more about Andrea’s history. We met her aunt and older half-sister. Shocked when we heard that she had a twin brother who was already adopted. Delighted to be acquainted with Norwegian missionaries in the region and to eat dinner at their place on the first Sunday of Advent.

Since we had to stay in Brazil for several weeks, we decided to explore Pantanal and Foz do Iguaçu. We spent nearly a week at an enormous cattle ranch in Pantanal. Fishing piranha from a small wooden boat surrounded with caimans – the local alligators. Watching scarily close when the locals fed many dozens of wild caimans in the lake by our bungalow. Horseback riding towards hundreds of cattle approaching at a terrifying speed. Happy to have the local boiadeiros (cowboys) divert the cattle.

The boardwalk at Foz de Iguacu was impressive. Watching the enormous waterfalls from a tiny motorboat fighting the currents up the river was awesome. Handling a little girl who adamantly refused to put on a life jacket was especially challenging among locals who did not know why foreigners argued with the Brazilian toddler.

Back in base camp, we could pay the hotel with a Visa Card. However, they charged 20 % extra if we did not pay cash. So, I walked to the local bank to get a lot of the short lived cruzeiro real in a period of very high inflation in Brazil. Waiting in the bank, a money transport arrived in an armoured car. Four heavily armed guards followed the money into the bank vault. After a while I received literary a backpack full of cash and walked somewhat nervously through town to pay for six weeks at the hotel.


Three lively boys playing in the Oslo snow. Calling us Bestus and Nonno – nicknames for the Norwegian words – morfar and mormor. The best words we know. Happily reminded of the cheerful two-year old Brazilian girl arriving Norway in cold December snow – one generation earlier.

Some 1993 Events

  • EU introduces the four freedoms: free movement of goods, services, capital and labour between member states 1/1
  • Czechoslovakia is divided into the Czech Republic and Slovakia
  • The Partnership Act is passed by the Norwegian Parliament on 29/3
  • The Oslo agreement is signed 20/8
  • William Nygård, the Norwegian publisher of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, is badly wounded in an assassination attempt 11/10

My translated selections of events from

My 1993 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1993. Pedagogical techniques for computer-mediated communication. Proceedings of the IFIP TC3 Third Teleteaching Conference, 647-656.

Paulsen, M. F. 1993. DEOS. The Distance Education Online Symposium. IT & Utdanning, 1(1):32-33.

Paulsen, M. F. 1993. The Hexagon of Cooperative Freedom: A Distance Education Theory Attuned to Computer Conferencing. DEOSNEWS 3(2).

Paulsen, M. F. 1993. DEOS – The Distance Education Online SymposiumUninytt nr. 1 1993.

1994 - Attending the first Olympic Games on the web

The Winter Olympic Games in Lillehammer

Winter sports. Profoundly embedded in Norwegian culture. The Lillehammer Winter Olympics gave a huge surge in Norway’s national pride. We will never forget the moment Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee, proclaimed it the best Olympics Winter games ever. We still admire the Norwegian athletes who won 26 medals – more than any other nation.

Enthralled by the live news service from Oslonett, Norway’s first commercial web company. With the amazing new graphic browser Mosaic, we could get Olympics results from all events immediately on Oslonett’s webpages. Their service titled “WWW meets the 1994 Olympics” was a major success. The first web page for an international sports event and a kick start for the web in Norway.

WWW meets the 1994 Olympics

Screen shot of Oslonett’s Olympic web page

We had tickets to two events. Sweden and Slovakia played 4-4 in the Håkons Hall ice hockey rink. Italian cross-country skier Manuela Di Centa won the gold medal in 15 km freestyle.

Lodging was scarce. Fortunately, my childhood friend Atle offered me and six-year-old Stian to stay two nights in his dental office. An office with a view to the ski jumping hill Lysgårdsbakken – the venue of the opening ceremony. I vividly remember reclining in the dental chair with a glass of wine watching the impressing ceremony on TV. The Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann and adventurer Thor Heyerdahl welcomed the world. Sissel Kyrkebø mesmerized us with the Olympic Hymn. Through the dental window, the fireworks and Stein Gruben with the Olympic torch. Before he brought it safely down the ski jump so that Crown Prince Haakon Magnus could light the Olympic cauldron.

In the same moment, Edvard Munch’s iconic painting the scream, was stolen from the Norwegian national museum in Oslo.

Moving the NKI electronic college to internet

NKI had several colleges and departments, but no common strategy on internet access and learning platforms. So, in June 93, the management mandated me to head a project group that should make recommendations for NKI’s future educational network. In September 93, we concluded that all students and employees should have access to internet, e-mail and Listserv as a common conferencing system.

Internet software

When we had to retire the EKKO host computer, we followed the recommendations and introduced the second generation of the NKI electronic college in the 1994 spring semester. We called it the open electronic college to signal that it was open to the world through the internet. All courses and programmes were offered un-paced with individual startup to provide the students’ need for autonomy and flexibility.

We provided our distance students with internet access, e-mail addresses and PC-software to use the services. A growing number of the students had PCs with Windows and colour interfaces. The software we provided is depicted in the screen shot.

We considered the first generation of the NKI electronic college (1986-1993) to be quite a success. We were recognized as pioneers in the field and had reached 800 enrolments in 10 different online courses. However, we continuously followed other developments in teaching and learning methods. Examined different learning platforms, such as CoSy, PortaCom, FirstClass, internet and the web with the aim of developing a better second-generation system.

The new internet platform represented in several ways a setback compared with our EKKO platform. The interface was still text-based and far from user-friendly. Norwegian characters and email attachments were not supported. On the other hand, we got access to many more potential students and online resources through the internet.

My first external presentation of NKI’s open electronic college was in April at the Norwegian conference IT og Utdanning in the beautiful coastal town of Ålesund.

Online NKI colleagues

Jan Nergård and Anne Karine Akre. Good colleagues that were central in the daily operation and development in our electronic college. Unfortunately, they both passed away just a few months before I write this.

Anne Karine handled requests from prospective students and supported all our online students in an excellent way.

Jan administered and improved the software and hardware for the electronic college. A dear discussion partner for technical and pedagogical advancements of our services. Strengthening my penchant for evolutionary system development. And my convictions that we needed to involve more NKI colleagues in our online education initiatives.

On his spear time, Jan was a tram driver for Oslo tramways. So, we were able to rent his tram for a team building “online” party. Loaded with beer and pizza, we followed the tramlines in Oslo. Still remember the exhilarating feeling I had in the driver’s seat.

Online with the Oslo tramway

Photos by Jan Nergård


The EU and EEA schism

53.5 % voted no in 1972. I was too young for that referendum. However, in January 1994 Norway joined EEA – the European Economic Area. A treaty between EU, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland. An agreement that gave Norwegian educators access to EU-funded projects. And funded numerous European projects through the EEA and Norway Grants.

Norway grants

The Norwegian government negotiated and signed a new full membership treaty with EU in June. So, a second conflict-ridden membership referendum was scheduled for November 28. A lot of strong feelings and many more or less valid arguments in the air.

I like to listen to both side of a debate. Need time to contemplate and weigh the arguments.

It was not difficult to understand that Norwegians appreciated independence. After centuries under Demark and Sweden. That a strong EU could take control of our valuable resources. Oil, fish and hydroelectric power. That our tough winter climate would make it hard to compete in a single market.

On the other hand, a small country with 4 million people needed alliances. Very dependent on international trade and markets for our products. Our close neighbours and very important trade partners Denmark, England and Germany were already members. Sweden and Finland joined a few weeks before the referendum in Norway.

I decided to vote yes. Because I believed that the internet and digital services saw no borders. And hoped for future collaboration with all the excellent European online educators that I had met.

The referendum ended with 52.2 % no – but started a period that I was heavily involved with EU-funded projects and European organizations.


Some 1994 Events

  • The EEA agreement enters into force 1/1
  • The Olympic Games open in Lillehammer 12/2
  • Edvard Munch’s iconic painting the Scream Norwegian stolen from the National Gallery 12/2
  • The tunnel under the English Channel is opened. 6/5
  • Nelson Mandela is elected President of South Africa 10/5
  • IRA declares ceasefire 31/8
  • 900 lose their lives when the ferry Estonia sinks 28/9
  • Finland says yes to EU membership 16/10
  • Sweden says yes to EU membership 13/11
  • Norway says no to EU membership 28/11

My translated selections of events from

My 1994 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. NORWAVES and NORWEAVE: Two free E-mail services for friends of Norway. The Norseman, 1994(6):9.

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. Some pedagogical techniques for computer-mediated communication. In Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance Learning, eds. M. F. Verdejo and S. A. Cerri. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Paulsen, M. F., B. Barros, P. Busch, B. Compostela, and M. Quesnel. 1994. A pedagogical framework for CMC programs. In Collaborative Dialogue Technologies in Distance Learning, eds. M. F. Verdejo and S. A. Cerri. Berlin: Springer Verlag.

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. NKIs åpne elektroniske høgskole. IT og utdanning, Ålesund 14-15 april 1994.

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. DEOS – The Distance Education Online Symposium. Nytt om fjernundervisning. Informasjon fra SEFU, 1994(3):3.

Paulsen, M. F. 1994. ANDREA – informasjon om fjernundervisning i Europa. Nytt om fjernundervisning. Informasjon fra SEFU, 1994(3):3.

1995 - Going online in Birmingham and Berlin

The shareware report

First speaker at the online preconference for the ICDE World Conference in Birmingham. The objective of my session was to give the 500 participants an opportunity to share experiences and comment on the online pedagogical techniques I had written about. Compiled it as the Online Report on Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-mediated Communication.

Decided to publish the 55-page report as an html-document on the web in August. Learned the term shareware from programmers who used it to get some income from the software they shared online. Wondered if this could work for written documents. Decided to test it with the following text on the front page:

“This report’s content on paper and in any electronic form is copyrighted 1995 by Morten Flate Paulsen. The content is shareware, it is not public domain. You are granted a limited read and use license to see if the content is of interest to you. If so, you should mail the equivalent of USD 20 or NOK 100 to Morten Flate Paulsen”.

To my great surprise, I received envelopes with cash from several countries. And according to Google Scholar, the online report is one of my most successful publications with nearly 300 citations.

Mega-universities in Birmingham

Mega-universities of the worldJune 1995. The 17th ICDE World Conference in Birmingham. Hosted by the UK Open University. More than 1000 people from 80 countries attended. The conference theme: One World, Many Voices. David Sewart was ICDE President, Programme Chair and editor of the two conference books.

My conference presentation, titled The NKI Open Electronic College, focused on our experiences with the second-generation online education systems. The benefits and challenges of moving the college from a closed LMS environment to an open online college. A college that could be accessed via the internet and gave student access to a host of new global services.

The UK Open University admitted its first students in 1971. By the time of the conference, probably the best known and most respected distance education institution in the world. Some OU delegates even promoted a future system that could identify and support students with little progress.

The OU’s vice chancellor and former ICDE president, Sir John Daniel, put every effort into the success of the conference. He also wrote the foreword to the influential report Mega-universities of the World. A compilation of the ten universities with a student enrolment over 100.000. Produced for the meeting of executive heads of these universities during the conference.

The ten mega-universities included were:

  • China: China Central TV and Broadcasting University (CCRTVU)
  • France: Centre National d’Enseignementa à Distance (CNED)
  • India: Indira Gandhi National Open university (IGNOU)
  • Indonesia: Universitas Terbuka (UT)
  • Korea: Korea National Open University (KNOU)
  • South Africa: University of South Africa (UNISA)
  • Spain: Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED)
  • Thailand: Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU)
  • Turkey: Anadolu University (OEF)
  • United Kingdom: Open University (OU)

Conference members spent a summer evening with entertainment in the Botanic Gardens. During a social break aboard the long canal boats, we realized that the differences between traditional education and distance education started to blur.

Had a memorable evening at a Birmingham pub. Met delegates who arrived through the Chunnel that opened a year earlier. Was pleasantly surprised by international colleagues who recognized Norwegian successes of the year. That Liv Arnesen was the first woman to reach the South Pole alone. That Norwegian composer Rolf Løvland won the European Song Contest in Dublin with Secret Garden’s Nocturne. That the Norwegian women’s team became World Championship in soccer after beating Germany 2-0 in the final.

Discussed Princess Anne’s official opening address. Overheard that she arrived driving the Rolls Royce herself with her chauffeur in the back seat. That she parked on the pavement in front of the convention centre. That a traffic warden placed a parking ticket under the windscreen wiper. That a policeman, working for the Royal Family security, advised him it might not be so wise. According to the story, the traffic warden tore the ticket into pieces and put it in a nearby wastepaper bin. An onlooker later removed the bits from the bin. True or not, he had a good story for the Birmingham pub.

Leaving the pub, I told my company that I should return to my Lichfield Challenger 5 tent. A bargain from an outlet near the hotel. Checked that all parts were faultless by pitching it inside the hotel room. The room maid’s reaction more than confirmed her prejudice about Norwegian men as outdoor maniacs.

The first Online Educa Berlin

Online Educa Berlin 1995Berlin in late November and early December. Christmas markets, Bratwürsts, Glüwine and nude unisex saunas. Unter den Linden, Brandenburger Tor, Tiergarten, Checkpoint Charlie. Capital of the unified Germany and the home of Online Educa Berlin.

In November, I attended the very first OEB conference. Thought of Christiane F. when I arrived at Bahnhof Zoo. Had no idea that I would return several times to what would become Europe’s most important online education conference for decades. Always many Norwegians around. BI Norwegian Business School, just one of the institutions with two-digit participants year after year. Several Norwegian organizations in the exhibition hall.

Looking back, I find it hard to remember which year my conference memories are from. Very many returning colleagues, the familiar format at Hotel InterContintental every year. So, I asked Rebecca Stromeyer to help me fill in some blanks. Rebecca who launched the first conference with her father Karl Badde.

The first year was different. It was held in the East German flagship congress centre – Kongresshalle am Alexanderplatz. To symbolise that EAST meets WEST, as the idea for OEB was born at an education conference in Moscow in the early 1990s. The conference service could have been better and there was plenty of amusement when we got bananas and sandwiches for lunch.

The differences between East and West Berlin was striking. Results of the wall that separated physically and ideologically from 1961 to 1989. I still have the small part of the Berlin Wall that I bought as a souvenir.

Looking at the program, I especially remember meeting Paul Bacsich, Walter Kugemann, Claudio Dondi and Sally Reynolds. And that several east-west case studies were featured.


NKUL 95NKUL. Norsk konferanse om utdanning og læring. National conference on ICT in education. The first conference in 1995 was probably inspired by the success of TeleTeaching 93 and organized by several of the same people.

