We must adopt a targeted approach to reach the unreached, says COL President

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“Can open and distance learning (ODL) contribute to development and transform societies? How can we extend our reach to cover more people and places by adopting effective methods and ideas?” These were the questions that Commonwealth of Learning (COL) President and CEO Professor Asha Kanwar posed to participants in her keynote address at the International Conference on Development Interventions and Open Learning for Empowering and Transforming Society, held in Krishna Kanta Handique State Open University (KKHSOU) Guwahati, India on 16 December 2017.

“At COL, we have found that if we want to reach the unreached people, we must adopt a targeted approach,” said Professor Kanwar. Emphasising that ODL has reached people in unreached places with methods and innovative ideas that have made educational success possible, Professor Kanwar mentioned examples of communities from around the Commonwealth that have been impacted by COL’s work. She told the story of Mayuri in India who dropped out of school in class 9 and learned how to make decorative macramé using a blended approach with COL partner, Mann Deshi. In Bangladesh, COL works with a boat school whose boats are fitted with computers and solar generators for children in flood-prone regions.

Professor Kanwar pointed out that the learner must be at the centre of every activity and be encouraged to become active producers of open educational resources or OER. She shared three lessons for the open universities and ODL providers: “First, embrace lifelong learning and strengthen outreach function to open up education to wider constituencies especially the unreached. Second, inspire and mobilise staff to contribute to development. Third, in order to scale skills development, it is important to develop need based courses, which open up opportunities for livelihoods.”

Professor Kanwar’s full speech can be found at this link: http://hdl.handle.net/11599/2828

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