March 2019 issue of Connections now available

Reading Time: 34 min read

Photo Credit: The Open University

From left to right: COL President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar, Chancellor of The Open University Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho, Commonwealth Secretary-General the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, Deputy High Commissioner for Canada Ms Sarah Fountain Smith.

Download the digital version (PDF) from OAsis

Sign up to receive email updates from COL


9th Pan-Commonwealth Forum reception hosted by Canada House, London

“If education is to contribute to sustainable development, we need to look beyond targets and indicators.”

Members of the education and diplomatic communities gathered at Canada House in London, UK on 12 March 2019 at the launch of the ninth Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF9).

Organised jointly with The Open University (OU), PCF9 is being held in Edinburgh, Scotland at the BT Murrayfield Stadium from 9 to 12 September 2019.

Welcoming remarks were made by the host Ms Sarah Fountain Smith, Deputy High Commissioner for Canada to the United Kingdom, and by Professor Asha Kanwar, COL President and CEO, and Baroness Lane-Fox, Chancellor of the OU.

The theme for the Forum, “Innovations for Quality Education and Lifelong Learning,” was salient throughout the evening. PCF9 will also address four sub-themes: Employability, Equity and Inclusion, Opening up Education, and Technology, while placing special focus on Education for Girls and Empowering Youth.

“If education is to contribute to sustainable development, we need to look beyond targets and indicators,” said Professor Kanwar. “The focus must be on transformative learning which leads to the 3 Es; Economic growth, Equity, and Environmental conservation. At PCF9, COL will share some of its innovations and how these are making a difference.”

This year’s Asa Briggs Lecture will be delivered by Lord Puttnam, famed British film producer, educator, environmentalist and member of the House of Lords. Held at every PCF, this lecture honours the late Rt Hon Lord Briggs of Lewes, founding Chair of COL’s Board of Governors. Lord Briggs was a distinguished historian who was instrumental in the establishment of COL.

Registration for PCF9 is now open, and abstracts and proposals are being accepted until 15 April 2019.

Read Professor Kanwar’s speech at



Blockchain in MOOCs

Blockchain technology was successfully used to issue certificates to eligible participants in four MOOCs, offered by or in partnership with COL that were completed in late 2018 using the MOOC management platform mooKIT. Access is granted through an app called mooKIT Wallet.

Announcing New COL Chairs

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

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

Professor Tadinada Venkata Prabhakar, Department of Computer Science, Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (India)

Announcing New Honorary COL Advisers

  • Dr Nancy George, Former Associate Vice President, University of Technology (Jamaica)
  • Professor Muhammad Junaid, Faculty of Education and Extension Services, Usmanu Danfodiyo University (Nigeria)
  • Professor Vasudha Kamat, former Vice Chancellor, SNDT (Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey) Women’s University (India)
  • Professor Shironica Karunanayaka, Dean of the Faculty of Education, Open University of Sri Lanka (Sri Lanka)
  • Professor Goolam Mohamedbhai, former Vice Chancellor, University of Mauritius (Mauritius)
  • Professor Som Naidu, Pro Vice Chancellor and Director, Centre for Flexible Learning, University of the South Pacifc (Fiji)
  • Professor Madhu Parhar, Director of Staff Training and Research Institute of Distance Education, Indira Gandhi National Open University (India)
  • Professor Moses Tenywa, Director, Agricultural Innovation System Brokerage Association, Makerere University (Uganda)
  • Professor Dr Zoraini Wati Abas, Acting Vice Chancellor, Wawasan Open University (Malaysia)

PCF9 Important Dates

Submission deadline for PCF9 / Abstracts and Proposals 15 April 2019
Submission deadline for Excellence in Distance Education Awards 30 April 2019
Application deadline for Travel Subsidy Application 30 April 2019
Deadline for Full Paper Submission 1 June 2019
PCF9 Online Forum 17 June – 12 July, 2019
Early Bird Registration closes 30 June 2019

Travel Subsidy

Limited funds for travel to PCF9 will be made available to select delegates who would not otherwise be able to attend the conference. Approval for a subsidy is dependent on a number of factors, including the submission and acceptance of a full paper based on an approved abstract submission.
Application form and submission details are available at:

Excellence in Distance Education Awards (EDEA)

The EDEA recognise achievement by institutions/organisations and individuals around the Commonwealth and are presented at PCF. The awards for 2017-2019 will be presented at PCF9. Institutions and individuals engaged in open, distance and technology-enabled learning are invited to make a submission. For more details about the award categories and submission requirements, visit

Don’t Miss Out on Early Bird Registration

USD 490
Closes 30 June 2019.