All NKUL programmes are archived on the web. Scrolling through the program of the first conference, three people in the plenary session recall several good memories: Morten Møller who worked in the EU commission for DG XIII – DELTA. Stig Klingstedt and Fred-Arne Ødegaard in the Norwegian Ministry of Education.

Mention NKUL because it has been an important annual conference in Trondheim. But I have never attended NKUL. Still hope that someone will invite me. Maybe to give a presentation on My Online Education World?

More online courses

Online education was still for special interested. In 1995 NKI had a total of 256 enrollments in online courses. But a growing number of colleagues agreed that the future of distance education was online. Still focusing on ICT-related topics, NKI introduced several new online courses and two new online programmes in 1995. I wrote study guides for four of the courses: PC-software, Internet, Web-presentations and English on the internet. The last one with the American-born linguist Curt Rice who later became Rector of OsloMet University.

Webpages and HTML

Bli sett på internett

We realized that the web would have a major impact on online education and developed official webpages for NKI. I learned HTML by setting up my personal webpage at and bought the domain name to learn more about web-services. Used these experiences to write about webpages and HTML-editors in a chapter for the Norwegian book Bli sett på Internett.

My chapter also explained how to include pictures, audio and video files. With the distinct warning: “One should be aware that pictures, audio and video content will take much time to download, and many users will not have the necessary hardware and software to present it”.

Very few institutions considered to develop webpages. Many laughed when I predicted that even small businesses needed to be present on the web. So, I argued that the cover of our new book should show that even hotdog kiosks needed e-mail addresses and webpages.

Some 1995 Events

  • Liv Arnesen becomes the first woman to go to the South Pole alone. (7/1)
  • A research rocket fired from Andøya is close to starting an international crisis as the Russian military interprets it as a rocket attack. (25/1)
  • Baring bank is placed under state administration after a broker loses NOK 10 billion on speculation (26/2)
  • Right-wing extremists blow up a public building in Oklahoma, USA and kill 167 people. (19/4)
  • Jaques Chirac becomes President of France. (7/5)
  • Norwegian composer Rolf Løvland won the European Song Contest in Dublin with Secret Garden’s Nocturne. (13/5)
  • The Norwegian women’s soccer team wins the World Cup after beating Germany 2-0 in the final. (18/6)

My translated selections of events from

My 1995 Publications

Paulsen, M.F. 1995. The NKI Open Electronic College. In One World Many Voices, Quality in Open and Distance Learning, Volume 2, ed. D. Sewart. UK: Open University.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. The Online Report on Pedagogical Techniques for Computer-mediated Communication Oslo: NKI. Pages: 55.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. An Overview of CMC and the Online Classroom in Distance Education. In Computer Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom, Volume III: Distance Learning, eds. Z. L. Berge and M. P. Collins. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. Moderating Educational Computer Conferencing. In Computer Mediated Communication and the Online Classroom, Volume III: Distance Learning, eds. Z. L. Berge and M. P. Collins. Cresskill, New Jersey: Hampton Press.

Paulsen, M. F. and Curt Rice 1995. English on the Internet. Studieveiledning, kommentarer og oppgaver. Bekkestua. NKI Fjernundervisningen.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. Internett og Uninett i praksis. Studieveiledning, kommentarer og oppgaver. Bekkestua: NKI Fjernundervisningen.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. Tekstbehandling, regneark og databaseverktøy. Studieveiledning, kommentarer og oppgaver. Bekkestua: NKI Fjernundervisningen.

Paulsen, M. F. 1995. World Wide Web-presentasjoner. Studieveiledning, kommentarer og oppgaver. Bekkestua: NKI Fjernundervisningen.

1996 - Launching the first web based courses

With ENIAC and Al Gore at the Philadelphia Roundtable

New York, Philadelphia and State College in February. First, one night on Manhattan with Tennessee William’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Jet lag, comfortable chairs and a dark auditorium is not an easy combination.

Was invited with Stig Klingstedt from the Norwegian Ministry of Education to the «Philadelphia Roundtable on Adult Learning and Technology in OECD Countries». To present a paper I wrote with Torstein Rekkedal on technology for adult learning in Norway – including a case study on the NKI Electronic College.

The highlight – celebrating the 50th anniversary of ENIAC. To touch and see the world’s first large scale computer developed at the University of Pennsylvania. Vice President Al Gore’s Valentine’s Day speech commemorating the day as he threw a switch and the remaining part of ENIAC counted to 96 with two rows of blinking light bulbs.



ENIAC 50th Anniversary

Screenshot from

As we continued to Penn State, the lack of progress with my thesis work was nagging me. Two kids and a full-time job improving and promoting the electronic college kept me busy. And it had been much more difficult to keep in touch with Penn State than I expected. The university web-services were in its infancy and it was hard to get the information I needed via e-mail. Like many doctoral students, I was occasionally frustrated with my first advisor since he was hard to reach. Probably because he was heavily involved with consultancy work in Africa. Far away from the internet.

Back at Penn State, I got a motivation boost when Gary Miller agreed to take over as my thesis advisor.

Breakthrough for courses on the web

1996 was the breakthrough year for web-courses at NKI. The webpages at were under continuous development and became an important channel for course marketing and distribution of course content to students. The year we launched the three first web-based courses without any printed course material or study guides: Web-presentations, Multimedia and Java-programming.

Contact information page at NKI's 1997 website

Screenshot of the NKI electronic college’s website with menu bar and contact people

The web-courses had three interesting new aspects for distance education:

  1. The online course material was integrated with opportunities to communicate with teachers and peer students.
  2. The costs for printing, storing and shipping of printed course material were eliminated.
  3. Revisions and updates of courses could be done swift with no need to throw away old versions of printed material or ship new versions to active students.

These NKI courses became the new model for revised versions of the 25 courses we already offered online. 25 different courses with about 450 enrolments and a revenue of more than 100.000 euro in 1996. In addition, NKI received several national and European project grants for innovations and development in online education.

Caught by the mobile phone revolution

Ericsson GA318 mobile phone


I avoided telephones when I could. Used a desk top phone reluctantly at work. Preferred e-mail communication. The mobile technology fascinated, but threatened my need for concentration and occasional urge to escape a stressful life. Expensive and heavy mobile phones had been available for decades. But the mobile phone revolution was ignited when the first SMS was sent as a Christmas greeting in 1992. A revolution that reached Norway when GSM was introduced in September 1993 and NetCom broke Telenor’s monopoly. GSM, the new digital Global System for Mobile communication. Improved technology that made mobile phones affordable and possible to carry in pockets. Paved the way for SMS messages and a mobile lifestyle – chained to mobile phones.

In 1996, Ericcson and Nokia introduced affordable mobile phones for the consumer market. Suddenly, all adults I knew had a mobile. So, I bought an Ericcson GA318 just before the Olympic Games in Atlanta. In time to hear about the Olympic Park bomb.

Then I started to ponder how we could use the technology for distance education. Could it connect me to the internet? Be used for mobile learning? M-learning?

Introduced to Gruntvig by CTU in Nyhavn

CTU 1996 homepageThe Danish Centre for Technology-supported Education was established in 1995 and headed by Mette Ringsted. The center managed 100 million DKK over five years. Funded hundreds of initiatives for ICT based transformation of educational activities. Published much quality information on its website (see screenshot) and in its printed magazine.

CTU invited me to Copenhagen in February to evaluate project applications as an external expert. Returned in May 96 and 97. Met Susanne Panduro, Nina von Staffeldt and Allan Christensen. Learned much about Danish initiatives and education during the evaluation work in the CTU-office. Even more over a few Tuborgs during the social breaks in the nearby Nyhavn area. Learned that the influential Danish philosopher Nikolaj Frederik Severin Grundtvig was the ideological father of the folk high school. Realized how much the social Danes enjoyed meeting face-to-face and that the tiny country had few geographical reasons to focus on distance education. Hence, its penchant for blended learning.

Searching for Alta Vista and Cyberius Zip

Cyberius Zip's poem about AltaVista

I was thrilled by the new opportunities to search the web. My alter ego was as always more skeptical about emerging technology. So, Cyberius Zip wrote a poem about AltaVista. The first online search engine. Launched by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in December 1995.

But there were few online media channels for cyber poets. The first Norwegian online newspapers Brønnøysunds Avis and Dagbladet were launched in March 1995. Only preceded by – the newspaper for students at NTH in Trondheim.

Computerworld Norway launched its web-site in 1998. So, the poem translated below, was published in the printed version on May 24 under the heading:

Zip up. From Cyberius Zip’s collection of hyper poems.

Alta la Vista to Big Brother

Cyberius Zip is scared.
Big brother is paying a visit.
With Alta Vista,
crawling and mapping the web.
While we sleep in the bed.
He discovers files we misplace
and shares them with the world.
From a database somewhere abroad.
Outside the Norwegian Data Inspectorate’s jurisdiction.
We are listed and watched –
whether we like it or not…


Some 1996 Events

  • Yasir Arafat becomes Palestinian president 20/1
  • Benjamin Netanyahu (Likud) elected Prime Minister of Israel 29/5
  • Summer Olympics in Atlanta opens 19/7
  • Olympic Park bomb in Atlanta. Two killed and over 100 wounded. 27/7
  • Russian plane crashes outside Longyearbyen Svalbard. 141 lose their lives. 29/8

My translated selections of events from

My 1996 Publications

Paulsen, M. F 1996. Web-editorer og andre verktøy. I Bli sett på Internett, red. O. Rudejord. 79-91. Oslo: TI-forlaget.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 1996. Norway – An Electronic College (Technology for Adult Learning in Norway Including a case Study on the NKI Electronic College). In Adult Learning and Technology in OECD Countries. Proceedings of a Round Table held in Philadelphia, United States on 14-16 February 1996. OECD: 1996. (p241-274)

1997 - Returning to Penn State for the ICDE World Conference

ICDE’s 18th World Conference at Penn State

ICDE 1997 CD coverReturned to Happy Valley in June. For the 18th ICDE World Conference at Penn State University. Following the theme: «The New Learning Environment, A Global Perspective».

The welcome ceremony was held in the main hall of the huge Bryce Jordan Center. Welcome remarks were given by Penn State President Graham B. Spanier, ICDE President Armando Rocha Trindade, ICDE Secretary General Reidar Roll and Program Chair Gary Miller.

Proud that Gary was my thesis advisor. Hoped he was pleased with my latest thesis developments which I presented at the conference under the title «Teaching methods and techniques for computer-mediated communication». In a moderated panel with Sugata Mitra, Janet Mei-Chuen Lin and Douglas Shale.

Thinking of my thesis research, I joined a session on research and evaluation led by Michael G. Moore and Alan Tait at the Penn State Conference Center Hotel. Met Ingeborg Bø who gave a presentation about Quality Guidelines and Standards for the Standing Conference of Presidents. And my dear Norwegian colleagues Monica Johannesen and Leikny Øgrim at a College Avenue Restaurant. Toasting for Liz Burge who grabbed the microphone during the closing ceremony and asked if a woman could stand on the main stage.

Starstruck by talking to Nicholas Negroponte after his keynote. But even the most renowned experts appreciate positive comments after their presentations. The visionary founder of the MIT Media Lab and my favourite columnist in Wired presented the new electronic book concept. Fascinated since I read his printed book Being Digital with great interest. The influential 1995 publication revolving around digitalization of media and the shift “from atoms to bits”. Confirmed my conviction that all educational content could be created, stored and distributed digitally on the web.

So appropriate that we received the conference papers on the CD-ROM in the picture. Probably my first conference CD.

Earthquaked in Rome

MMWWWKBack in Rome. Twenty-two years after I jumped into a taxi to see the Papal Basilica of Saint Peter and the Vatican. Terrified by the traffic and the hazardous speeding, I realized that I had asked the taxi driver to take us to St. Peter.

My first EU-funded project meeting. A Leonardo da Vinci project for development of web-based multimedia content for distance education. MMWWWK (Multimedia WWW Kernel for Open Learning and Distance Education). An important project because I gradually understood that it was possible to build a web-based learning management system. An LMS with a wide veriety of multimedia content and applications.

In the morning of September 26th, we had a project meeting on the third floor in an old building at Universita degli Studi di Roma III. As Torstein Rekkedal presented some thoughts on our kernel model showed in the picture, people started to look at each other when we heard a thunder bolt. I was ready to leave the room immediately when I felt the shaking. The Umbria and Marche earthquake in central Italy. It had a magnitude of 6.0 and the epicentre was in Annifo.

Later, we drove to Frascati to continue the meeting in the impressive Villa Borghese. And appreciated Italian hospitality and food in the excavated ancient cellar of a posh apartment in the Vatican City.

NKI’s project partners were Universita degli Studi di Roma III, Ericsson Systems Expertise and Distance Education International – both located in Dun Laoghaire near Dublin. Central project members were Fintan Costello, Benedetto Vertecchi, Emma Nardi, John Russell and Torstein Rekkedal. The project manager was Desmond Keegan. The renowned author of Foundations of Distance Education. A man who should mean a lot to me in the years to come.

Ten years with online education

In the fall, it was ten years since I taught the first distance education course through NKI’s EKKO learning management system. As we developed a growing number of online courses and services for the web.

Most of our online students still enrolled in the Information Processing Programme. Ten courses equivalent to a one-year full-time programme. Offered three different ways. Three cohorts with the same traditional written four-hour exams.

The online students were outnumbered by face-to-face students and correspondence students. It was not financially viable to offer only online courses, since too few people had access to PCs and modems.

So interesting and useful to follow and study three different student groups, hundreds of students in the same program. To find that online students got better exam results than correspondence students and on-campus students.

NKI was in a unique position with ten years of experience with development, operation and research. Just as online education accelerated with the web. And I shouldered the role as online education evangelist – both internally and externally. NKI’s press releases as well as my many presentations and publications made it easy for journalists to find me. One of the many newspaper articles I promoted online education in was published in Moss Avis on July 4th.

Moss avis 04.07.97


NITOL controversy

SOFF (Sentralorganet for fleksibel læring) was established in 1990 to support flexible education initiatives in Norwegian higher education. It provided grants to many Norwegian R&D-projects and one of the first major beneficiaries was NITOL (Norway-net with IT for Open Learning). An innovative and successful project organized by ICT and pedagogy departments at the four higher education institutions:

  • The University of Trondheim, College of Art & Science
  • Agder College of Engineering, Department of Computer Science
  • Trondheim College of Engineering
  • Stord College of Education

Sluttrapport for NITOL

The hard-working pioneers in the project organisation were Arvid Staupe, Thorleif Hjeltnes, Bodil Ask and Harald Haugen.

