President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning to speak at Unisa

Prof Asha Singh Kanwar

Renowned as one of the world's leading advocates of learning for sustainable development and President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Prof Asha Singh Kanwar is one of the keynote speakers and panellists at the second Unisa Open Distance and e-Learning (ODeL) Virtual Conference.

Jointly hosted by Unisa's Portfolio: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation and the UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning, the Unisa ODeL pre-conference will be held on 2 August, and the actual conference from 3 to 5 August 2022. The conference theme is All Things Research in Open Distance and eLearning. The conference aims to encourage discourse about research in ODeL in a globally connected digital age.

The subthemes will be around, but not limited to, emerging research approaches in the 21st century, ethics and student privacy in proctored online assessment, the dynamics of institutional research in open distance learning (ODL), and leading and managing support for student success.

One of the most exciting aspects of research on open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) is that there is still so much to be discovered. Despite an exponential increase in research on ODeL worldwide and in South Africa over the past decade, researchers are not only scratching the surface of the possibilities that beckon in this vital field but are also grappling with the complexities of ensuring effective teaching and supporting student success and retention. In this regard, Kanwar remarks: "A culture of research is an institutional culture that fosters an environment of creativity and innovation, values and rewards research, and uses the research to inform policy and practice towards continuous improvement."

Commendable record of performance

Kanwar will deliver a keynote address entitled "All Things Research in Open Distance and eLearning". Her record of experience speaks for itself, and her exceptional contributions in teaching, research and international development span over 35 years.

From her list of academic achievements, Kanwar obtained her undergraduate, master's and MPhil degrees from the Panjab University in India and a DPhil at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom. In addition, she has been conferred eight honorary doctorates from universities in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Her areas of expertise include open distance and technology-enabled learning, open educational resources, quality assurance, and gender and organisational development.

Before taking up a position at the COL, Kanwar was a senior consultant in ODL at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA). In addition, she served as the director of the School of Humanities and a Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the Indira Gandhi National Open University in India.

Kanwar was a Fulbright fellow for post-doctoral research at Iowa State University in the United States, where she later taught. She currently serves on the boards of several organisations, such as the Governing Board of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies and Education.

She has written and edited many books, published over 100 papers and articles, and delivered numerous keynotes at prominent international conferences.

The Unisa ODeL conference aims to bring together speakers, delegates and enquiring minds from all over the world to set a research agenda in ODeL and generate findings that can help shape people's futures. In 2021, the conference was attended by delegates from almost 50 countries globally, including over 20 African countries. Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Unisa’s Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation says: "The 2022 conference is an opportune occasion to broaden our view of ODeL research – to see the bigger picture and the smaller details."

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* By Nancy Legodi, Acting Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2022/07/21