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About the Commonwealth of Learning

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) was established in 1987 by Commonwealth Heads of Government “… to create and widen access to opportunities for learning, making use of the potential offered by distance education and by the application of communication technologies to education.” (Memorandum of Understanding on the Commonwealth of Learning)

Hosted by the Government of Canada with headquarters in Burnaby, British Columbia, COL is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning.

The organisation is governed by a distinguished Board of Governors whose membership of up to 17 hail from around the Commonwealth and bring leadership and expertise in a wide range of areas.

COL’s greatest impact is in supporting efforts to provide Commonwealth citizens greater access to quality education and training through open, distance and technology-enabled learning, thereby allowing them to benefit from improved livelihoods, greater gender equity and overall economic, social and cultural development leading to sustainable development.

COL is committed to promoting equitable access to quality lifelong learning for all – believing, in effect, that access to learning opportunities will lead to progress in achieving sustainable development.

COL values and maintains an organisational culture that is respectful, ethical and fair. In line with this commitment, COL has in place a policy on Safeguarding to help keep all persons with whom it works and comes into contact with through its work safe from any form of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. COL’s Anti-Fraud Policy sets out the commitment to promoting a culture of integrity and transparency throughout the organisation where fraud and corruption will not be tolerated. COL enables individuals to report illegal, dishonest, or fraudulent activity in good faith and will be protected against retaliation or fear of retribution as outlined in COL’s Policy on Whistle Blowing.

Learn more about the History of the Commonwealth of Learning and COL’s Policy Statements.

COL consolidated financial statements (audited) are available here.

Mission and Vision

COL remains committed to an enduring vision – to be the foremost global agency that promotes learning for sustainable development.

COL’s mission is to help governments, institutions and organisations expand the scale, efficiency and quality of learning by using appropriate open, distance and technology-based approaches.


In 2021-2027, COL will: i) build on its expertise in ODL, OER and TEL to play a more influential role in national policy development and implementation; ii) invest in innovations and research; iii) support the digital transformation of institutions and organisations; iv) promote gender equality; and v) implement a rigorous monitoring and evaluation plan.


Memorandum of Understanding on the Commonwealth of Learning


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