The Role of eLearning in Building Knowledge Societies in Developing Countries
ASIAN ASSOCIATION OF OPEN UNIVERSITIES, Annual Conference 2005, Jakarta, Indonesia, 15 September 2005, Theme: Building Knowledge Society through Open and Distance Education, The Role of eLearning in Building Knowledge Societies in Developing Countries, written by: Sir John Daniel, Paul West (Commonwealth of Learning) Susan D'Antoni (UNESCO-IIEP) and Stamenka Uvalić-Trumbić (UNESCO), presented by Sir John Daniel // The four of us are united by a common aim, which is to promote development through learning. Eradicating the grinding poverty that scars much of our contemporary world is not a simple phenomenon. In many places the notion of a knowledge society seems like a mirage - or at best a reality on the distant horizon. // However, where people do aspire to join the knowledge society, education and training is the road they must take. We believe that eLearning, and in particular the sharing of re-usable learning objects, could help developing countries and their people leapfrog over some of the stages through which education has developed in industrialised countries. // We shall begin with the challenge of making higher education available to people everywhere. The open universities of Asia have done a tremendous job in helping their countries rise to this challenge and I congratulate you on your magnificent work. But remember, as we focus on higher education, that the challenges at other levels of education are even greater. There again, I congratulate the members of AAOU, perhaps particularly Allama Iqbal Open University and the Bangladesh Open University, for the very important work they are doing at the school level. // Second, we shall ask a crucial question for this conference. How important is eLearning in the toolkit of open and distance education? You all have established teaching and learning systems, which we call in our jargon multi-media distance learning systems. You cannot change your media mix overnight even if you wanted to. You have learned, as I have, that there is no one magic medium and that students like a mix of media. But you are all adding eLearning to your media mix. What are its special characteristics, its strengths and weaknesses? // Third, we shall examine the barriers to the development of eLearning and suggest how governments, institutions and individuals can combine forces to overcome them. // Fourth, we shall urge the open universities of Asia to be leaders in this endeavour and help to lead the world to a better future. You are all committed to development. Asia is becoming very rich in ICTs. At our meeting in China last year I was struck by the tremendous professional skill of our Chinese colleagues in using ICTs to support the AAOU conference and the development of China generally. Because of your working context, you in Asia are much better equipped than people in long-industrialised countries to help the developing world use eLearning effectively, efficiently and economically. // Joint creation of learning objects could forge links across the world because they call out for the pooling of expertise, notably between developing countries and their Diasporas around the globe.