The four institution first allowed their on-campus student to enrol in online courses developed by the other institutions. Later, they opened the courses for the general public. According to the TISIP Annual Report for 1997, Trondheim College of Engineering had 952 online course enrolments in the fall semester. On-campus students at the Swedish Midthögskolan also enrolled in the courses.

With this backdrop, SOFF invited me to join its first external evaluation group. The other members were Annette Lorentsen, Gunnar Grepperud and Sigmund Lieberg. Øystein Johannessen worked as SOFF’s internal secretary for the group. We had informative and interesting meetings at the Flesland Airport in Bergen 12.09.96, Ålborg 24.11.96 and Stord Haugesund 14.01.97.

The group’s mandate was to evaluate the didactic models used in the NITOL-project. The report resulted in a significant disagreement between the NITOL group and the evaluation group. Especially about how the mandate should be interpreted and which aspects of the project we should focus on. In short, the NITOL group argued that the evaluation report was too narrow and negative.

At the cursor moment, I compliment NITOL’s important contributions to online education from 1994 to 2008. The final report is recommended for those who read Norwegian. The discussion around didactic models is still useful since most online education innovations have been driven by technology rather than pedagogy. Something the establishment maybe have used to discredit online education initiatives.

My Tellurman Dream

I woke up exhausted, remembering the Norwegian athlete Knut Kvalheim told me that running marathon was nothing to brag about and that Ironman Triathlon was for wimps. He challenged me to be a Tellurman and I actually succeeded. In the dream.

My dream evolved to a business idea that never materialized. Maybe because it was before the Web 2.0 and app technologies were available. However, everyone is welcome to use it – if I’m credited for the idea. Maybe someone could pitch it for the Olympic Committee, Nike, Intersport or Strava?

Tellur is the Norwegian word for Tellurium, the chemical element with the symbol Te and atomic number 52. One electron for every week of the year. A rare, silver-white metalloid with a name derived from Tellus – the Latin word for Earth.

I registered and prototyped the screen shot web service where everyone could register personal results from their preferred Summer or Winter Olympic sports. Curling, archery, javelin, marathon, ice skating, downhill skiing etc. Any result, impressive or not, should be accepted if it was confirmed by a companion. But you could only register one result per event per calendar year. Everyone who registered at least 52 results in a calendar year could call themselves Tellurman of the specific year.

The website should present various statistics and competitive lists. It should be an honour to be high on lists like: First Tellurman of the Year, Most Tellurman events of the year and Most years as Tellurman.

My idealistic hope was to engage more people in physical activities and try out new sports together with friends. The business idea was to charge yearly fees to register results and sell Tellurman training gear.

The Tellurman website

Some 1997 Events

  • Lasse Ottesen jumps 212 meters in Planica and sets a new world record. 22/3
  • Tony Blair becomes Prime Minister of England 2/5
  • Norway beats Brazil 4-2 in football in a private international match 30/5
  • Hong Kong becomes part of China again 1/7
  • Slobodan Milosevic becomes president of Yugoslavia 15/7
  • Princess Diana and Dodi al-Fayed are killed in a car accident in Paris. 31/8
  • The Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gas emissions is signed on 11/12

My translated selections of events from

My 1997 Publications

Rekkedal, T. and M. F. Paulsen. 1997. The Third Generation NKI Electronic College – A Survey on Student Experiences and Attitudes Oslo: NKI.

Paulsen, M. F. 1997. Teaching Methods and Techniques for Computer-Mediated Communication Oslo: NKI.

Paulsen, M. F. 1997. Ti år med NKI elektroniske høgskole

Paulsen, M. F. 1997. Skolene på Internett. Internettguiden nr. 7, 1997.

Paulsen, M. F. 1997. Elektronisk Kommunikation (CMC) Pædagogik og Metoder. Danmark

1998 - Defending the dissertation and starting Nettskoleavisen

Betting on London

Nordic Bett Morten SøbyBett – the British Educational Training and Technology Show. A huge conference and exhibition event in London started in 1985. A good excuse for a trip to London. An annual favourite for very many Nordic educators. In 1993, the Norwegian society of ICT in Education (Norsk pedagogisk dataforening) started organizing yearly study trips for about 100 members in conjunction with Bett.

So popular that Nordic@Bett sessions have attracted several hundred participants. Arranged by national governments in Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Supported by the Nordic Council of Ministers.

Per Rune Eknes has covered Bett closely for Skolemagasinet and provided the 2020 Bett picture of Morten Søby, the Norwegian coordinator for Nordic@Bett.

My first and only visit was in January with a group of NKI colleagues. Some of us spent more time at the London Boat Show and in pubs than in the Olympia Exhibition Centre. My experience, however, is that you can learn more from good discussions with the right people in a pub than from an average conference presentation.

Falling in love with Portugal

SintraAna Dias organized the first CISAER meeting in Sintra in June. The Portuguese UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mediaeval Castle of the Moors and the National Palaces of Pena and Sintra. Less known Monserrate Palace and my personal favourite Quinta da Regaleira. Close to Cascais and less than an hour with the train to Lisboa where we visited Expo 98. The World Fair that focused on «The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future» and commemorated 500 years of great Portuguese discoveries.

More important, we worked with CISAER. Courses on the Internet: survey, analysis, evaluation and recommendation. A project funded under the European Leonardo da Vinci action programme for the implementation of a European vocational training policy.

I learned a lot about online education initiatives around the world from this project and the project partners: Desmond Keegan, Robin Mason from the Open University in the UK, Ana Dias from Techminho in Portugal. Torstein Rekkedal and me from NKI.

We developed a comprehensive analysis of online courses based on literature reviews, catalogue data from 130 institutions in 26 countries and 72 interviews with key persons at these institutions. The analyses resulted in these strategic recommendations:

  1. Promote national and international harmonization of degrees, certificates, credits, and grades to facilitate online mobility of students.
  2. Oppose national regulations that inhibits institutions from charging tuition fees.
  3. Focus on cost effective online education.
  4. Develop better systems for administration of online education.
  5. Support initiatives for training of online teachers, administrators, and instructional designers.
  6. Oppose regulations and attitudes that inhibits online assessment.
  7. Support further research on online pedagogy and didactics.
  8. Develop and implement strategies to reduce the workload of online teachers.


In September 1998, we launched Nettskoleavisen. An online magazine with news from the NKI online college. Interviews with many online students and teachers. News about technological and pedagogical innovations. Results from surveys and research. A chronicle of NKI’s achievements with online education for more than a decade.

It was a joy to be editor for all 29 issues until the final one was published in November 2009. In my opinion a valuable and interesting recollection of our many innovations. Heyday achievements at Scandinavia’s leading online education institution. Twelve years of history from my online education world.

The first paragraph in the first issue focused on the growing number of online students. It can translate to:

After 10 years with a stable, but relatively low, number of students, interest in the Online School is now growing strongly. In 1995 we had 256 course enrolments, in 1996 the number was 416 and in 1997 it grew to 953. Our preliminary forecasts for 1998 indicate that we will end up somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 course registrations. Most students enroll in several courses during a year, and the number of active students who now follow one or more of the Online School’s 30 courses approaches 500.

All issues of Nettskoleavisen are still available in Norwegian at

Nettskoleavisens startside

Screenshot of Nettskoleavisen’s home page


Doctoral ordeals

Budstikka 211298Worked long evenings to identify and describe over 20 online teaching techniques. To analyse online teachers’ perceptions of workload and student learning outcome related to each technique. Web questionnaire responses from 150 teachers in 30 countries. 40 e-mail interviews with 38 teachers. Assignment analyses of 23 courses.

Concluded that the techniques had high learning outcome, recommendability and workload. However, the perception of workload varied considerably with technique and context. Encouraging results for the future of online teaching. Further, there was a gamut of teaching techniques applicable for teachers, program planners, and designers of CMC courses. Many recommended techniques available for inexperienced teachers. A substantial potential for improvement of CMC teaching in the future.

So, when schools in Norway closed for Fall break it was a good opportunity to bring the whole family of four back to Penn State and defend the dissertation. Departed from the old Fornebu Airport. Returned the day the new Gardermoen airport opened. The past and the future – symbolically separated by a dissertation.

A long and tiresome travel from Oslo via Reykavik to State College, Pennsylvania. Five hours in a rented car driving west on Interstate 80 from Newark airport. Ended up in line to be seated at a local diner at North Atherton Street. Saw seven-year-old daughter Andrea collapsing in the corner of my eye. Unconscious on the floor when we called 911. Endless, scared moments before she woke up as the ambulance arrived.

We spent the night at Center County Community Hospital. Andrea was diagnosed with flu, fever and dehydration related to the long travel. It was a though night for her and not the best preparation for my dissertation defence the next morning. In front of Gary Miller, Eunice Askov, David Jonassen and Kyle Peck.

We got through the ordeals and were both proud that daddy could pick her up at the hospital – as a doctor.



Screenshot from

Brasilia keynote

Flying from Sao Paulo in October, I recalled the ecstatic midsummer eve in June. When Norway’s soccer team won 2-1 over Brazil at the World Cup in Marseille. Again. After defeating Brazil 4-2 at home in a private international match at Ullevåll stadium in May 97. I also remembered that Paulo Freire died the year before. The Brazilian advocate of critical pedagogy. Best known for his influential work Pedagogy of the Oppressed – one of the seminal texts of the critical pedagogy movement.


Looking out of the window before landing in Brasilia, the neighbour seat told me that Oscar Niemeyer had just turned 90. The impressive Brazilian architect that laid out the city as an airplane and design the civic buildings when Brasilia became the new Capital in 1960. Always curious about great works of architects like Gaudi, Hundertwasser and the upcoming Norwegian firm Snøhetta. Captivated by Niemeyer’s daunting challenge and exceptional work.

Invited by Fábio Chacón at Universidad Nacional Abierta de Venezuela to be Main Speaker at RIBIE’98. Arranged by the Iberoamerican Network of Educational Informatics. The largest association of scholars and practitioners dealing with educational applications of ICT in the Spanish and Portuguese languages. Several hundred people showed up to listen to my presentation titled: Online Education: Pedagogical, Administrative, and Technological Opportunities and Limitations. The other Main Speakers were Diana Laurillard from the UK Open University and Lucio Teles from Simon Fraser University in Canada. Our conference papers are still available via

ICDE think tank in Barcelona

Towards the Global Virtual University Workshop in BarcelonaIn December, I represented NKI at a think tank in Barcelona. Invited as one of twenty five key players in virtual university development from around the world. To discuss the potential of an ICDE Virtual University. Maybe inspired by the African Virtual University (AVU). A pan-African effort to create an open and affordable distance learning institution. Initiated as a World Bank project in 1997. Developed into an autonomous institution after it was handed over to African governments in 2003.

The workshop was hosted by President Armando Rocha-Trindade at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (OUC). A pioneer open university, established in 1994, which still claims to be the worlds first online university. We met in OUC’s beautiful Rectorat Villa and stayed at Plaça d’Espanya near the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc and Palau Nacional.

The workshop did not have any tangible results, but I remember an excellent dinner with more than enough wine and several international leaders in the field. Among them: Secretary General Reidar Roll and President Armando Rocha-Trindade representing ICDE. Presidents from several prominent open universities in Asia. Helmut Hoyer from Deutche Färnuniversitet, Dominique Abrioux from Athabasca University and Gary Miller representing the World Campus at Penn State.

I  was impressed by the Norwegian Secretary General. How he easily socialised with university leaders from around the world. Gave eloquent and impromptu speeches in English. Knew the formal protocols and mastered the English language. Competencies I wanted to learn.

Returning home early the next morning. In a mute taxi to the airport with Reidar Roll and Ana Perona. I realized that early morning headache could be part of the learning experience.

Some 1998 Events

  • Gro Harlem Brundtland becomes Director General of WHO 27/1
  • Winter Olympics in Nagano opens 7/2
  • Norway beats Brazil 2-1 the soccer World Cup in France. 23/6
  • Oslo Airport Gardermoen opens 7/10

My translated selections of events from

My 1998 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 1998. The Online Teaching System. DEOSNEWS 8(7).

Paulsen, M. F. 1998. The Internet and WorldWide Web – evaluation and experiences: pedagogical, economical and organisational issues. Epistolodidaktika, the European Journal of Distance Education, 1998(1):34-41.

Paulsen, M. F. 1998. Teaching Techniques for Computer-mediated Communication, Ann Arbor, Mi, UMI Dissertation Services. Pages: 297.

Paulsen, M. F. 1998. Online education: Pedagogical, administrative, and technological opportunities and limitations. A paper presented at RIBIE’98.

Lorentsen, A., G. Grepperud, S. Lieberg og M. F. Paulsen. 1998. En ekstern evaluering av et SOFF-støttet fjernundervisningsprosjekt, SOFF Rapportserie, nr. 2, 1998.

Paulsen, M. F. 1998. Nettskoler. CV nr. 2 1998.


1999 - Sojourning Sweden, Svalbard and Sao Paulo

Scandinavian online education barriers

I believed there was a marked for online education across the Scandinavian borders. One more reason to visit Sweden three times in the last year of the millennium. First to the University in Gothenburg in February to establish Nordisk netthøgskole. My first attempt to start a formal Scandinavian online education initiative.

Nordisk netthøgskole

A 1999 screenshot of

The project received financial support from SOFF in Norway and CTU in Denmark. The main project partners were NKI Distance Education in Norway, the virtual university initiative at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, and the Graphic Arts Institute of Denmark. The aim of the project was to establish online education collaboration across the Scandinavian borders and to reveal barriers against such collaboration. But the project had limited success and like many other externally funded projects, it was discontinued when the funding ended.

However, the project revealed important barriers and the final project report discussed these nine:

  1. There is a lack of funding to support Scandinavian online education projects.
  2. Governmental slowness and bureaucratic indecisiveness make it difficult for formal programs to compete in a global, online education market.
  3. Even though Scandinavians have a mutual understanding of the Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish languages; they strongly prefer to use their own language.
  4. There are cultural and pedagogical differences between the countries that make it harder to collaborate.
  5. There is ongoing harmonization of degrees, credits, and grades in Europe. But there is still a significant lack of educational harmonization even between the Scandinavian countries, which makes collaboration difficult.
  6. A strong incentive for collaboration is the prospect of additional income. Norwegians and Danes seem to be much more open-minded than Swedes with regard to student fees for online education.
  7. New educational programs need marketing, and there are few advertising and marketing channels that cover the Scandinavian market.
  8. Scandinavian collaboration could benefit from exemplary, formal agreements and collaboration models that clearly demonstrate win-win situations. Such exemplary models and agreements are scarce.
  9. There is very little focus on online education as an export industry in the Scandinavian countries. Very few institutions have ambitions to offer courses abroad, not even across the Scandinavian borders.

