40th Anniversary of the JKU’s Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz

For over 40 years, the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz has been providing academic educational opportunities to those in Vorarlberg.

F.l.: Ulrike Rinderer, Valerija Zelezic, Doris Defranceschi, Simon Rinderer, Christa Kaffenda ; Photo credit: Karin Nussbaumer
F.l.: Ulrike Rinderer, Valerija Zelezic, Doris Defranceschi, Simon Rinderer, Christa Kaffenda ; Photo credit: Karin Nussbaumer

Each semester, the Distance Learning Center in Bregenz provides over 700 students with support services as they study to earn an internationally recognized university degree. In cooperation with the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU) and the FernUniversität in Hagen, the Distance Learning Center offers a range of future-oriented degree programs that bring added value to the Vorarlberg and Lake Constance region.

For over 40 years, the Center for Distance Learning Bregenz (ZF Bregenz) has served as Vorarlberg’s first academic institution to offer degrees from the FernUniversität in Hagen and for over 30 years from the Johannes Kepler University Linz via remote learning. The JKU's remote learning programs include the Multimedia Diploma degree program in Law, the Bachelor's and Master's degree program in Artificial Intelligence, and, most recently, the NaSciTec program (Fundamentals of Natural Sciences for Technology) for high school students. Those enrolled at the FernUniversität can choose from 10 different undergraduate degree programs and 16 graduate degree programs, including the new graduate degree program "Data Science", scheduled to begin at the start of the 2022/2023 Winter Semester. The Center also offers a program to take courses in preparation to take the University Enrollment Eligibility Examination.

To mark the occasion, Doris Defranceschi, head of the Center for Distance Learning, remarked: "From the very beginning, the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz has served a link between Vorarlberg, the Lake Constance region, and the educational and research programs offered at the two universities in Linz and Hagen. In the future, we intend to continue down this road and contribute significantly to both society and the regional economy. Our range of innovative programs are free of time and location constraints and benefit both the region and our students, regardless of whether a student is still in school or is someone who decides to pursue a degree later in life. We provide services to help people pursue their individual educational goals. Our students' and alumni's most distinguishing qualities include the diversity of their CVs and their high degree of motivation to earn a degree, mostly also while working. The University Enrollment Eligibility Examination is also an opportunity for those without a Matura diploma to also earn an academic degree."

Lisa Gmeiner from Alberschwende is one of the 700 students currently enrolled at the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz. She aims to graduate this year with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Studies. She remarked: "The Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz gave me an opportunity to pursue a degree without time and location constraints. I began when I was still on maternity leave and didn't lose any time. I would like to congratulate the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz on its 40th anniversary and say thank you for all of the student support. I wish the Study Center many more inspiring and successful years."

Developing a Range of Degree Programs
Since its inception, ZF Bregenz has continuously refined and expanded on its range of academic degree programs. In addition to the post-graduate programs offered by the FernUniversität in Hagen, since 1986 the Center has offered a program to support those taking the University Enrollment Eligibility Examination. This University Enrollment Eligibility Examination gives those who did not earn a Matura diploma the opportunity to enroll at an institution of higher education in Vorarlberg or elsewhere. The JKU’s Multimedia Diploma degree program in Law was launched in 1998 as a pilot program between Linz and Bregenz. Since 2008, the FernUniversität provided an opportunity for those in the state to pursue a degree in cultural and social sciences as well as psychology. The most recent milestones in the number of available degree programs include the JKU’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Artificial Intelligence (since 2021) and the graduate degree program in Data Science at the FernUniversität in Hagen (beginning in 2022). Most recently, the JKU’s NaSciTec program has been available in Vorarlberg as part of a remote learning format to better acquaint high-school students with academic studies and get a head start for the Matura in the STEM subjects of chemistry, mathematics, and physics.

Future-Oriented Degrees for AI Experts of Tomorrow
Students enrolled in the JKU’s undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) can complete the program in Linz, at the Center of Distance Learning in Vienna, and, starting last fall, also at the Center of Distance learning in Bregenz. The AI program is not only one of the first of its kind in Europe, the program is internationally oriented and held entirely in English. AI experts of tomorrow not only learn how artificial intelligence can better serve society, but also where the potential dangers lie. Following a fundamental base in mathematics and computer science, the program then focuses on artificial intelligence, including machine learning, knowledge representation, and language processing. Hubert Rhomberg, managing director of the internationally active Rhomberg Group based in Bregenz and member of the IV Vorarlberg’s Executive Committee, emphasized just how important acquiring AI expertise and an understanding of digitization is: "AI is a future tool that is as important for a competitive company as, for example, an excavator is for a construction company. Employees will be freed from the more mundane tasks, thereby opening up space for growth and innovation. And, of course, this is what we need in Vorarlberg, a region that is home to a great many data treasures."

Congratulatory Notes to Mark the Anniversary
The Center celebrated its 40th anniversary yesterday, previously postponed on account of the pandemic. To mark the occasion, many well-wishers - including representatives from the Rectorates at universities in Linz and Hagen, local government representatives, members of the local business community, members from educational institutions, neighboring universities, students, alumni, and the pioneers – came together at the Vorarlberg Museum in Bregenz to celebrate.

