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COL Chairs Programme


For information on the programme and the application process, download the brochure here.

Submission deadline: 31 March 2024


COL appoints distinguished experts as COL Chairs to advance research, innovation and thought leadership in COL’s fields of competence.

The Programme was started in 2010 to (i) facilitate the development of effective open and distance learning (ODL) and technology-enhanced education and training through advocacy, research and capacity-building across the Commonwealth; (ii) strengthen regional cooperation; and (iii) provide visibility for COL in the field.

The COL Chairs are honorary positions hosted by universities within the Commonwealth.

Terms of Reference

The COL Chair is expected to:

  • Understand, support and advocate COL’s role in the Commonwealth, and align the Chair activities to COL’s Strategic Plan;
  • Organise, facilitate and engage in research, innovation and thought leadership relative to the current and emerging trends in ODL, OER, TEL and learning for sustainable development;
  • Work at all levels of education, including lifelong learning, and in formal and non-formal settings, in cooperation with universities, civil society organisations, or other institutions;
  • Leverage and expand their network within and outside the Commonwealth to support the Chair activities;
  • Document and disseminate through reporting and other means, the work/findings from the Chair activities with COL and all stakeholders in the region and the larger Commonwealth in a manner that may facilitate uptake by all stakeholders, within these regions and beyond;
  • Promote and strengthen regional cooperation by creating an environment to facilitate and sustain the sharing of intellectual and physical resources (e.g., course materials, delivery systems and networking) for promoting ODL, OER, TEL and learning for sustainable development at all levels; and
  • Serve as Ambassadors of COL and uphold the highest level of professionalism in carrying out the Chair activities.

Current Chairs (2023 to 2026)

Professor Shironica P. Karunanayaka, The Open University of Sri Lanka, Sri Lanka

Dr Mark Nichols, Te Pūkenga – New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology, New Zealand

Professor John Traxler, University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom

Professor Geesje van den Berg, University of South Africa, South Africa

Professor Denise Whitelock, The Open University, United Kingdom

Professor Michalinos Zembylas, Open University of Cyprus, Cyprus

Former COL Chairs

Professor Mohamed Ally, Centre for Distance Education, Athabasca University (Canada)

Dr Robin Day, Otago Polytechnic (New Zealand)

Professor Mpine Makoe, Institute for Open and Distance Learning, University of South Africa (South Africa)

Professor Tolly S.A. Mbwette, Open University of Tanzania (Tanzania)

Professor Rory McGreal, Athabasca University (Canada)

Professor T.V. Prabhakar, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (India)

Professor Vincent Tenebe, National Open University of Nigeria (Nigeria)

Professor George Veletsianos, School of Education and Technology, Royal Roads University (Canada)

Professor Joel Warrican, Open Campus Barbados, University of the West Indies (Barbados)

Professor Martin Weller, Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University (United Kingdom)

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