COL President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar presented at the CHOGM 2015 Business Forum on November 25 as part of a panel discussion on Skilling the Commonwealth. Professor Kanwar’s presentation, Connecting the Commonwealth with Online Learning, focused on how information and communications technologies can be used to address the need for education and skills development in Commonwealth countries in support of employment and entrepreneurship.
“It is not enough to provide skills alone,” said Professor Kanwar. “Youth need not just the skills, but also opportunities. Governments have a major role in developing not just sound educational policies, but also enabling policies relating to trade industry and agriculture.”
Professor Kanwar offered an overview of several ways in which COL is supporting education and skills development with a focus on improving livelihoods throughout the Commonwealth. Her presentation included information on the Virtual University for Small States (VUSSC), which has provided training to more than 53,000 persons in 31 small states; Support for Higher Education, such as COL’s Commonwealth Executive MBA/MPA programme, which is offered in 11 Commonwealth countries and has provided over 27,000 students with improved access to livelihoods opportunities at one-third the cost of a campus-based programme; Lifelong Learning for Farmers, which has reached over 200,000 farmers in seven countries with every $1 invested in learning resulting in $9 worth of income and assets; Technical and Vocational Skills Development programme under which COL works with its partners around the world to provide meaningful and relevant training to improve livelihoods; and Knowledge Management and Information Technology, including a MOOC on Mobiles for Development delivered in partnership with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
What has COL learned from these experiences?
“While technology can help connect us with our diverse and dispersed stakeholders across the Commonwealth, it can never be a silver bullet for learning,” said Professor Kanwar. “It is our responsibility to help stakeholders to domesticate and appropriate technologies, rather than be further marginalized by them.”
“If we wish to improve learning outcomes, we need to bring together online and face to face learningâ€”a blended learning approach has had a positive impact on learning outcomes.”