Call for Abstracts and Proposals

The submission deadline has been extended. For more information:

TEL MOOC attracts participants from 74 countries

The third offering of the MOOC on “Introduction to Technology-Enabled Learning” (TEL), jointly run by COL and Athabasca University, Canada, attracted 2,460 participants from 74 countries. The highest numbers of registrants were from The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ghana and India. About 46% were female teachers. According to Dr Sanjaya Mishra, COL’s Education Specialist: eLearning, “the TEL MOOC 3 attracted over 96% participation from 43 Commonwealth countries. There were about 55% active learners in the course, with high levels of interaction.”

This third offering covered issues relating to integrating technology in teaching and learning at the secondary, post-secondary and vocational education levels. The five-week course required approximately three to five hours of interaction per week in a flexible learning environment, accommodating different schedules. It equipped learners with the knowledge and skills needed to blend appropriate technologies and online resources, including OER, to improve student learning.

JL4D seeks contributors

Contributors are invited for the Journal of Learning for Development, which focuses on innovation in learning – in particular,
but not exclusively, open and distance learning and its role in development. Contributions can take the form of research articles,
case studies, commentaries and reports from the field. Please visit the journal’s website for more details and to submit work:


Training for people with disabilities in Uganda

COL, in partnership with KampaBits, Uganda, launched the “ICT for Youth Employability” project in August 2018 to train young learners and persons with disabilities (PWD) in Kampala and prepare them for entrepreneurship and employment. The training on advanced ICT skills provides a six-month, hands-on exercise in areas such as graphics and motion design, website design and development, as well as mobile application development, using open educational resources from COL’s open access repository, OAsis.

The project covers 95 youths aged between 17 and 24, 11 of whom have a disability. One of these learners, Innocent Kusiima, said, “If my parents had believed in me to perform well in school even though I have a hearing impairment, I would have learned this earlier than 24. Now is the first time I am getting to do what I have always wanted.” Mr Kusiima has gained programming skills, which he intends to use to engage other young PWDs.

As part of the training, learners are also taken through life-skills and sexual reproductive health courses to ensure they make informed choices about issues regarding their health. At the end of the training, the project will link learners with employers and technology companies in Uganda.

GIRLS Inspire meeting with parliamentarians in Tanzania

COL, in collaboration with the Minister of Education, Science and Technology in Tanzania in February 2019, co-hosted the GIRLS Inspire End of Project meeting for preventing Child, Early and Forced Marriages (CEFM). The meeting reviewed outcomes of the project and lessons learned, along with a road map for how to engage policy makers and partners in integrating this initiative into national programmes that prepare women and girls for employment and entrepreneurship.

Attendees from Tanzania included the Honourable Ummy Ally Mwalimu, Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Seniors and Children, the Honourable William Tate Ole Nasha, Deputy Minister of Education, Science and Technology, parliamentarians and local partners. Also in attendance were Members of the National Assembly, Dr Nausheen Hamid from Pakistan, Ms Marengue Da Cruz from Mozambique, the High Commissioner for Canada in Tanzania, GIRLS Inspire partners from Bangladesh, India, Mozambique and Pakistan, as well as representatives from the Ministries of Gender from Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Sri Lanka. COL was represented by its President and CEO, Professor Asha Kanwar, and Senior Adviser: Women and Girls, Ms Frances J. Ferreira.

In her keynote speech, Professor Kanwar stressed that the critical success factor is a holistic approach that brings together key stakeholders within the community to support girls’ learning for sustainable livelihoods. The Canadian High Commissioner, H.E. Pamela O’Donnell, congratulated COL and all stakeholders for delivering tremendous results through the GIRLS Inspire project, while acknowledging that there is still more to be done to end CEFM in Tanzania.

