Commonwealth of Learning

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Commonwealth of Learning
Abbreviation COL
Formation 1988; 30 years ago (1988)
Type Intergovernmental organisation
Purpose To help member states and institutions to use distance learning and technologies for expanding access to education and training
Headquarters Metro Vancouver, Canada
The 53 member states of the Commonwealth of Nations
President and chief executive officer
Professor Asha Kanwar
Parent organisation
The Commonwealth

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation of The Commonwealth headquartered in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. COL was founded at the 1987 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)[1] and inaugurated in 1988. Working collaboratively with governments and institutions in the Commonwealth, COL has the mandate to promote the use of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. COL leverages its impact through a wide range of partnerships that include institutions, national organisations, international development agencies and non-governmental organisations.

Over the years, COL has earned the reputation of being an effective and innovative organisation and leads the international development in distance education. COL is the only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the development of distance education.

COL's activities are grouped under two sectors: Education and Skills, with gender as a cross-cutting theme. Following the launch of a new set of post-2015 development goals, COL transitioned from "Learning for Development" to "Learning for Sustainable Development" to align itself with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG4, which aspires to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030. COL uses its expertise in distance education and technology-based approaches to promote lifelong learning that leads to economic empowerment, social inclusion and environmental conservation.

In COL's outcome-based Strategic Plan 2015 - 2021, COL articulates its commitment to promoting equitable access to quality lifelong learning for all, believing that access to learning opportunities will lead to progress in achieving the SDGs.

Financial support for COL's core operations is provided by Commonwealth governments on a voluntary basis, with primary funding renewed every three years. COL also receives additional contributions from other development sources and provides fee-for-service distance education and open learning course delivery and training for various international agencies.

COL's major financial contributors currently include Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and the United Kingdom, all of which have representatives on COL's Board of Governors.[1] The Board of Governors is chaired by Dr. Linda Sissons, CNZM[1], a former Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand’s Wellington Institute of Technology (WelTec). Professor Asha Kanwar is the President and Chief Executive Officer.

COL hosts a triennial Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF) on Open Learning where its Excellence in Distance Education Awards (EDEA) are presented. COL and The Open University (OU), United Kingdom will co-host the ninth PCF at BT Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland during 9 to 12 September 2019. The last PCF was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 2016. The event attracted over 500 participants from 60 countries, including several Commonwealth ministers of education. This resulted in the 2016 Kuala Lumpur Declaration[2], which provides a clear roadmap of how distance and technology-based learning can lead to sustainable development.


  1. ^ a b Commonwealth of Learning
  2. ^ "Kuala Lumpur Declaration" (PDF). Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved 13 April 2018. 

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