Wawasan Open University (WOU) hosted the 25th Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) at its main campus.
The conference themed Transforming Asia through Open Distance Learning (ODL) was attended by some 260 delegates from 68 institutions located in 22 countries across Asia, Australia, Africa, Canada, Europe and North America.
The delegates – who comprised vice chancellors, presidents, rectors, chief executives and academics from member institutions – shared research findings, best practices and experiences, and deliberated on issues.
In his welcoming speech, WOU Vice Chancellor, Prof Dr Wong Tat Meng, who is also President of AAOU, said that ODL has become “a viable alternative and even the preferred mode of delivering knowledge and industry-relevant skills to meet the increasing demand for higher education and human resource development needs in a rapidly globalising world”.
The conference was officially opened by Deputy Director-General of Higher Education, Prof Dr Morshidi Sirat, representing the Minister of Higher Education, on September 29th. In congratulating WOU for hosting an international conference of this magnitude, he said this is the third time since 1997 that the conference was hosted by a Malaysian institution (UiTM in 1997 and OUM in 2007).
Prof Morshidi noted that open distance education is steadily gaining recognition from the people and government authorities, adding, “Open distance education providers in Malaysia must ensure that quality control is practised throughout the whole value-chain or process, beginning from programme design right through to delivery, including provision of quality learner support and assessment of learning outcomes.” He said WOU had achieved very good scores in a nationwide Academic Performance Audit conducted by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) in 2010.
Sir John Daniel, President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), in his keynote address on Transforming Asia through Open and Distance Learning spoke on the new Open Educational Resource University model being explored by a number of public institutions around the world. He said it would probably not be a new stand-alone accredited institution but rather an umbrella organisation for a network of participating institutions with longstanding reputations and accreditation.
The conference was officially closed by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, who said that open universities and distance learning had significantly contributed to the human resource development of Asian countries. “Education is a major driver of economic development, not in terms of just producing skills but in generating revenue and income, as an economic sector.”
The AAOU conference was supported by Pearson Asia Pacific, Pustaka Union, PenangFon, Ministry of Higher Education, UNESCO, COL, Canon Marketing and Penang Global Tourism.
The next conference, the 26th edition, will be hosted by The Open University of Japan, and its President Dr Yoichi Okabe gave a video preview of the university to the delegates.
The AAOU, formed in 1987, has more than 60 institutional members, with 46 full members coming from 18 countries across Asia, while other open universities from Europe, Africa, Oceania and America have joined as Associate Members. The AAOU had a total student enrolment exceeding 12 million in 2010.