Sierra Leone launches Teacher Training programme

COL’s partner, Freetown Teachers College (FTC), conducted a workshop to roll out the Integrated In-service Teacher Training (INSET) programme in October 2018 at the FTC Campus in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The workshop aimed to introduce participants to the programme resources as well as give an orientation to the implementation plan for school-based collaborative learning among teachers. FTC’s Principal, Dr Samba Moriba, observed that the school principals and champions would be the ambassadors of the INSET programme in their respective schools by sharing with others the skills and knowledge acquired. COL’s Adviser: Teacher Education, Dr Betty Ogange, said, “The focus is on improving the capacity of FTC to develop and offer school-based training opportunities for serving teachers using technology, as well as stimulate peer collaboration in teacher communities. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to make this a success.”

Professor Asha Kanwar receives honorary degree from OUM

COL’s President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar received a Doctor Honoris Causa award from the Open University of Mauritius (OUM) in February 2019.

Photo Credit: Open University of Mauritius

Agreement signed with UNISA

A Memorandum of Agreement was signed in Pretoria between the University of South Africa (UNISA) and COL in February 2019, paving the way for an Institutional Quality Review Audit.

Over 3,000 women and girls empowered in Tanzania

With support from the Government of Canada, COL’s GIRLS Inspire initiative on child, early and forced marriage enabled 3,021 vulnerable women and girls in Tanzania to receive skills training over the project period. This training was provided through two local partners, the Institute of Adult Education and Kiota Women’s Health and Development. In November 2018, as part of the final evaluation, COL’s Senior Adviser: Women and Girls, Ms Frances J. Ferreira, met with the local community and women and girls from the villages of Msanzi, Kambiala and Nachula to hear first-hand about their experiences. She pressed for ongoing support for the girls and young mothers who have completed the GIRLS Inspire training, so they can access more training, networks and free or low interest loans.

Under this project, girls learned skills in soap, fabric and batik making, food processing, tailoring, embroidery, designing and sewing, and cookery and baking.
PHOTO: COL-trained entrepreneur shows products in shop.

Gender sensitisation workshop for Nigerian universities

In collaboration with COL, the Regional Training and Research Institute for Distance and Open Learning (RETRIDOL) conducted a workshop on gender sensitisation at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Abuja, Nigeria in January 2019. A total of 27 participants from 12 universities across the country were in attendance. The workshop was graced by Ambassador Babatunde A. Nurudeen, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the Economic Community of West African States, and Ms Agnes Bamgbala, Deputy Director of the Directorate of Open and Distance Education, National Universities Commission.

When opening the workshop, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu, Vice Chancellor of NOUN, said, “NOUN is an ideal institution to host such an event – five of its eight faculties have females as deans, as well as Professor Joy Chinwe Eyisi, NOUN’s first female Deputy Vice Chancellor.”

The workshop was facilitated by Professor Mansah Prah, former Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Cape Coast, in Ghana. The workshop focused on the importance of addressing gender inequalities by ensuring that both women’s and men’s views, interests and needs shape policies, plans and programmes in universities. Among the issues raised were how to improve the efficacy of sexual harassment committees and provide guidance on developing gender policies within institutions.

Blended course design workshop in Kenya

COL supported a workshop on designing blended learning courses using an online learning management system (LMS) in January 2019 at the Kisumu campus of the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology. The workshop was formally opened by the Deputy Vice Chancellor Academic Affairs, Professor Benson Estambale, who thanked COL for its continued support and encouraged the faculty to embrace technology in teaching and learning. Twenty lecturers from different schools of the university attended, as well as the entire eLearning team. The three-day training event helped participants understand course design and development and demonstrated how to use different functionalities of the LMS for creating courses that engage learners. It also assisted participants with the preparation of 19 course designs.

Open University of Mauritius holds employability training

Key staff and representatives of the Open University of Mauritius (OUM), the Human Resource Development Council, the Ministry of Technology, Communication and Innovation, and local IT companies took part in a COL-supported workshop on employability in December 2018. The participants met at OUM to discuss and develop a competency-based curriculum responsive to industry needs for ICT programmes in Mauritius.

“By bringing together diverse stakeholders in the Mauritian ICT sector today, we were able to explore the skills required for a graduate to be successful, and identify potential gaps in the existing curriculum. We are optimistic that the results of this meeting will help guide future ICT training and ensure those completing programmes are equipped for the workplace,” said COL’s Education Specialist: Higher Education, Dr Romeela Mohee.