Blended learning and Armagnac in Grythyttan

Måltidets hus Grythyttan

NKI Distance Education had a long and successful history with blended learning. Based on its correspondence courses and face-to-face classes arranged by local partners around Norway. So, in April, we invited our major partners to Grythyttan in Sweden. To discuss how we could offer blended online learning together. One of several memorable NKI seminars Anita Kjensli and Inger Gulbransen organized for NKI’s partners at Folkeuniversitetet and AOF.

My task was to explain how local study centres could organise blended learning based on our online courses. At the cursor moment, I’m sad to say that we never found a model that was both financially attractive enough for our local partners and worth the additional cost for the students.

But it was a culinary delight to stay at Grythyttan Gästgivargård and visit its impressive wine cellar. And a check-out chock for colleague Sveinung to receive the Armagnac bill. We still appreciated the visit to Måltidens Hus and Grythyttan’s Chef and restaurant management school run by the University of Örebro. Hosted in Sweden’s pavilion from Expo ’92 in Seville. A remarkable building that was transported to Grythyttan after the expo.

The Wenner-Gren Symposium, Y2K and virtual universities

Virtual University - Educational Environments of the FutureIn October, I was invited to Stockholm as a speaker at the Wenner-Gren Foundation’s International Symposium “The Virtual University”. The private foundation was established by Axel Wenner-Gren in 1941. The wealthy Swedish entrepreneur who started the successful Electrolux company. A foundation with a long history of organising symposia and seminars for the advancement of anthropology throughout the world.

A simple question initiated the symposium: What will the university be like in the next millennium?

My contribution was titled “Online Education: pedagogical, administrative and technological opportunities and limitations”. As always, I was enthusiastic about the future of online education, but was asked if the year 2000 (Y2K) problem was a challenge for online education. Replied that we had seen a substantial enrolment increase in our COBOL programming course. To update programmers who had designed the vulnerable ICT systems decades earlier.

Following the seminar, Henk J. van der Molen edited the 2001 book «Virtual University?: Educational Environments of the Future«.

Memorable Svalbard phones

Longyearbyen in early May. The world’s northernmost town. Located at the island of Svalbard, far north of the Norwegian mainland. Norgesuniversitetet arranged a seminar about distance education at the university centre. I remember the beautiful midnight sun and the unique scenery from the fast-moving snowmobiles at the polar bear expedition.

We saw the majestic Operafjellet mountain were the Russian Vnukovo Airlines Flight 2801 crashed in August 1996. All 141 passengers and crew members were killed, making it the deadliest aviation accident ever in Norway.

Footprints from the bears were huge and not difficult to find. Reminders of the two separate 1995 instances where people were killed by polar bears. So, everybody had to bring a gun outside the town of Longyearbyen. But the students had to leave their guns at the entrance of the university centre auditorium. I realized that it could be unsafe to give a lousy presentation.

Svalbard 1999

Stayed at Funken hotel where I had vivid discussions with the colourful, intellectual rebellion Tron Øgrim. About Euro – the new  digital currency that was introduced in eleven countries January 1st. That Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary just had joined NATO. About the artificial language Volapyk and the newly launched Iridium satellite telephone network. Launched the in 1998 to provide global telephone access through a network of 66 satellites. As freelance journalist, Tron had got hold of one of the very first Iridium phones and was able to call home to his mother via satellite from Svalbard.

The same day, I received a telephone call from Marith. She was so agitated that she talked English when she asked the receptionist to connect the phone call to my room. Even though the official language at Svalbard is Norwegian. After waiting for nearly five years, we were ready for our second adoption. We even got a picture of a cute Brazilian boy named Marciano.

Embracing Marciano


We left Gardermoen Airport the day after three members of the Orderud family were found shot and killed at their country estate half an hour from the airport.

Still a family of four, we stayed the first night in Sao Paulo and the second on the express bus going west. Arlete helped us check in. Two hotel rooms – the home of two adults and three kids for six weeks. Most families know that this could be a challenge even in more conventional settings. Before internet or mobile phones were available in rural areas.

The first afternoon, we had an appointment at the children’s home. Two bright eyes and a big smile showed up from nowhere. Marciano obviously knew us from the pictures we sent. Ran towards his new brother and embraced Stian. Slippers, shorts and T-shirt. Eager to leave with his blue backpack ready.

The next day was his sixth birthday. A ball and a watch wrapped in colourful paper placed in his bed. Boy hiding under sheets. What happened with his life? Buffet breakfast in the hotel’s crowded dining room. How do you explain a six-year-old how to behave in a very unfamiliar situation? With little command of his language? Well, you could never imagine how much food a boy’s plate could hold.

We ordered the largest birthday cake in town and brought it to the children’s home. What a party! The kids were all around. Climbing and hugging us. Begging to come with Marciano. Storming the fence when we left. Heart-breaking moments that stuck.

The kids’ local favourites were the ice cream parlour around the corner and the modest swimming pool at the hotel roof. Marci copied his older brother in everything. Obviously surprised to realise that he could not swim when they jumped into the swimming pool.

Spent a day at the country club playing soccer and sweating in the sauna. It was a much better experience than the depressing conditions in local Indian reserve.

Brasil 1999Rented a car and drove to beautiful Bonito. Rainy clouds ahead. The lonely dirt road through the jungle landscape was blocked by a caiman cadaver. Three greedy vultures feasting. Should we move the cadaver or spend a rainy night in the car?

When we finally arrived, Bonito was like Garden of Eden. We rested under a tree with five wild and colourful macaw parrots. Lots of wild parakeets. Roadrunner birds we thought only existed in cartoons.

We snorkelled down the Sucuri river with schools of golden carps. Fed them with cheese doodles. One keen enough to leap half a meter above water and bite Marci’s cheese doodle finger. We rafted down a rapid, stopped for lunch and a swim. Fifty meters down the stream, we understood why the Portuguese only speaking guide was uneasy, pointing at the caiman at the riverbed.

Next day, Grotto Azul. Interviewed by a national TV crew as the only foreigners around. Lingering behind to feed the kids when everybody left. Looking for the car keys, only to find them in the front seat of the locked car. Finding a phone at a nearby farm. No idea how my Portuguese was good enough to explain the situation, but after a couple of hours a local wizard arrived on a motor bike with the necessary tools to open the car door.

Wow. We got an invitation to visit the land worker family of Andrea’s adopted twin brother. Equipped with photographs from Norway, small gifts and a football, we hoped to overcome the language barrier. Four shy twin eyes connected – understanding that they both enjoyed popcorn, juice and playing football. The next day, twin brother came along when we were invited to a nearby farm. Four kids riding horses, picking starfruits and watching animals. Memories for life.

Back home, Marci started first grade after just a couple of weeks in Norway.

New media experiences

Morten Flate Paulsen på TV2Online education needed media coverage to attract more potential students in Norway and I gradually thrived in the role as a prominent spokesperson for the field. Still introvert but excited by all the positive attention my online education passion and work created. In 1999, I wrote several magazine and newspaper articles. Was interviewed, cited and promoted in the major national newspapers and radio programs. Most notable were my op-ed in Aftenposten and my four feature stories in Computer World Norway.

Refleks NRK

A new experience to be interviewed as an expert on online education in influential national television programs. First on NRK’s prime time feature program Refleks on January 20th with Kirsti Arntzen who was one of the estimated 5000 online students in Norway that year. We even got NRK’s permission to make the program available online through NKI’s new Real Media Server and 2 Mbps internet connection. These new developments made it possible for people to view video files online if they installed video player software on their PCs.

Later, interviewed by in two TV programmes about distance education on Danish national Television (DR1 and DR2) in April. Finally live on TV2’s Good Morning Norway on September 23rd. I vividly remember waiting backstage together with artists Tomine Harket and Jon Eikemo. All nervous before our five minutes in the spotlight.


Some 1999 Events

  • 11 EU countries adopt the Euro. 1/1
  • Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary become NATO members 12/3
  • Orderud killings 23/5
  • Vladimir Putin becomes prime minister in Russia 9/8
  • Bill Clinton visits Norway 1/11
  • Norway beats France and wins women’s handball World Cup. 12/12

My translated selections of events from

My 1999 Publications

A Dias, D Keegan, R Mason, MF Paulsen, T Rekkedal – 1999. CISAER: A Catalogue of Courses Using the Web.

Paulsen, M. F. 1999. Nettskoler – det nye elektroniske universitet. Kronikk i Aftenposten (05.01.99)

Paulsen, M. F. 1999. Studiemuligheter på nettet. Kronikk i Computerworld Norge (15.03.99)

Paulsen, M. F. 1999. Nettpedagogikk – undervisning på internett, Kronikk i Computerworld Norge (17.03.99)

Paulsen, M. F. 1999. Nettlærerens mareritt. Computerworld Norge (20.10.99)

Rekkedal, P. og Paulsen, M. F. 1999. Voksne kan og vil lære på internett. Computerworld Norge (14.10.99)


The 2000s – Online Education Growth

The 2000 anecdotes are chronicled during 2022

I plan to write about NKI innovations, wifi, multimedia PCs, social media, creative commons, open educational resources.

2000 - Going to Beijing

Canada SPICE

Athabasca University (AU) was established in Alberta in 1970. Offered its first degrees by distance education in 1976. Ten years later it established its Center for Distance Education to become a global leader in distance education. Home of prestigious online journal IRRODL (International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning) when it published its first issue in June 2000. Peter S. Cookson, my venerated Penn State Professor, was the first editor. I was happy to be among the consulting editors with Terry Anderson, Tony Bates, Albert Sangra, Sally Reynolds, Marta Mena and many other internationally esteemed colleagues I knew from my work with DEOS and the American Journal of Distance Education.

I was also appointed Adjunct Professor at the AU, Centre for Distance Education from 1999 to 2005. An appointment that helped me recruit Gail Crawford at AU and Michael Spector at Syracuse University to the SPICE Board of Professors.

Screenshot from the SPICE programSo, in January, I was excited when we introduced NKI’s three first courses in The Specialization Program in International Online Education (SPICE). A program intended for an international market which included the following five CTS credit courses:

  • SPICE 601 Introduction to International Online Education
  • SPICE 602 Design and Development of Online Courses
  • SPICE 603 Online Teaching and Learning
  • SPICE 604 Administration Systems and Support Services for Online Education
  • SPICE 605 International and Comparative Online Education

A group of master students from the University of Syracuse took part in an evaluation of the first three courses in the spring. In the fall, 11 Canadian students completed SPICE 602 with good results as part of the Master of Distance Education program at the University of Athabasca. In November, 17 employees at the University College in Narvik started SPICE 601.

We later got an agreement with DPU (Danish School of Education) granting students a Master degree in ICT Pedagogy if they completed the 30 ECTS credits from SPICE and 30 ECTS credits from DPU.

The old screenshot shows the passworded course content from the SPICE programme, and the SPICE homepage is archived at:

Letter to the Newsweek Editor

Text in Newsweek

Working with the SPICE program, the TeleCampus database and several other international online education initiatives, it was discouraging to experience the online education barriers between the Scandinavian countries. To see the lack of interest in marketing online programs from Norway to an international audience.

I was concerned that the English-speaking world would dominate international online education. Aware that Australia focused on education as an export industry. Frustrated about how difficult it was to recruit international students to online programs in Norway. Could Norwegian institutions ever compete with institutions like “Britain’s Open University”?

So, when Newsweek published the April 24 feature article College Online, I responded with a lengthy letter to the Editor.

To my surprise, the magazine included the following paragraph from my letter on June 5th:

There are now about 30,000 courses available on the Internet for global students. In America, online educators tend to perceive the Internet as their home market; other countries regard it as an opportunity to study online courses from the United States. However, it is harder to dominate the global online-education market than even the soft-drink market.

My abridged comment about soft-drinks was a reference to the preface in Robin Mason’s 1998 book Global Education, were she stated: Unlike the soft drinks market, education is unlikely to be dominated by a few giant providers. Why? Because it is too difficult; there is too little money to be made, too many complex issues to handle, and too great a need for «people skills» rather than technical skills.

The Faroe Island on the radar and echo sounder

Faroe Ilands escursionsOn April 7, we flew to Torshavn. Capital of the Faroe Islands. The exotic, barren and self-governed Danish islands. With a history, nature and language close to Norway. With many friendly locals who told me that they had studied in Norway.

One more exciting workshop organized by Anita Kjensli and Inger Gulbrandsen. A pleasant adventure to travel with NKI colleagues and partners from AOF and Folkeuniversitetet. To discuss flexible education and to eat exotic wild birds or skerpi (air-dried mutton).

Remember the excursion we had with a local fishing vessel. Atlantic puffins and sheep in the steep cliffs. Tore Krogdahl’s seasick face watching the frightening waves. The remarkable navigation inside the caves by the sea cliffs. The fisherman’s statement: If bad weather ― we see seabed on radar and shoreline on echo sounder.

We also visited the Kirkjubøur village, maybe the islands’ most important historical site. With several links to Norway. Sverre Sigurdsson (King of Norway from 1184 to 1202) grew up in the village. Near the 12th century Saint Olav’s Church and the ruins of the Magnus Cathedral.

The private photos show the excursions led by Anita Kjensli and Inger Gulbrandsen.



 and TeleCampus in the dot-com era


I was approached by CH & LO. They planned to establish an international portal for online courses. Based on a new, intelligent search engine. To sell online ads and charge institutions for course listings. The two Norwegian entrepreneurs wanted me as a partner in a start-up they called Probably because I was on the Telecampus advisory board. Along with international experts such as Terry Anderson, Ulrich Bernath, Anne Forster, Linda Harasim, Desmond Keegan and Robin Mason.

Telecampus, the impressive database project headed by Rory McGreal at TeleEducation in New Brunswick. Listing 28000 distance education courses from 30 countries. The world’s leading website for students seeking information about online courses. And for institutions wishing to promote their offerings. A potential partner with a need for funding or other sources of income.

On April 14, the start-up team met with international experts and investors in a posh hotel suite at the Oslo Plaza. With a dream of becoming dot-com billionaires. Unfortunately, or not, we failed to find the necessary investors.

Maybe because the dot-com boom started to fade. Or maybe it was too early. The Bologna declaration had just been signed by education ministers from 29 European countries. A declaration aiming to unify Europe in a three-tier system of Higher Education: Bachelor’s; Master’s and PhD degrees. Paving the way for the much more successful which started out as www. in 2007.