Mag. Elmar Pichl, head of section of Higher Education at the Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research, remarked: "For the past 40 years, the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz and the Johannes Kepler University Linz have ensured an innovative, flexible and diverse range of programs, which, in cooperation with the Distance Learning University Hagen, has a unique selling point in the Austrian university landscape. Part-time study is particularly important nowadays and will become even more so in the future. Students at the Distance Learning Center in Bregenz can choose from 10 undergraduate and 15 graduate degree programs, including the popular Bachelor's and Master's degree programs in Artificial Intelligence created at the University of Linz. This strengthens what we can offer in the field of STEM subjects, subject areas that are becoming increasingly important and in demand in the job market. Furthermore, the support program in Bregenz to prepare for the University Enrollment Eligibility Examination gives prospective students without a Matura diploma an opportunity to enroll at universities, universities of applied sciences, teacher training colleges, academies, and colleges."

State Governor Dr. Barbara Schöbi-Fink: "In the area of adult education, continuing education and 'lifelong learning', the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz has served Vorarlberg as a strong, reliable partner for the past 40 years. In lieu of business and social dynamics, as well as increasing differentiation and globalization in important areas of life, each person needs to be self-determined to keep learning and honing their skills, especially if he/she wants to realize life goals. The wide range of programs offered by the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz is a valuable addition and extension to programs offered at other educational institutions in the state. I would like to congratulate the Center for Distance Learning and Doris Defranceschi on its 40th anniversary and I wish it all the best for the future.”

Michael Ritsch, MBA, Mayor of Bregenz: "Bregenz is not only a city of culture, but also a city of educational opportunities together with educational institutions in over two dozen locations. We are particularly proud of the Study Center because it complements the wide range of educational opportunities with a high-quality university program, thereby providing students with interesting professional futures. I would like to warmly congratulate the institution on its 40th anniversary and I promise that our heart and soul will continue to be committed to this educational institution, an institution which is very important for Bregenz and the state."

Dir. Dr. Jörg Maria Ortwein, Director of the Vorarlberg State Conservatory: "I am delighted that the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Over the years, the Center has enabled many people in the region to pursue higher education. As an alumnus of the FernUniversität in Hagen, I particularly appreciate the opportunity as I, too, have benefitted from the programs. In regard to my professional challenges, the programs are based on solid scientific foundations. I wish you all the best in the future!"

Univ. Prof. Dr. Stefan Koch, Vice-Rector of Academic Affairs at the Johannes Kepler University Linz: "For over 40 years, the Center for Distance Learning in Bregenz has stood for university education and a future-oriented range of programs in Vorarlberg. The JKU’s Bachelor's and Master's degree program in Artificial Intelligence educates AI experts of tomorrow, and the new JKU NaSciTec distance learning program gives school students in Vorarlberg an opportunity to learn more about STEM subjects while still at school. As an external JKU location, ZF Bregenz is an added value for Vorarlberg as a location of business and for the entire Lake Constance region. I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the Center on their anniversary and I look forward to many more years of collaboration in Vorarlberg between the ZF Bregenz, the JKU, and the FernUniversität in Hagen."

Prof. Dr. Ada Pellert, Rector of the FernUniversität in Hagen: "As an Austrian, I am very pleased that the FernUniversität in Hagen has been a presence in my home country for quite some time. Back in 1980, a state treaty between the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia and the Republic of Austria formed the basis to establish the Center for Distance Learning Bregenz and today, albeit with a slight delay, we are celebrating its anniversary today. The remote learning university gives students an opportunity to pursue a degree without time and location constraints. This doesn’t mean, however, that there is no location. Just like our campus locations in Germany, the study centers in Austria play an important role in supporting our blended learning concept: This is where on-site events take place, where prospective students and students can get more information and meet fellow students. The Bregenz Study Center has been offering these opportunities in the triangular region of Austria, Germany, and Switzerland for 40 years. We hope there are many more years to come!"

Prof. Dr. Uwe Elsholz, Vice-Rector for Transfer, Continuing Education and Internationalization at the FernUniversität in Hagen: "International cooperation is close to our heart at the FernUniversität in Hagen. We believe that academic education brings people together and transcends borders. This is why we are a part of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), Europe’s umbrella organization for distance teaching universities. Our collaboration with the Johannes Kepler University Linz gives us an opportunity to offer our remote learning programs to German-speaking Europe and work with high-performance locations that raise enrollment to approximately 2,500 students in Austria and 77,000 students in total, namely wherever they are at home. We’ve been a part of this in Bregenz for 40 years now. Best wishes on your anniversary!"
 

If you would like to learn more about the educational opportunities offered at the Center of Distance Learning in Bregenz, sign up to attend an "Open House" on July 7, 2022, beginning at 2:00 PM. Center for Distance Learning Bregenz (Belruptstraße 10, A-6900 Bregenz). Sign up in advance: T: +43 5574 46120 or by sending an e-mail to: zf-bregenz@jku.at, or see: jku.at/fernstudien