Non-formal education workshop in Botswana

The Southern African Development Community Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE), with support from COL, held a workshop in Gaborone, Botswana in January 2019 on ways to expand enrolment in non-formal education (NFE). The workshop was attended by 19 participants from governments and colleges of seven SADC countries: Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. Ms Fancy Amey, Director of SADC-CDE, officiated the opening ceremonies and noted, “This workshop is a stepping stone to make progress towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 – in particular SDG4 as it relates to quality education and lifelong learning and SDG8 as it relates to employability. COL and SADC-CDE are looking forward to working with new partners in the development and enhancement of programmes in NFE delivered through the open and distance learning mode.”

Enumerator training in Sierra Leone

COL supported a workshop for 23 enumerators and data collection supervisors drawn from Freetown Teachers College and select secondary schools in Sierra Leone in October 2018.

Digital education leadership training for teachers in South Africa

In collaboration with COL, SchoolNet South Africa conducted a three-day workshop at the University of Johannesburg in January 2019 to build teachers’ capacity to develop digital education skills using COL’s Commonwealth Digital Education Leadership Training in Action (C-DELTA) platform.

Leadership Training in Teacher Development in The Gambia

COL, in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) and The Gambia College, held a two-day workshop for education leaders in January 2019 at the Brikama Campus. The workshop focused on Leadership in Teacher Professional Development as part of the “Teacher Futures – The Gambia” project, which aims to improve secondary school-level teacher quality through technology-enabled school-based learning.

Forty education leaders attended the workshop, including education officers from MoBSE, the In-Service Education Unit and the regional education offices; representatives from the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MHERST); and principals, vice principals and senior teachers representing 19 secondary schools.

Ms Amie Njie Camara from MHERST reiterated the ministry’s support of the project and said, “This project is expected to increase the number of teachers receiving professional development, reduce costs and introduce teachers to the use of technology in teaching and learning.”


Regional Focal Points meeting in Asia

The Asian regional meeting of COL Focal Points took place in December 2018 in New Delhi, India. The meeting focused on strengthening the effectiveness of COL’s strategic plan and programme activities in addressing the key priorities of Asian Commonwealth countries in education and training. Focal Points from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific, who had been unable to participate in their own regional meetings, joined the Asian group. In her opening remarks, Professor Asha Kanwar highlighted COL’s work in Asian countries, along with some recent pan-Commonwealth initiatives. “Over the 30 years of service to the Commonwealth, we have constantly renewed ourselves to remain relevant to your needs,” stressed Professor Kanwar. The priorities from other Focal Points meetings held earlier last year in the Africa, Caribbean and Pacific regions were reported, highlighting the need for capacity building, curriculum reform and mobile-based platforms for learning and information sharing.

L3F empowers women stakeholders in India

The then Vice President of COL, Dr K. Balasubramanian, participated in the Farmers’ Conference in Theni, India in December 2018. The conference initiated dialogue and facilitated collaboration between Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3F), farmer producer organisations (FPOs) and financial institutions. One of the unique features of COL’s L3F programme is its focus on corporate literacy, which has enabled women farmers to become more aware of the duties, liabilities and advantages of being empowered stakeholders. A key discussion was on scaling up L3F by partnering with institutions such as Pandyan Grama Bank, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as the Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium.

Close to 2,500 participants attended, more than 60% of them women. “The impact of L3F has been proven through a study by the Business School, New England University in Australia. Profit per animal on average is twice for L3F farmers compared to non-L3F farmers,” said Dr K. Balasubramanian. L3F is implemented in the State of Tamil Nadu, India through partners such as Vidiyal, Reddiyarchatram Seed Growers Association and Arul Anandar College.

Leaving no one behind: quality education for all

The third International Conference on Open, Distance and eLearning was held in Taiwan in November 2018 as part of a partnership between the University of the Philippines Open University, the Open University of Kaohsiung and the National University of Kaohsiung. Professor Asha Kanwar addressed the topic of “Open Educational Practices and Quality Assurance: Leaving No One Behind” in her plenary talk. She covered the sub-themes of open education and quality assurance and highlighted COL’s message of reaching out to the last person in the queue with appropriate technology solutions. Read the speech at:

Training teachers in digital education leadership in

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Sign Up Now