The screenshot is from




In Beijing with Jiang Zemin

Jiang Zemin, President of The People’s Republic of China, spoke at the opening ceremony in Beijing, August 20.

We attended the 16th IFIP World Computer Congress. Along with about 2000 participants from all around the world. IFIP, the International Federation for Information Processing, celebrated its 40th anniversary. Peter Bollerslev from Denmark was IFIP President, and the conference theme was Information Processing Beyond Year 2000.

My energetic friend Jan Wibe was already appointed chair of the International Program Committee for the next IFIP Congress to be held in Montreal in 2002. His promotion of IFIP convinced several of my Norwegian colleagues to join the Beijing congress. I presume he also proposed the session with me as invited speaker and Kjell Atle Halvorsen as chair. So, I gave a one-hour presentation titled An International Analysis of Web-based Education and Strategic Recommendations for Future Development of Online Education.

We spent social breaks discussing recent international news. That 113 people died when the Air France Flight 4590 crashed with one of the iconic Concordes in Paris on July 25. Further 118 when the Russian nuclear submarine K-141 Kursk sunk August 13. After an onboard explosion in the Barents Sea near the coast of northern Norway. That the just elected Russian President Vladimir Putin called the newly elected Norwegian Prime minister Jens Stoltenberg. To thank him for the assistance provided by Norwegian divers and naval experts.

Continental Grand Hotel

It was convenient to stay at Beijing Continental Grand Hotel which was connected by a passage to the Beijing International Convention Centre. But it was impossible for me to read menus at local restaurants or ask people for direction. I nearly got lost as a tourist on my own. So, I printed the above note from the conference website.

The memorable concert at the Beijing Opera House was excellent. But the Chinese gentleman next to me was obviously eager to show off with his new mobile phone. Some of us were really annoyed when he had several loud-mouthed mobile conversations during the concert.

We visited the impressive Ming Tombs, Great Wall, Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The Tiananmen Square brought back memories of the student-led demonstrations during 1989. The tanks and armed troops firing at the demonstrators. Hundreds died; thousands were wounded. Making us worried about China’s growing power and disrespect for human rights.

WCC 2000 in Beijing

The Ivette workshop in Barcelona

Participants at the IVETTE workshopMario Barajas invited us to the University of Barcelona in November. The second of many visits to one of my favourite cities. Known for the works of Antoni Gaudí and Joan Miró. The scene of Ildefonso Falcones’ fascinating 2009 novel The Cathedral of the Sea. The title of Freddie Mercury’s legendary hit with Montserrat Caballé highlighted during the 1992 Summer Olympics.

We were 20 experts at the Ivette workshop Implementation of Virtual Enviroments in Training and Education from November 16-18. Including Armando Rocha-Trinidade, Claudio Dondi, Alfredo Soeiro, Friedrich Scheuerman, Kathy Kikis and Martin Owen.

My paper Online Education – An International Analysis of Web-based Education and Strategic Recommendations for Decision Makers was later translated to Spanish and included in the workshop book. The book was titled La tecnología educativa en la enseñanza superior: entornos virtuales de aprendizaje, edited by Mario Barajas and published by McGraw-Hill in 2003.

It gave me an inspiring boost to realize that some of my papers now were translated to Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

The photo is from

The Danish Parliament and FLUID

Felt honoured and important when I was invited to Landstingssalen at the Christiansborg Palace. The historic auditorium inside the Danish Parliament. To present some analyses and strategic recommendations for online education. At a May 24 conference for Danish politicians and decision makers.

Later, on December 5th, NKI’s Chief Marketing Officer Elisabeth Møystad flew with me to Copenhagen. Vice President Al Gore had not yet conceded defeat to George W. Bush after the very close US presidential election. But we discussed the Rapaport project. Managed by John Russell. The integration between STAS (NKI’s student administrative system), our learning management system and our marketing pages. How we best could personalize and improve our web-courses based on all the information in STAS about students, courses, grades, prices, payments etc.

We were invited by FLUID (the Danish Association of Flexible Education) to present NKI’s experiences with online education. And looked for new opportunities and partners in the Danish market.

Our presentation was titled NKI Nettskolen – 15 Years of Online Education and included the slides below which summarized the status of our achievements.

FLUID Slides

Two slides from the FLUID presentation.


Some 2000 Events

My translated selections of events from

March 17 – Jens Stoltenberg’s first government was appointed.

March 26 – Vladimir Putin is elected president of Russia.

July 25 – Air France Concorde crashes in Paris. 113 people died.

August 13 – The Russian nuclear submarine «K-141 Kursk» sinks in the Barents Sea after an explosion on board. All 118 on board perished.

November 7 – George W. Bush was elected US president.


My 2000 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. The Online Teaching System. Istruzione a distanza e formazione in rete. Anno XII, 16, Aprile 2000: 22-38. Italia.

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. Letter to the Editor. Newsweek, June 5, 2000.

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. Online Education, An International Analysis of Web-based Education and Strategic Recommendations for Decision Makers, NKI. Pages: 137.

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. Utdanningen i IT for lærere ved norske høgskoler. Norsk skoleblad, Nr. 5, 2000.

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. Internett er fjernundervisningens fremtid. Økonomiske Vinterleker 2000: 30-31.

Paulsen, M. F. 2000. Il sistema di insegnamento in linea. Istruzione a distanza e formazione in rete. Anno XII, 16, Aprile 2000: 22-38. Italia.

My 2000 Presentations

In 2000, I gave 4 external presentations in Spain, Denmark, China and Norway.


Online Education – An International Analysis of Web-based Education and Strategic Recommendations for Decision Makers, The Ivette workshop, Barcelona, 17.11.00.


En internasjonal analyse af on-line uddannelse og strategiske anbefalinger til beslutningstagere, Landtingssalen på Christiansborg, København, 24.05.00.

NKI Nettskolen – 15 Years of Online Education, FLUID, Copenhagen, 05.12.00.


Online Education, Beijing, August 2000.


Nettbasert utdanning, Norske Sivilingeniørers Forening, høsten 2000.

2001 Introducing m-learning

Booked in Norway and Denmark

Book web-siteGot a grant to write a book. From the Norwegian Non-Fiction Writers and Translators Association (NFFO). So, in January – after months of work, it was awesome to see it in print. A book in Norwegian presenting my online education experiences and visions. Titled: Nettbasert utdanning – erfaringer og visjoner. Thrilling to find it in local libraries and bookstores.

The blue cover followed by 245 pages. Comprising eight case descriptions and five sections:

1: Online education status and trends in 2000
2: The Online Students
3: Developing and teaching online courses
4: Administrative challenges
5: Globalization and the future of online education

Pleased that Morten Søby provided an insightful postscript. That online teachers and students would share their advice. That Øystein Mjelve wrote the preface and took it for granted that the book would be available on the Internet. So that Truls Fagerberg developed a website with much of the book’s content. Still available in the Internet Archive.

Danish version of the book Nettbasert utdanningThe book sold quite well in Norway and was referred to in several newspapers and articles. Resulted in many interviews and invitations to Scandinavian seminars. So, the Danish publishing house Gyldendal agreed to publish a Danish version. With editorial support from the Danish scholars Jane Andersen and Bent B. Andresen. Adding an overview of online education in Denmark and some Danish case descriptions.

Decided to established A portal for the Danish book as well as my other activities in Denmark which is available in the Internet Archive.

2001 presentations

Flexible net schools will prevailIn 2001, I was busy lecturing about online education. I presented content from my new books at seminars in Oslo and Lillehammer, at Aalborg University in Denmark as well as Midthøgskolan Härnösand and Ericsson University in Sweden.

Introductory picture in my 2001 book. The provocative rhyme could translate to:
Rigid high schools will derail…
Flexible net schools will prevail!

Most memorable were the lectures I made in English in May. Paulo Dias invited me to give a plenary speech titled Online Learning Environments on May 10. At the international conference Challenges 2001 held at the University of Minho in Portugal.

On May 3rd at the Ericsson University in Kista in Sweden. It was titled Online Teaching and came as the successful mobile phone company encountered tough competition and considered a joint venture with Sony. Just before my presentation, the employees received internal information that Ericsson planned to lay off 5000 employees in Sweden. No need to say that the audience was in a terrible mood.

M-learning with Ericsson

PDA and mobile phone for m-learningNKI started its first mobile learning project in 2001. From e-Learning to m-Learning. Funded by the EU Leonardo Project and led by LM Ericsson in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. The other project members were Distance Education International in Ireland, Universita degli Studi di Roma III in Italy, and FernUniversität in Germany. During 2001 we studied international experiences with m-learning, analysed technological solutions and pedagogical needs.

In the spring, we chose to build a learning environment around PDAs (Compaq iPAQ 3630 and 3660) and mobile phones (Ericsson T39 and Ericsson R580). As illustrated in the picture, I used these gadgets to demonstrate mobile access to our two online courses Tutor in distance education and Introduction to International Online Education (SPICE 601).


Screenshot-of-administrative-user-interface-from-the-SESAM-LMSOpen sesame!

March 12th reminded us of the magical phrase in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. The famous fairy-tale from One Thousand and One Nights.

John Russell conducted the official opening of SESAM 3.0. The first version that was integrated with NKI’s student administrative system (STAS). A major update of NKI’s third generation Learning Management System. – SESAM, a catchy acronym for our inhouse developed Scalable Educational System for Administration and Maintenance.

This was a crucial moment. We had reached 10 000 enrolments in online courses during a period of fifteen years. Several thousand online students got new LMS features based on data logged in STAS over many years. Including two decades of data about NKIs correspondence courses and students.

A system conceived and proposed in the internal RappApport proposal written by John Russel and me on March 12, 1998. Specified in NKI’s Rapaport project before the new millennium. Developed with Java programmes and an Oracle database. One of the first LMS systems to integrate with student administrative and accounting systems. A web based LMS that handled user login and access control, personalized user interfaces, communication services, class lists, student presentations and a number of administrative functions and reports for teachers and staff.

The backbone of NKI’s online education innovations and successes the next 12 years. My dream and passion as Director of Development for our online education activities. Continuously improved by enthusiastic in-house developers.

Initial SESAM development teamThe initial SESAM development team is shown in the picture. From left: Tommy Skodje, Stein Bredal, Elsa Brådland, Truls Fagerberg, John Russel, Morten Flate Paulsen and Bente Midtsveen.

The team got important support from Kristin Vigander and intern students Rune Hellem, Marcello Scotto and Isatou Kaira.

This started a decade of evolutionary system development with frequent updates and new releases of functionality in SESAM. SESAM 4.0 and 4.1 were introduced in October and December with several updates for students, teachers and administrative staff:

  • Students could see the grades of their submitted assignments
  • Teachers could register and check grades on submitted assignments
  • The administration got more and better statistics about the activity in the LMS
  • Teachers could see how much they earn
  • Improvements to the forum system
  • Relaunch of Pedagogen, our forum for online teachers
  • Easier printing of course content
  • Improved personal presentations
  • Animated flash demonstration of the web services that are part of a typical course

The ICDE World Conference in Düsseldorf

The Conference Book for the ICDE 2001 World Conference in DüsseldorfIn April, ICDE’s 20th World Conference was hosted in Düsseldorf by the German FernUniversität. Located in the Düsseldorf Congress Centre on the banks of the river Rhine.

My first visit abroad after Norway on March 25 became a member of Schengen. The European legislation making travelling easier to all European countries except from UK, Switzerland and the Balkans. Substituting internal border controls within the Schengen Area with stricter controls at the external borders.

The conference was titled The Future of Learning- Learning for the Future: Shaping the Transition and focused on the convergence of open, distance and virtual learning.

1200 participants from 85 countries could choose between 150 conference sessions, accompanying exhibitions and a typical German conference dinner on Rhine River boats. The conference also provided an internet café since Internet access was hard to find in hotels and conference venues. However, something important started to happen after an alliance of vendors in 1999 decided to collaborate on the IEEE802.11 wireless communication standard. A standard they termed WiFi.

I was one of the many members of the International Programme Committee chaired by Helmut Hoyer, Rektor of the FernUniversität. Recognized for the first time a presentation about Learning Objects and the SCORM e-learning standard that was introduced the year before. Heard about a free online encyclopaedia that was launched in January. Developed by a community of volunteers working for Wikipedia.

Observed that most papers still focused on traditional distance education. Read the collection of nine papers about Student Services at the UK Open University. Written by David Sewart, Mary Thorp, Greville Rumble and others. Eighty pages including tentative conclusions that “…web-based courses have the potential to be more cost efficient than television based distance learning courses, but are less efficient than radio or print-based courses”.

So, it was nice to be on a discussion panel with representatives of some of the few institutions having extensive experiences with: Converting Print-based Distance Education Programs to Online Distance Education Programs.

In the panel, Dominique Abrioux, Peter Cookson and Alan Davis represented Athabasca University. Jocelyn Calvert from Deakin University and Bruce King from University of South Australia presented Australian experiences. My mentor and supervisor Torstein Rekkedal and I shared our NKI findings. Findings we already had presented in the IRRODL article: The NKI Internet College: A Review of 15 Years Delivery of 10,000 Online Courses.

Börje Holmberg, Torstein Rekkedal and Otto PetersMy most memorable conference moment came when Torstein Rekkedal was awarded the ICDE Prize of Excellence for Lifelong Contribution to the field of open learning and distance education. He was the third person in ICDE’s history to receive this prestigious prize. The two previous recipients were Otto Peters and Börje Holmberg and I was able to convene the three of them for a photo session.

September soccer

September soccerEight-year-old son Marciano had started third grade. Still struggling to catch up with his classmates who grew up with the Norwegian language. A charming boy who easily got friends. Five close buddies who still take care of each other. Others who tricked him into pranks they knew were easy to blame on him. So, we had frequent visits to the headmaster’s office and devoted many hours to catch up all nuances of the Norwegian language.

As a daddy of Brazilian kids, I spent a lot of time as a soccer dad. Driving the kids and their friends to matches, training and activities. Even bought a 7-seat Opel Zafira to have additional space for teammates.

On September 11 we were at Haslum training field with Marciano’s soccer team. I had been up much of the night to follow the parliamentary election. Which resulted in a centre-right coalition with Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democratic Party as the new Prime Minister.

At the side line, the soccer parents discussed the rebellious period of Mette-Marit Tjessem Høiby. The commoner and single mother who had just married Crown Prince Haakon. When one of the parents got the first news of the Manhattan terrorist attack. Back home, we followed the horrifying TV-footage from the al-Qaeda attacks. Saw the Twin Towers collapsing as I remembered the striking view from the rooftop.

