Erik Duval

It was with great sadness that I heard this weekend that Erik Duval lost his battle with cancer. Erik blogged about his experience over the past few years and his posts were raw and honest, touched with a hint of his humour. I think I first heard Erik give a keynote, possibly at an Edmedia conference, and his talk blew me aware, I left with so many ideas. A few years later I did a keynote at Edmedia. When I came out, Erik was sitting on the floor with a laptop. As I passed he looked up and said ‘nice one’, I was so thrilled and was on cloud nine for the rest of the day! 

Erik was a superb researcher, full of great ideas, and was one of the leads in the Learning Analytics community. It was also clear that he was a great teacher. I once attended a session at a conference where he had his students presenting learning analytics apps they had developed. It was a great session. Despite being highly in demand as an international speaker at heart Erik was a family man. He once told me that he tried very hard to also get home for the weekends, despite his heavy travel schedule. I had the honour of meeting his wife, Griet and his two daughters Hannah and Eli. Erik came all the way to Leuven, where I was staying, to pick me up. We went back to his hometown of Antwerp. I met his girls and dogs and then Griet, Erik and I went out for a lovely meal. There are many many contributions that he made to the field, but one of the key ones for me was the snowflake concept:

In the same way that all snowflakes in a snowstorm are unique, each user has her specific characteristics, restrictions and interests. That is why we speak of a “snowflake effect”, to indicate that, more and more, the aforementioned facilities will be relied upon to realize far-reaching forms of personalization and “mass customization”. This effect will be realized through a hybrid approach with push and pull techniques, in which information is actively requested or searched by the user, but also more and more subtly integrated in his work and learning environment. In this way, a learning environment can be created that is geared to the individual needs of the teacher or student.

Another memory I have of Erik is when he and George Siemens came to my house for dinner (picture above). My daughter, Tabby, was there. When there was a lull in the conversation, Tabby suddenly said ‘Mum is always having men around’. I looked at George and Erik, both prolific on social media and thought ‘my career is dead’…. But to be fair to them they just grinned at me.

I know many many people will miss Erik, his colleagues, his students, but most of all Griet and the girls. My thoughts are with them. Erik is gone, but will not be forgotten.