COL helps Commonwealth member governments to take full advantage of open, distance and technology-based approaches to expand the scale, efficiency and quality of learning. Recognising the diversity and spread of the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) promotes the development of leadership and expertise in the field through various regional centres. The activities of these centres contribute to the achievement of COL’s programme outcomes and impact, and serve to enhance COL’s visibility.
COL established the Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) as its regional centre in Asia to promote the meaningful, relevant and appropriate use of media and technology to serve the education and training needs of the Commonwealth Member States of Asia. This scope has widened to embrace emerging educational technologies to cover formal, non-formal and informal learning at all levels. CEMCA fully aligns itself with the COL programme while retaining its regional focus. Created under a host-country agreement signed between COL and Government of India, CEMCA’s headquarters are in New Delhi, India. Core funding for the centre is provided by COL.
In partnership with the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), COL promotes open and distance learning (ODL) capacity building by supporting the Regional Training and Research Institute for Distance and Open Learning (RETRIDOL), a regional institute in West Africa. The RETRIDOL mandate includes: engaging in and supporting ODL research activities, as well as ODL capacity building, while serving as a centre of expertise for Nigeria and West Africa.
The Southern African Development Community-Centre for Distance Education (SADC-CDE) is supported by the Botswana Ministry of Education and hosted by the Botswana College of Distance and Open Learning (BOCODOL). The centre was established to increase the provision of quality distance education in Southern Africa, support research activities in ODL and undertake and promote training and development in ODL.
The Pacific Centre for Open and Flexible Learning for Development (PACFOLD) is hosted by the University of the South Pacific (USP) and is a ‘network of networks’ to empower Pacific communities through lifelong learning to live free and worthwhile lives. The centre’s priorities include advocacy and capacity building for flexible and open learning for sustainable development as well as the development of national and regional policies related to ODL.
COL is working with partners in the Caribbean to build capacity in ODL and, if a suitable partner is identified, a possible centre could be created to assist with regional issues, such as boys’ under performance and the need for strengthening livelihoods and skills development. In the meantime, COL’s presence in the region and its work with key partners will remain a priority focus.
COL continues to support and strengthen its existing centres to build competencies and systems for ODL in existing institutions, with the goal of becoming, with the agreement of their Governments, centres of expertise in ODL for the region. COL provides limited support for personnel training and systems improvements while the host institution underwrites all staff and logistical costs. COL also provides guidance on the systems needed to underpin effective ODL. A fixed-term agreement, with provision for renewal, exists with each host institution that specifies the roles and responsibilities of the centre, including staffing and accommodation, coupled with detailed work plans over the terms of these agreements.
In addition to the above centres, COL serves in an advisory capacity on the International Advisory Board of the Commonwealth Centre of Connected Learning, a Maltese foundation that facilitates connected learning in Commonwealth and European member states. This purpose resonates with COL’s interest in technology-enabled and connected learning.
COL may also offer some time-limited support to prominent local ODL experts, through their institutions, by designating them 'COL Experts', somewhat along the lines of the UNESCO Chairs. Details would be agreed on a case-by-case basis.