WOU conducted a three-day training workshop on regional centre operations for 15 assistant directors from the regional centres and study centres of The Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) from 9-11 April 2018.
The training programme was coordinated by Prof Phalachandra Bhandigadi from the School of Education, Languages and Communications.
The objective of the workshop was to expose participants to WOU’s best practices in student recruitment, admissions, assessment and support systems as well as in the other operations like HR recruitment, property management, library services, budget planning, development and delivery of programmes, and learning facilities.
OUSL is the only open university in Sri Lanka and has 9 regional centres and 18 study centres spread across 9 provinces. It boasts a student enrolment of 5,000 every year. OUSL offers 63 programmes with ongoing recruitment all year round for its different groups of programmes.
At the closing session, Prof Phalachandra mentioned that there are future plans for WOU to collaborate on training and research with OUSL. He also recalled that WOU had conducted a 10-day training workshop for the academic staff of OUSL in November 2014.
In his sharing on behalf of the participants, Dr Kithsiri Hector Jayawardana, Acting Director of OUSL’s Regional Educational Services, lauded the “very useful” training. He added, “WOU has new and fast techniques and methodologies. We must also convert to new tools and technologies to improve our system.” He said OUSL is targeting to increase its total enrolment from the current 45,000 to 50,000 registered students by 2020.
He also remarked that OUSL will require WOU support for the training of other groups of regional centres’ staff in the future. “We still follow a lot of manual techniques and have only now introduced some online methods.”
Acting WOU Vice Chancellor Prof Zoraini Wati Abas highlighted that both universities can learn from each other through “sharing of knowledge and skills”. She also proposed that OUSL can participate as a member of the editorial board for a planned Asian Journal on Open Distance Learning (ODL) to be published in collaboration with other open universities, ideally twice a year, and also join the OER Symposium at WOU next year.
She later presented certificates to the participants for completion of the 3-day training at WOU.
OUSL, established in 1980, has its main campus located in Colombo with about 25,000 students while the various centres have 1,000 to 6,000 students.
Views from two participants of OUSL:
Dr K H Jayawardana, Acting Director of Regional Educational Services, OUSL
“We register and provide education and services to the local students in our area. Our task should be expanded so that we need not bring everything to the central campus in Colombo.
Through this workshop, we have learned various techniques and easy methods to cater to the needs of students and offer them better service. The online system seems to be the most effective way to conduct registration and even for teaching.
We had introduced online registration, about 2 years back, and also for re-registration. But the system belongs to the vendor and we have to approach the vendor even for small changes. Last year there were lots of problems but this has now been reduced. We are now requesting and asking management to have a better IT system so that we can handle even higher registration numbers.
We definitely have to use more online and IT facilities to reduce the workload, especially since the regional staff are kept busy throughout the year. We will inform the management to perhaps adopt the WOU system and have a particular period for intakes and student registration.
We have learnt a lot from this workshop and we hope to inform our authorities to modify the current system to enable us to provide optimum service and support to our students.”
Ms Hiranthi Galahitiyawa, Assistant Director, Badulla Regional Centre, OUSL.
“We find that WOU uses computerised systems more than us; this is useful and makes work easier, such as e-HR and the PDF course materials. WOU also has a very good system for final assessments. With e-HR and e-Finance, the approval process is much faster without unnecessary delay.
We have introduced MyOUSL for enrolment and have a learning portal, but this is not that frequently used by our students due to limited IT facilities in some sectors in Sri Lanka.
We now undertake HR and finance work manually, while printed course materials and printed books are delivered from the central campus to all the centres. We have e-books only for some courses.
Following the training, what we can start to apply at OUSL is e-HR. We then need not go to the central campus and do all the documentation. It will be quite easy. I will also recommend to our management to use e-Finance because we now have to fill the forms and send to the central campus by mail, and so it takes time to process.
Our academic calendar is full as we run the programmes throughout the year. I don’t think there are any plans to change this because with the facilities available, we may not be able to do all the registration at one time period. Overall the workshop was important for us as the topics discussed were all related to our duties.”