Learned later that 2927 people died in addition to the 19 al Qaeda hijackers. That four Boing 767 and 757 from United Airlines and American Airlines took off from Boston, Washington and New Jersey. Heading for the major symbolic sites in America. The World Trade Centre, Pentagon and the White House or Capitol Hill.

Events that defined the presidency of George W. Bush, changed international aviation and impacted the world for decades.


Some 2001 Events

My translated selections of events from

January 15 – Wikipedia launches.

January 26 – The 15-year-old Benjamin Hermansen is killed at Holmlia.

March 25 – The Schengen Treaty is implemented in Norway.

August 25 – Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit get married.

September 11 – Four civilian planes were hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists on a suicide mission. Two of them were driven into the World Trade Center in New York. A third plane hit the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.

October 19 – Kjell Magne Bondevik’s 2nd government commences

November 3 – Census declares 4,520,900 inhabitants in Norway.


My 2001 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Rekkedal. 2001. The NKI Internet College: A Review of 15 Years Delivery of 10,000 Online Courses. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 1, Number 2.

Paulsen. M. F. 2001. Strategic Recommendations to Online Educators and Policy Makers. Intervir, Vol2. No1.

Paulsen, M. F. 2001. Nettbasert Utdanning – Erfaringer og Visjoner. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget. Sider: 245.

Paulsen, M. F. 2001. NKI Nettskolen – Refleksjoner etter 10 000 kursinnmeldinger og 15 års fjernundervisning på nettet. I Læring gjennom økonomi, system og prosjekt, red. P. Gottschalk og Anne Welle-Strand. Oslo: NKI Forlaget. 366-376.

Paulsen, M. F. 2001. 10 gode råd om e-læring. Personalnr. 7, 2001.

Paulsen, M. F. 2001. Recomendações estratégicas a Formadores Online e a Decisores Políticos. Intervir, 12-2001. Portugal.


My 2001 presentations

In 2001, I gave 8 external presentations in Denmark, Portugal, Sweden and Norway.


Nettbasert utdanning: Erfaringer og visjoner. Foredrag på Masteruddannelse i Læreprocesser, Aalborg Universitet, 23.03.01.

Online Education: Research and Experiences from the NKI Internet College. A presentation at the e-Learning arrangement. Handelshøjskolen i Århus, Denmark, 13.09.01.


Online Learning Environments, A presentation at Challenges 2001, Portugal, 10.05.01.


Online Teaching, A presentation for the Ericsson University, Kista, Sweden, 03.05.01.

Nettbasert utdanning. Foredrag på Statens skola för vuxna i Härnösand, Sverige, 22.05.01.


Nettbasert utdanning: Erfaringer og visjoner. Didaktikk og Teknologi, Lillehammer, 07.02.01.

Pedagogikk og nettbasert utdanning. Medlemsmøte i REN, Oslo, 30.01.01.

NKI Nettskolen – erfaringer og visjoner etter 15 års nettundervisning, Norsk Hydrologiråd, 24.01.01.

2002 Touring Australia

The Hong Kong break

Hong KongHong Kong, one of the most developed and densely populated cities in the world. The former British colony that was transferred to China when the 99-year lease ended in 1997. A formal event attended by Prince Charles, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Governor Chris Patten. President Jiang Zemin gave an optimistic speech about the future of one country, two systems.

On January 25th, we made a 15-hour stopover on the way from Amsterdam to Brisbane. Had lunch at Stanley Market discussing whether the principle of one country, two systems was going to work. Continued with bus to Lantau Island to visit the Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha). Ended up with dinner at Newton Hong Kong Hotel.

Pleasant memories that made it easy to sympathise with my Hong Kong friends and the thousands of protesters who were arrested during the huge demonstrations during 2019 and 2020. Worrying memories on how blatantly China disregarded the one country, two systems principle negotiated with the United Kingdom before the 1997 takeover.

Tour de Australia

Screenshot of webpage for Australia tourFrom January 25 to February 10, thirty Norwegians and thirteen Swedes participated in an unforgettable traveling seminar. Much time spent discussing and reflecting upon differences and similarities between the educational systems in Norway, Sweden and Australia.

The seminar was arranged by the University College of Lillehammer, which developed a website with information about the seminar and articles written by participants (

The Lillehammer team deserves a lot of credit for making the travelling seminar one of the best experiences in my professional life. The MPI certified Per Eriksson had perfect control over all itinerary details. Mette Villand, Torild Schulstok, Martin Rønningen, Kjell Ivar Iversen, Geir Haugsback and Svein O. Haaland supervised with knowledge and social skills.

There were so many interesting and experienced participants to learn from. Spent much time with Gunnar Myklebost, Vigdis Amundsen, Tore Hoel, Grete Jamissen and Bodil Ask. Colleagues that became friends.

Learned much about distance education in Sweden from Katrin Holmgren, Brittmarie Myringer, Mats Ericson and Carl Holmberg. Mats Ericson, the director general of the newly established Swedish Netuniversity (Nätuniversitetet). The short-lived governmental initiative that provided 41 million Euros for online education in Sweden during its first two years. Carl Holmberg, the wise gentleman who was elected executive committee member at the EDEN 2001 conference in Stockholm.

Started with a get together session at Ibis Brisbane Hotel. Took the bus to Toowoomba and the University of Southern Queensland. The City Cat ferry boat to the University of Queensland. By foot to the Central Queensland University. Went on to Griffith University.

Left Brisbane by bus. With a short stop at Surfers Paradise to get a taste of the Gold Cost before we checked in at Byron Bay Beach Club. Learned that it was acceptable to bring wine to a restaurant from a bottle shop across the street. If the restaurant was not permitted to sell alcoholic beverages. We even collected enough money to buy a bottle of wine when we performed with a local street musician.

After two days of internal seminars and some leisure time, we flew from Brisbane to Sidney. Stayed at the Millennium Hotel and visited the University of Technology. Were lucky to get tickets to Figaro’s Marriage at the Sidney Opera Hose.

Took the ferry boat to Manly and had a photo stop at Nort Point Manly. An unforgettable day with Charles Sturt University staff. A splendid evening at the Radisson Kestral Hotel with plenty of good food and University labelled wine. Followed vigorous amateur performances of Australian and Scandinavian national songs and dances. Happy that it was not me who need to visit the hospital after stumbling down the stairs.

Spent a day at the University of Wollongong before we flew to Cairnes and checked in at Cairnes Colonial Club. Visited James Cook University and Green Island where we snorkelled at the Great barrier reef. Trilled to swim among green turtles, giant clams, fluorescent corals, and fish of all colours.

Happy Hour University

Marylin and meI first understood the cultural difference between Australian and Scandinavian educators on the Queensland bus tour. As usual, I chose to change seat and sit with another colleague after each pit stop. To pick new brains. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who made me realize that contrary to Scandinavian educators, the Australians perceived education as an export industry.

One evening we went to a restaurant to experience local dishes of kangaroo and crocodile meat. There, we had to wait in the bar with Marilyn Monroe until a table was available. We ordered and paid for one drink each but didn’t realize it was happy hour before we all had drinks in both hands. The table was soon ready, the drinks hurriedly finished, and our spirits rose rapidly.

The next day we met with a zealous international relations officer at an Australian university who proposed to establish collaborative master’s degrees, allowing students to spend one year in Scandinavia and one year in Australia. His scheme included offering students two master’s degrees, one from Scandinavia and one from Australia. Then, I immediately realized that I wanted to retire in an Australian Beach house and establish a company with the slogan Happy Hour University: Get two degrees for the price of one.

More seriously, I summarized my Australian experiences in the IRRODL article: Online Education Systems in Scandinavian and Australian Universities: A comparative study.

Available at

Verkmenntaskólinn and termal tubs in Akureyri

Verkmenntaskolinn in Akureyri

Picture from

In May, 15-year-old son Stian joined me on a trip to Akureyri, a small town in northern Iceland. A nice opportunity for father and son to bond. On the flight to Iceland, he told me LimeWire had become a popular a peer-to-peer service. Substituting Napster which ceased operations in 2001 after losing a wave of lawsuits about copyright infringement. Services that made it possible to download copies of popular CDs and movies. Downloads that could take hours and days to complete with the available bandwidth.

We were eight people in the tiny aircraft flying north from the Keflavik Airport. Spent the first day at the municipal Akureyri Thermal Pool. Enjoyed the outdoor area with hot geothermal tubs with varying temperatures up to 42°C.

The next day, Stian was excited to join a whale watching tour on the Eyjafjörður Fjord. As I gave the presentation Online Education: Experiences and Aspirations at the Verkmenntaskólinn Vocational College.

The third day, our host took us on a day trip to the area around Mývatn – the lake of midges – named by the large numbers of mosquitos in the area. A fascinating landscape that reminded me of hell. A volcanic terrain, boiling water ponds, a lot of vapour, smell of sulphur, lava pillars, minimal vegetation and a lot of mosquitos.


Web-edu project membersThe Web-edu project organized its final project conference at the Portuguese Universidade do Minho in Braga on November 5.

Supported by the European Leonardo da Vinci programme in 2001 and 2002 to study experiences with Learning Management Systems (LMS) in online education and training.

The project partners were Tecminho (Portugal), Distance Education International (Irland), Fern Universität (Germany), Næringslivets kompetansenett (Norway), Minho University (Portugal) and Inofor (Portugal). Project members from left: Helmut Fritsch, X X, Y Y, Paulo Dias, Ana Dias, Pedro Pimenta, Z Z, Gro-Anett Olsen, Morten Flate Paulsen and Carina Baptista.

The picture of the project members is from the project’s archived website at

ZIFF Papiere 118The final conference was titled e-Learning: the role of Learning Management Systems and presented project results that were fresh from the German FernUniversität press as ZIFF Papiere 118. The report is archived at

The report presented the major findings from our six regional analyses. Data was collected from in-depth interviews with 113 experts in 17 countries. Usually the e-learning systems managers in the institutions. The analyses of the interviews revealed as many as 52 different commercial and 35 self-developed LMS systems.

The most used commercial systems in the analyses were:

  1. BlackBoard (14 institutions)
  2. WebCT (20 institutions)
  3. FirstClass (7 institutions)
  4. TopClass (7 institutions)
  5. Lotus Learning Space (6 institutions)
  6. ClassFronter (16 institutions)
  7. LUVIT (5 institutions)
  8. Tutor2000 (5 institutions)

However, the European market was not dominated by the American systems. In the countries that did not use English as their first language, locally developed LMS systems had successfully repelled the American products. A remarkable large number of the LMS systems used in Europe were commercial systems developed locally or self-developed systems at the institutions.

Boldic kick-off in Kaunas

Screenshot of Baldic web-page

My first visit to the Baltic countries was to attend the Boldic kick-off meeting on November 10-12. Just a month before EU announced that the three Baltic countries would join the union next May.

Arrived the modest airport in Kaunas late in the evening. Without any Lithuanian litas and no money exchange at the airport. Fortunately, one of the taxi drivers accepted my dollar bills.

Jørgen Grubbe was coordinator of the project that was funded by the European Socrates programme. A project aiming to establish a network for exchange of experiences in open and distance learning between Baltic and Nordic countries. The Nordic Associations of Distance Education were represented by Astrid Berg and Jørgen Grubbe (Denmark), Jorma Rinta Kanto (Finland), Erica Sahlin (Sweden) Ingeborg Bø and me (Norway).

The Baltic countries were represented by Sirje Virkus (Estonia), Ilmars Slaidins (Latvia) and Danguolė Rutkauskienė and Audronė Valiuškevičiūtė (Lituania).

The visit and our hospitable Lithuanian hosts increased my interest for the Baltic countries. All the friendly people I encountered and their historic relations with the Soviet Union and the Nordic countries.

Discussed with Ingeborg Bø what we could do to encourage collaboration between the Nordic and Baldic countries. And we decided to propose a Boldic Award. An initiative that later materialized as a yearly award from 2005 to 2016.

The Swedish problems in Ronneby

Netlearning2002Netlearning2002, was held on November 27 in Ronneby in the south of Sweden. An international conference arranged by the Swedish Council for the Renewal of Higher Education and Blekinge Institute of Technology.

My presentation was titled Global Learning. Focusing on international competition in online education. Intended to provoke the Swedish participants as I was invited to the closing panel with Elsebeth Koorsgaard, Erwin Wagner, Lars Haikola and Jonas Almqvist. We discussed Future trends and strategies in front of several hundred people in the Ronneby Congress Center.

I still remember the uncomfortable and ambivalent reactions in the audience when I got the last words at the conference. Presenting my slides with the Swedish problems. Concluding that Sweden would have significant problems competing with online education in other countries since Sweden lacked the economic incentive for change.

The following is a transcript of my statement. A personal, political statement from a Norwegian who intended to stir discussion among the Swedes:

The first Swedish problem is cost-effectiveness. In Norway, online students typically pay € 4,000 for the equivalent of one-year full-time study. Swedish universities receive € 12,000 in governmental funds for this. Three times more than they do for on-campus students. This lavish funding increases development of online courses, but it could easily set a standard for future overspending. In my opinion, the Swedish approach is unwise and not cost-effective.

The second problem has to do with tuition fees. In most countries, there is increasing acceptance of commercialization of education. Swedish universities are still not allowed to charge tuition fees from individual students. Norwegian universities and colleges can charge tuition fees for further and continuing education. This has made it the most dynamic and innovative sector of education. Since Sweden lacks this economic incentive for change, Sweden will have significant problems competing with other countries in the emerging global online education market.

Therefore, I would like to give a personal piece of advice to the Swedish Ministry of Education and to Nätuniversitetet. As I see it, online education in Sweden is far from cost-effective. And it is not sustainable. I predict that most of the online courses that have received financial support from Nätuniversitetet will not be offered again when the lavish, external funding stops. When that happens, another economic incentive should be in place. And I am convinced that Sweden must accept that students pay tuition fees for further and continuing courses that are taught online.

First digital selfie

Mustek gSmart Mini2In December 2002, I bought a Mustek gSmart Mini2. So small, cheap and good I realized that digital cameras would be a standard feature in future mobile phones. So, on December 13, I took my very first digital selfie at my NKI office desk in front of my Compaq ipac. My hand-held PDA (personal digital assistance).

I later learned that the term selfie probably first appeared in 2002. And that Nokia 7650 was available in Norwegian outlets before Christmas in 2002 as the first mobile phone with built in camera.


