Thursday, 10 October 2013

Unisa Cambridge International Conference 2013 - Cape Town, South Africa

Cambridge International Conference on Open, Distance and eLearning for 2013 held in Cape Town, South Africa. Unisa (University of South Africa) hosted the event at Spier Hotel Stellenbosch, a beautiful venue for international conferences. Theme of the conference was Continuity, Change and Sustainability in Open, Distance and eLearning. This conference was very different to the conferences I have attended so far.

There were fewer number of delegates and there was lot of time for brainstorming and group work. For example after each keynote there was a session for delegates to work in groups in exploring few issues raised in the talk, which I found very interesting, educational and fulfilling.

Prof. Asha Kanwar - President Commonwealth of Learning, Prof. Alan Tait - The Open University UK, Prof. Bakary Diallo - African Virtual University were among the keynote speakers.

Our presentation:
 'Globalization and Technology-mediated Distance Education: developing countries perspective'
was among the five presentations sponsored by the Commonwealth of Learning. The paper was based on the work of my PhD study and I am delighted to have co-authored this paper with my advisers/supervisors: Prof. Andrew Adams - Meiji University Japan, Prof. Naz Rassool -Institute of Education, University of Reading, and Prof. Shirley Williams - School of Systems Engineering, University of Reading.

In this paper we talk about the global changes that made higher education a 'necessity' for a descent job and the position of developing countries in terms of providing access to higher education for their people. We discuss the possibility of using technology mediated education and the necessity to consider specific circumstances of countries in selecting/using technology for distance education using Bates' (2005) ACTIONS framework. The lack of consideration or overlooking these aspects in selecting/using technology for distance education and their adverse consequences are also discussed taking examples from developing countries. The challenges and opportunities for developing countries are also discussed.

The paper abstract reads:

"The contemporary global economy places great value on highly educated workers but devalues workers in repetitive or low skill jobs. In order to thrive in this new economy, countries must ensure sufficient higher education opportunities for their population. However, a lack of resources is a major barrier faced by many developing countries in expanding their higher education systems. Technology-mediated distance education has the potential to be an invaluable tool in offering educational opportunities to people, if the other necessary conditions for participation are met. Although technology-mediated education was first considered to be a medium to bridge the learning divide across space, today it is feared that it could well become an inequality intensifier. Drawing on examples from developing countries, this paper considers factors regarding implementing technology-mediated distance education, including failure to address contextual issues and possible consequences. Challenges and policy implications are also discussed"

If you are interested in reading the full paper, authors' final version can be found here.


  • Bates, A.W. (2005). Technology, Open Learning and Distance Education, (2nd ed), Routledge: London.
  • Liyanagunawardena, T.R, Adams, A.A., Rassool, N. and Williams, S.A. (2013). Globalization and Technology-Mediated Distance Education: Developing Countries’ Perspective, Unisa Cambridge International Conference on Open, Distance and eLearning, 29 September - 2 October 2013, Cape Town, South Africa

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