Professor Asha Singh Kanwar
Professor Asha Singh Kanwar, one of the world’s leading advocates for learning for development, became President &
Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL) on 1 June 2012. COL is an intergovernmental
organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government to encourage the development and sharing of open learning
and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies. Before joining COL, Professor Kanwar was a consultant
in open and distance learning at UNESCO's Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA) in Dakar, Senegal.
Professor Kanwar's engagement with distance education began when she joined Indira Gandhi National Open University
where she served as Professor, Director of the School of Humanities and Pro-Vice Chancellor. Professor Kanwar has
over 30 years of experience in teaching, research and administration. She received her undergraduate, Master's and
M.Phil. degrees from the Panjab University in India and a D.Phil. from the University of Sussex. She was a Fulbright
Fellow for post-doctoral research at Iowa State University.
Title: Distance Education and e-Learning: Evolution, Challenges & Solutions
With the developments in technology, distance education has evolved from its earlier incarnation into highly developed online manifestations such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Each of these stages of development represent certain fundamental values relating to access, equity, quality and costs. Distance education and e-learning have served to expand access to quality higher education. But we find that higher education alone will not lead to livelihoods opportunities in the twenty-first century. Citizens will need to constantly learn and unlearn new skills to keep pace with the changing requirements of a learning society. Within this context, how can distance education and elearning be mainstreamed to provide lifelong learning for all? Sixty per cent of the Commonwealth population is under the age of 30. How can we skill them with speed and at scale? What can we learn from the models of the past? What are the game-changers of the future?