Some 2002 Events

My translated selections of events from

January 1 The euro is introduced

June 14 – The Quality Committee (Kvalitetsutvalget) recommends introducing national tests of student’s basic skills in Norwegian primary school

December 13 – EU announces that ten new members (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Malta and Cyprus) will join the Union from May 1, 2004.


My 2002 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. Online Education Systems in Scandinavian and Australian Universities: A Comparative Study. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning. Volume 3, Number 2.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. An Analysis of Online Education and Learning Management Systems in the Nordic Countries. Online Journal of Distance Learning Administration, Volume V, Number III, Fall 2002.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. The Swedish Problems. A statement presented in the final panel discussion at Netlearning2002 in Ronneby. Per Distans 2002(4):19.

Paulsen et al. 2002. Web-Education Systems in Europe. Zentrales Institut für Fernstudienforschung, FernUniversität, Hagen. Pages: 166.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. Nettbasert Utdanning – Erfaringer og Visjoner. København: Gyldendal. Sider: 232.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. Sistemas de Educação Online: Discussão de Termos. In Keegan, D.; Dias, A.; Baptista, C.; Olsen, G.; Fritsch, H.; Föllmer, H.; Micincova, M.; Paulsen, M. F.; Dias, P. & Pimenta, P. E-learning. O Papel dos Sistemas de Gestão da Aprendizagem na Europa. Inofor, Portugal.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. Sistemas de Gestão da Aprendizagem nos Países Nórdicos. In Keegan, D.; Dias, A.; Baptista, C.; Olsen, G.; Fritsch, H.; Föllmer, H.; Micincova, M.; Paulsen, M. F.; Dias, P. & Pimenta, P. E-learning. O Papel dos Sistemas de Gestão da Aprendizagem na Europa. Inofor, Portugal.

Paulsen, M. F. 2002. Experiências Europeias com Sistemas de Gestão da Aprendizagem. In Keegan, D.; Dias, A.; Baptista, C.; Olsen, G.; Fritsch, H.; Föllmer, H.; Micincova, M.; Paulsen, M. F.; Dias, P. & Pimenta, P. E-learning. O Papel dos Sistemas de Gestão da Aprendizagem na Europa. Inofor, Portugal.


My 2002 presentations

In 2003, I gave 8 external presentations in Portugal, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.


Web-edu: A Study of Learning Management Systems for Online Education. A presentation at Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal. 05.11.02.

An Analysis of Online Education and LMS Systems in the Nordic Countries. A presentation at Universidade do Minho, Braga, Portugal, 05.11.02.


Online Education: Experiences and Aspirations. Haldin í Verkmenntaskólanum á Akureyri 31.05.02. Iceland.


Teknologiske og markedsmessige trender i nettbasert utdanning. Et foredrag på konferansen Bredbånd og digitalt innhold i det skandinaviske triangel. Arrangert av Norges ambassade i Danmark, 19.11.02.

Erfaringer og visioner i den netbaserede uddannelse. Foredrag for DPUs Master i pædagogisk IT i København, 04.09.02.

Erfaringer og visioner i den netbaserede uddannelse. På KKAs seminar i København, 27.08.02.


Global Learning. A presentation at the Netlearning2002 conference in Ronneby, Sweden. 27.11.02.


En analyse av nettbasert utdanning og LMS systemer i Norden. Presentert på UFDs internseminar, 29.08.02.

2003 Booking global education in a Scandinavian perspective

Depressed at Delphi kick-off in Barcelona

Back in Barcelona on January 13 and 14. For the Delphi kick-off meeting at the Vall Hebrón Campus. A project supported by the EU programme Minerva. To establish an internet-based observatory on e-learning innovation in thirty EU-funded projects.

With Mario Barajas at Universitat de Barcelona, Katerina Kikis at Forth, Barbara Jones at University of Manchester, Fritz Scheuermann at Universität des Saarlandes, Peter Mirski at Management Center Innsbruck and Torstein Rekkedal at NKI.

Screenshot of the project website at

Felt depressed at the hotel room. Watching CNN, I realized the Iraq war was imminent. Pope John Paul condemned it. Said it still could be avoided and that it would be a defeat for humanity. But British PM Tony Blair, a staunch ally of President George W. Bush, stated that Saddam posed a threat. With his alleged development of weapons of mass destruction.

Decided to see the Columbus monument with Torstein Rekkedal. Bewildered by the direction Columbus pointed. More towards Iraq than America? Disappointed that the observation deck was closed. Heading up la Rambla, we passed the Liceu Opera House. Stopped at the box office and got two last hour, one-euro tickets for the evening. To Vincenzo Bellini’s opera Norma. Reminding us of the Gallic revolt against the Roman occupiers.

Online education trends in Hamburg

My first EADL conference was in Hamburg in May. EADL – The European Association for Distance Learning. Giving me an awkward first impression of entering a gentlemen’s club for wealthy correspondence school owners. But also access to important discussions on how to develop and administrate cost effective education. And valuable insight in how to promote and advertise educational programs

. Practical business cases and marketing knowledge often missing in academic educational conferences dominated by public educators.

The EADL 2003 Annual Conference was held at the Hotel Hafen Hamburg, May 14 to 16. Just six months before Skype was released with a user-friendly interface to Voice over IP calling.

The main theme of the Conference was: The Learning Business in a Changing World. Survival of the Fittest. In the round table discussion about online education trends, I used the below slide to introduce seven important trends.

Had to visit Reeperbahn with a female colleague. A centre of Hamburg’s nightlife and the city’s major red-light district. Also nicknamed die Sündigste Meile (the most sinful mile).

Some of us got a tour of ILS – Institut für Lernsysteme. A distance education institution with an impressive operation optimized for correspondence courses. On demand printing and German efficiency in all manual operations. Perfection of a business not fit for survival.

Speech synthesised school

Visited Morten Tollefsen and his guide dog at their home office. The blind pioneer who started to help people with disabilities to utilize ICT services. Impressed by the tools he demonstrated, the competency and skills he possessed. Glad his company would work with NKI and FUNKIS (the Association for Adapted Adult Education in Norway). On a project to improve universal design in online education. Helping blind, visually impaired and dyslectic students. But also providing better services for all students.

Maybe the world’s first fully speech synthesised school? Based on a project supported by SOFF in 2001 and 2002. Providing a free service powered by ReadSpeaker.

A complimentary service that allowed NKI’s 6000 online students to listen to all text included in 400 different online courses. To listen to “Henrik” with no need for special software or hardware. To hear “Henrik’s” speech synthesised voice in front of the actual webpage or from a downloaded MP3-file.

Speech synthesised school

Screenshot of the NKI-hompage with Readspeaker.

Honorary Doctor Rekkedal

I worked closed with Torstein Rekkedal. He supported and inspired me in many ways. On June 14, he went to Newcastle upon Tyne. To receive the award Honorary Doctor of the British Open University. For his “notable contribution to the educational or cultural wellbeing of society”.

The Open University news release included this information:

Torstein Rekkedal is director of research and development at NKI Distance Education, the leading distance education institution in Norway. He has been active in distance education research since 1970. In 2000 he was awarded the Roll of Honour from the European Association for Distance Learning and in 2001 he received The Prize of Excellence for Lifelong Contribution from the International Council for Open and Distance Education. He chairs the Norwegian Standing Committee on Quality in Distance Education.

Honorary Doctor Rekkedal

Adoption networks

In September 2003 we celebrated our 10th anniversary at Langesund Hotel and Water Park. Six couples from the Oslo region that first met during evening classes in an adoption preparation course. Organized by Adopsjonsforum during the fall of 1993. A typical year with 543 Norwegian adoptions from abroad. A number that was quite stable during the decade. But decreased steeply towards 46 in 2020.

We were six families counting 25 people at the anniversary. Our firstborn son Stian, twelve adults and twelve lively kids from Brasil, China, Colombia, India, Korea and Ethiopia. Six families that met six Sundays per year – starting in 1993.

The adults continued the tradition after the kids grew up and left home. At the cursor moment, we have just enjoyed a weekend together in Kragerø. Making me ponder about next year’s 30th anniversary. Remember the four visits from good people who helped us in Brazil. And the gatherings with our “Brazilian” network in Norway. Holyday retreats with Norwegian families that had adopted kids from Brazil. First at Pers Hotel at the Gol Mountain Village in 94. Then, in 95 and 96, at the Hove Summer Camp at the Tromøya island near the coastal town of Arendal. Finally, in July 2000, we rented a holyday home at the Danish water park in Lalandia.

Always many lively kids, much commotion and a lot of Brazilian temper. Parents sharing familiar challenges, useful advice and touching stories. Good memories and valuable experiences that probably made us more open-minded humans. Some of the many adoption-related encounters that have enriched my life.

Important networks of resourceful parents with some common challenges. That shared experiences, joy and questions. About adoption and parenthood. Networks few fathers I know benefit from. Many gatherings that have influenced my emotional life and personality. And hopefully made me a better father.

The Rosing Award

On November 24, the Norwegian Computer Society (DND) celebrated its 50th anniversary. The conference programme included Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, HKH Crown Prince Haakon, DND President Truls Berg and Gard Titlestad from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

The conference highlight was still the Rosing Awards. Perceived as the national Oscar awards for the ICT community in Norway. Named after the Norwegian ICT pioneer Fredrik Rosing Bull. So, it was an honour for NKI to receive Rosing’s Competency Award for 2003. A memorable pleasure for me to receive the Rosing Statuette along with a hug from the popular TV host Hilde Hummelvoll who was the conference conferencier. In front of the eminent piano entertainer Ingrid Bjørnov.

Rosing Award

In its laudation of NKI the jury stated:

The Rosing Competence Award 2003 goes to an organization that has been a pioneer in its field. The organization has in an excellent way used ICT to adapt to a new reality. The organization has transformed itself in a way that has gained great recognition even internationally. Not only has the organization raised its internal ICT competence to achieve its goals, but through its activities it has contributed to increasing the ICT competence of thousands of people in several countries.

After the conference, I was privileged to serve three years as a jury member for the Rosing Competency Award. Along with: Bernt Nilsen, Terje Mikalsen, Øystein Mjelve and Fred Arne Ødegaard.

Global e-learning in a Scandinavian perspective

I had published a stream of articles and reports in English and realized I could write a comprehensive book on online education and learning management systems. With a Scandinavian perspective on e-learning around the world. An ambitious project that resulted in a massive book.

So nice to see it in print in November. With forewords by the former and newly elected EDEN presidents Ervin Wagner and Ingeborg Bø. A Canadian postscript by President Dominique Abrioux of Athabasca University. Comprehensive descriptions of online education in Denmark and Sweden by Søren Nipper and Carl Holmberg.

Quotes from the book about online education

Screenshot from archived

Three hundred and thirty-six pages summing up my work, research and experiences. Divided in four parts:

  1. Online Education, Teaching, and Learning
  2. Commercial and Self-developed Learning Management Systems
  3. Global E-learning in a Nordic Perspective
  4. International Trends and Future Developments

With several Nordic case descriptions such as: Bjørn Helgeby – Online Teacher of the Year; Globalskolen – A Global Primary School; The Scandinavian Virtual Universities; The Swedish Challenges; and The NKI Internet College – Two Online Decades.

The book was used as readings for the Boldic 2003 International Online Conference from October 27 to November 21 and resulted in many conference invitations. It received many good reviews and here are some statements that meant much to me:

  • It is a pleasure to welcome a major book on e-learning from a European author….This book should be of the greatest interest to the European Commission and steps should be taken at once to draw the attention of senior administrators within the Commission to it… (Desmond Keegan, Distance Education International, Ireland)
  • The book is interesting, important, innovative, international, and impressive. (Dr. Erwin Wagner, former President of EDEN)
  • One is overwhelmed by the amount of material presented in the book – and impressed by the clear structure of its presentation. (Christian Dalsgaard, University of Aarhus, Denmark)
  • [It] is an interesting and important contribution to the growing literature on technology-enabled learning…. the scope of the book goes far beyond LMS, providing a very useful historical and international review and perspective of online education. (Eilif Trondsen, Ph.D., Founder and CEO, eLearning Forum, U.S.A)
  • This book is a much welcomed addition to the literature on the development of online education. It is of great interest not just because the author reports and builds on the evolution of e-learning pedagogy and learning management systems in the Nordic countries, but because he does so from a comparatist’s perspective. (Dominique Abrioux, President of Athabasca University, Canada)
  • This book is designed for a broad, international audience and is a must-have for anybody in the business of running online education. (Sirje Virkus, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
  • This is a «must have» resource for students, practitioners and policy-makers in the online education world. (Norine Wark, MDE, Athabasca University, Canada)
  • …it is evident that this book is not only of great interest but also a kind of thesaurus of information on online education of very great value to distance educators and others who are interested in the status of online education today. (Börje Holmberg, Sweden)

The book can be downloaded from and its website is archived at

Ipswich gap

Bridging the gapI have no recollection of how I got to Ipswich. But I did go to the British Telecom Lab in Adastral Park. Invited by Gearoid O Suilleabhain, project co-ordinator of the the Minerva BiTE project. To give a keynote presentation titled: Trends and Future Developments in European Online Education. My contribution is included in the conference report titled Bridging the gap – from face-to-face to the e-learning environment. A report that is available at



Some 2003 Events

My translated selections of events from

February 1 – The space shuttle «Columbia» disintegrates over Texas, on its way back to Earth. All seven astronauts on board perish.

March 11 – The International Criminal Court is established in The Hague.

March 17 – Iraq war: US President George W. Bush gives Iraqi Saddam Hussein 48 hours to surrender in a televised speech.

March 19 – Iraq War: US launches «surgical» attacks with cruise missiles and bombs.

March 20 – Iraq war: massive bombings and rocket attacks on Iraq.

May 1 – US President George W. Bush declares that major combat operations in Iraq have ended.

December 13 – Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is captured by US forces outside Tikrit.


My 2003 Publications

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Experiences with Learning Management Systems in 113 European Institutions. Educational Technology & Society. 6(4):134-148.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Globalskolen: A Global Primary School. Skoleavisa Globalnytt. March 20, 2003.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Online Education and Learning Management Systems. Global E-learning in a Scandinavian Perspective. Bekkestua: NKI Forlaget.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. E-learning – The State of the Art. Bekkestua: NKI.

Paulsen, M. F. and T. Fagerberg. 2003. Student Support Systems for Online Education. Bekkestua: NKI.

Paulsen, M. F., T. Fagerberg and T. Rekkedal 2003. Student support systems for online education available in NKI’s integrated systems for internet based e-learning. In Rekkedal, T. et al. 2003. The role of student support services in e-learning. Page 88-98. Zentrales Institut für Fernstudienforschung, FernUniversität, Hagen.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Europeiske synspunkter på LMS-systemer. I Dialog og nærhet – IKT og undervisning, red. Nordkvelle, Y. T., Haugsbakk, G., og Fritze, Y.(red.). Oslo: Høyskoleforlaget.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Erfaringer fra EU-prosjekter. Forskning nr 2-2003.

Paulsen, M. F. 2003. Un Análisis Internacional de la Educación Basada en la Web y Recomendaciones Estratégicas para el Desarrollo Futoro de la Enseñanza en Línea. In Barajas, M. (Coor.) La Technología Educativa en la Enseñanza Superior: Entornos Virtuales de Aprendizaje. 203-208. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.


My 2003 presentations

In 2003, I gave 19 external presentations: 7 in Denmark, 4 in Sweden, 5 in Norway, 1 in UK, 1 in Germany and 1 on video.

UK, Germany and video

Trends and Future Developments in European Online Education. Keynote presentation at a conference organized by the Minerva BiTE project. Ipswich, 05.12.03.

Online Education Trends. Contribution at Round Table Discussion, EADL Conference, Hamburg. 14.05.03.

Findings and recommendations from the CISAER and Web-edu projects. A videoconference presentation, 25.04.03. A multimedia version is available for broadband users.


Nettbasert utdanning i stor skala. Et foredrag holdt på Schæffergården i København, 20.05.03.

Pædagogiske muligheder i netbaseret undervisning. Et foredrag holdt for Københavns Dag- og Aftenseminarium, 14.08.03.

Learning Management Systemer. Et foredrag på Uddannelsesforum2003. Odense, 01.10.03.

Anekdoter: En student og en lærer ved NKI Fjernundervisning. Et foredrag på Uddannelsesforum2003. Odense, 02.10.03.

Netbasered uddannelse nu og i fremtiden. Et foredrag på temadag om læring, informationskompetence og e-læring i biblioteker. Frederiksberg Hovedbibliotek, 29.10.03.

Fjernunderviserkompetencer. Et foredrag for eLearnCenteret ved CVU Sønderjylland. 13. 11.03. Middelfart, Danmark.

Hvordan ser fjernundervisning ud i Skandinavien om fem år? Et foredarag på fjernundervisningsdagene 2003, 13.11.03. Middelfart, Danmark.


Nettbasert utdanning: Erfaringer fra NKI Fjernundervisningen. En workshop for Nätuniversitetet, Midthögskolan, Sundsvall, 18-19.02.03.

Svenske utfordringer i et globalt, nettbasert utdanningsmarked. Foredrag ved Luleå unversitet med videooverføring til Boden og Skellefteå, 20.02.03.

Fra småskala forsøk till storskala drift. En analyse av europeiske erfaringer med LMS-systemer med speciell fokus på de Nordiske landene. Luleå Universitet, 20.02.03.

Nätbaserad utbildning -Nordiska och internasjonella erfarenheter och visioner. Et foredrag holdt i Göteborg på et seminar i regi av Fronter, 03.06.03.


Fra småskalaforsøk til storskala drift. Et foredrag på konferansen Didaktikk og teknologi. Lillehammer, 14.02.03.

Teknologiske og markedsmessige trender i nettbasert utdanning. Foredrag for eForum Norge, 04.03.03.

Trollet med de tre hodene: Learning, Management, and System. Et foredrag på Fronters brukerkonferanse, 22.09.03.

Pedagogiske utfordringer i nettbasert utdanning. Et foredrag på Empirikas seminar som inngår i et 15 poengs kompetanseprogram ved Høgskolen i Gjøvik om nettpedagogikk rettet mot offentlig sektor. Lillehammer, 24.09.03.

Trends and Future Developments in Online Education. Presentation for a Chinese delegation from NEEA visiting ICDE. Oslo, 08.12.03.


+ 2004 Tracking turn around time

+ 2005 Learning with EADL

+ 2006 Learning with partners

+ 2007 Working with megatrends in online education

+ 2008 Profiling students

+ 2009 Living in Portugal

The 2010s – Online Education Becomes Mainstream

I plan to publish these chapters in 2023 and write about smartphones and ipads, video conferencing, MOOCs, electronic badges and alternative digital credentials, learning analytics.

+ 2010 Chairing EDEN

+ 2011 Loosing a platform

+ 2012 Quitting NKI and starting NooA

+ 2013 Teaching in Trondheim

+ 2014 Reflecting MOOCs

+ 2015 Going North

+ 2016 Boarding FUN

+ 2017 Coming to Kragerø

+ 2018 Serving ICDE

+ 2019 Celebrating online education around the world

Invited Afterthoughts on the Four Decades of Online Education

Alan Tait writes about learning and the digital revolution

The digital revolution and distance and online learning: some personal observations

By Alan Tait
Professor Emeritus of Distance Education and Development
The Open University, UK

I was delighted to be asked by Morten F. Paulsen to contribute some personal observations on living through the last 30 years of the as yet unfinished digital revolution, in particular as to its reworking of how we offer and organise learning and teaching at a distance and online. In my partial retirement it is a topic I have often reflected on, albeit in a relatively unorganised and certainly unscholarly way. So, this invitation is perfect!

The Open University

The core innovations that led to the foundation of the Open University in 1969, along with the political and social changes that enabled them, were essentially a combination of existing technologies but assembled in new ways. These included the industrially organised postal system, high quality colour printing, the invention of new kinds of texts for learning, the use of tv and radio for educational purposes, individualised and student focused tutoring, the use of telephone for group tutorials, all wrapped up together in what was itself an innovation, and can be called educational logistics. These combined to provide what were widely regarded as qualitatively new standards of learning and teaching, even if the goal of changing the understanding of who could go to university was, initially at least, regarded with considerable scepticism.

While early computer supported learning systems were well known, especially in training in industry and the military, these were not adopted at the OU U.K., where an inchoate and implicit form of constructivism defeated the ideas of those who wanted the university to create computer supported learning pathways that made it impossible for students to diverge from the defined learning goal. This might be appropriate, it was successfully argued, for rats trying to find their way out of a maze, but nor for students trying to make sense of their learning.

The digital revolution

So technological innovation, informed by the new or at least newish discipline and practice of educational technology, lay at the heart of my professional world. And that array of technologies whose combination itself represented a technology, remained stable for some 20 years. They strongly influenced the establishment of many open universities around the world and opened access to Higher Education for many millions. There were attempts to introduce other analogue technologies during that period, for example distributing via satellite video lectures to huge territories without access to educational opportunity, with an array of learning centres where students were supposed to gather. But such experiments mostly provided a lesson on how to fail to introduce new technologies, and the generic open university approach remained for the most part unchallenged.

Then in the early 1990’s or so the digital revolution made its challenging entry, for myself first in the form of email and desktop computers for managing text, although elsewhere in the university it began to transform student records and logistics. By that time, the educational radicals of the Open University U.K. were in many cases in their 40’s and 50’s. And it seems to be true that while the technologies we grow up with, and perhaps up to the age of 40, are seen as part of the natural world, those that come later in our lives for some at least intrude as a personal challenge and an unwelcome one at that. I have a relative aged 82 who has never yet sent or received an email. She has just avoided this whole thing for 30 years.

So I remember working in an office of some 60 people in this period when the first desktop, just one, was installed for all of us to queue up and use, with its black screen and winking green text. And I sent the first email in my life, which was as it happens to Terry Evans at Deakin University, Australia. It could hardly have travelled further. And some 5 minutes later I received a reply. I couldn’t believe it. I think literally as well as metaphorically my mouth dropped open. Suddenly the world changed shape, and some dimensions of geographical distance, of time, and of communicating, sharing and working with others, were changed forever. I remember as early as 1989 reading the book ‘Mindweave’, edited by Robin Mason and Tony Kaye, which reported a number of case studies of text based interaction in educational contexts that really opened my eyes as to what was possible in terms of supporting learning. It was not the broadcast version of technology – one to many- but the emergent social constructivist model of meaning making, by many with many.


But those who were armoured against new technological innovations, over and above the ones we had worked with for the last 20 years, represented themselves as weary skeptics in the face of naive tech enthusiasts who had no understanding of ‘real’ communication, ‘real’ relationships’, or ‘real’ learning. And for an innovative technology supported university just 20 or so years old in the 1990’s, there were a surprising number of such conservatives who refused to model continued innovation, and who gradually became more and more forlorn and unhappy voices. Their refusal to acknowledge the far-reaching reality of the digital revolution for the ways in which we organised learning, teaching and services for students as well as so many other things did not finally exhaust itself in a small number of cases until their embittered retirement some 20 or more years later.

Social and economic models

More worthwhile critiques could however have been made. If we paid attention to the major technology revolutions of the last 500 years, selectively the printed book, the industrial factory, the railway, electricity, the internal combustion engine, the oil industry, the airplane etc, we can see a number of characteristics that they have in common. Firstly, they are too often driven by highly talented but egocentric individuals who have little regard for their fellow citizens whose lives their uninvited technologies are transforming, in some cases seriously impoverishing them at the same time as enormously enriching themselves. These same individuals avoid regulation by the state, avoid taxes, and avoid social responsibility at all costs. At least for a while. In the meantime, some at least set up philanthropic foundations to deflect such a critique. And it is also true that the digital revolution was a significant enabler of neo-liberalism, that set of ideas proposed in tandem by US President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Premier Margaret Thatcher as enormously innovative and liberating, but in my eyes representing very old-fashioned as well as ugly social and economic models. And the digital revolution made possible the reinvention of money as an instantly transferable electronic good that hugely reinforced the power of those who had it at the expense of local tax systems and labour forces. In due course this led to the devastating financial crash of 2008, deriving from a combination of incompetence and corruption that affected the living standards of many millions who had no responsibility for it at all. But I hope and believe that regulation and taxes are catching up now with what have become the great innovative tech monopolies. They have done with all the other tech revolutions.

For profit colleges

And if we come back to distance and online learning we have to acknowledge that our field has also had some of the threats and challenges as represented above, as well as the strengths and opportunities that we prefer to talk about. Not least has been the rise and thankfully in part at least the fall of the online for profit college. Especially but by no means only in the USA these colleges have sought out through their marketing the less advantaged sectors in a population, made promises on the spectrum of irresponsible to downright dishonest about the potential to improve earning power, and then seen their students laden by debts taken on to pay tuition fees dropout and fail in very large numbers. You could call such colleges generically ‘Trump University’ – yes there really was such an institution! But once again while the digital revolution has in an innovative way provided the means for such exploitative practices, in fact they take us back to so many – but not all – of the nineteenth and twentieth century correspondence schools who worked in essentially similar ways and for similar pecuniary motives. But the online for profit college phenomenon has now in the USA at least been significantly negatively impacted by lawsuits both individual and governmental, reinforcing my hope that the negative aspects of social behaviour enabled by the digital revolution in my field as well as more widely are now coming under some sort of control.

Open versus commercial practice

Of as great interest to me is the reaction to the high levels of commoditisation that the digital revolution has brought – above all of our personal data – as at the same time the push back of anti-commodifying practices in fields such as open software, open publishing and open educational resources. If it is true that every force engenders resistance, nowhere has this been seen so strongly as in the open publishing movement of the last 20 years. And it was the facilitation the production of journals, books and blogs at the same time as their distribution and easy availability through the web that has challenged and continues to challenge major publishing industries. It has been the digital revolution that has laid bare the essential injustice of a model where the public purse pays for research in universities, the results of which are given freely in articles or books that universities and the public then have to pay for to access, often at high prices, from commercial publishers. It is now the publishers who are having compromises forced on them, for example making journal articles freely available after one year. I will be fascinated to see where the next moment of stasis comes in the field of open versus commercial publishing. As for Open Educational Resources I remain wedded to the idea that courses can be more speedily, cheaply and equitably produced if we are able to share and adapt, facilitated by digital systems. But apart from the valuable open source production of some textbooks in North America where textbook prices are very high, I have personally seen less than enough evidence of Open Educational Practice, that is OER’s actually in use in the production of learning resources and courses rather than lying unexamined in unvisited repositories. There is some evidence, for example in Wawasan Open University in Malaysia. But not enough. I hope to be proved wrong!

Informal learning

On the other hand the use of OER’s for informal learning has had more success, for example with the Open Learn site of the Open University U.K., which makes freely available discontinued courses and fractions of current courses, and is used by millions of informal learners. As well as sites like this there are a million blogs, curated collections of resources on every subject under the sun, and spaces for association and discussion. The digital age has produced an extraordinary creativity based on informal learning and ease of communication. We can see it happening in front of our eyes as people stare at their screens in every sitting room at home, every café, on every bus, train or airplane. Is it here, not only in the study of but the production and curation of resources, that the spirit of innovation in learning might burn most fiercely in the current period? And are educational institutions with their architectures of learning still in analogue form in terms of programmes of study and credit systems still fit for purpose, and able to support the informal learning that is going on all around them, for the most part ignored, unrecognised and unvalued?

Human relationships

Lastly, what of human relationships? How have I experienced the impact of the digital revolution on relationships in educational contexts as well as more widely? If I think back to pre digital teacher-learner relationships I think it is true to say that these were in many cases invested in more in-depth and long term characteristics, with emotional and formative rewards at least as great as the short-term cognitive and assessment functions than is represented in the more constrained nature of online tutoring. But on the other hand, when such relationships did not work so well, they could be, and in some cases definitely were experienced by the learner as oppressive. And this move to lighter more transactional relationships has happened in other sectors such as medicine, banking, insurance, and retail. How many of us now have the long term, local and face to face personal relationships in these fields that underpinned ‘client’ or ‘patient’ cultures of the past? Even more interesting is the question as to how many younger people would even want them? Is the instant access to expertise and the freedom from time and place that digital relationships represent better or worse than the ‘by appointment’ or ‘only in opening hours’ local relationships that the pre-digital age offered? But if long term meaningful affective relationships are pushed back only to the nuclear family and close friends, can they carry the entire burden of human affective need alone? Or is this one element in the commonly reported rise in mental health problems in so many countries? If education is in its best sense driven by compassion and a love for humanity, that is to say a deep commitment to the wellbeing of others, how does such engagement work in the digital age? I am genuinely unsure about this area, and I can see and myself enjoy the advantages of ease of communication with family and friends all around the world as a significant benefit that is only available in the digital age. But if I am right that the digital revolution is by no means over, perhaps the human resilience that has remade and restored value again and again after previous technological revolutions will turn its attention to human relationships, and restore their depth of engagement over time, as well as their sparking in the digitally carried moment. At least I hope so!