Plenary with Asha Kanwar: Brave New World That Has Such Education Futures!
Covid-19 has disrupted education as never before in human history. As the world pivoted to technology almost overnight, it laid bare the glaring problems with our educational system. More than half the world’s population was on the wrong side of the digital divide and ‘the learning crisis’ was further exacerbated. Existing social and economic inequalities have become worse with girls and persons with disabilities likely to be further marginalized. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high and the changing nature of work will require a reorientation of how education is delivered. How can this crisis be converted into an opportunity? What are the education futures that we want? What will be the role of technology? How can we ensure that no one is left behind? The magnitude of the challenges demand concerted and collaborative action for a ‘brave new world…. Lets start at once!’
Professor of Practice for the University of West Indies Open Campus and consultant at Matic Media Ltd, UK
Paul Bacsich is the Founder and Managing Director of Matic Media Ltd, a consultancy in the UK active in online learning since 1996. He is also Professor of Practice for the University of West Indies Open Campus, which is headquartered in Barbados.
In addition he consults for the SeroHE division of Sero Consulting Ltd as a Senior Associate: he was a member of the Sero team who recently reviewed Learning Technology Support at the University of Oxford, and currently he is leading a 12-month project at Sero to develop an accredited vocational short online course to teach teachers to teach online for Wey Education (who run Interhigh Virtual School and other similar entities).
He is also Visiting Professor for University of Derby Online Learning (UDOL) in the UK.
He has a long-standing interest in Open Education via a large EU project (POERUP) and several EU/European Parliament studies: in particular he is Co-Coordinator of the Open Education Working Group and an Ambassador for the global advocacy of OER and a member of the OER Advocacy Committee of ICDE. He was a co-author for the JRC 2017 report “Policy Approaches to Open Education in 28 Member States”.
His interests in leadership in e-learning were developed during the Erasmus+ D-TRANSFORM project 2014-17, which drew on and continued his work over 20 years on management of open and distance learning.
In addition to his public work he consults for a number of international, government, commercial, venture fund and university clients on market/competitor/pricing research, policy, education funding models and retention strategies. He has recently finalised a report on credit recognition and transfer for online masters' programmes, for a university client in Canada.
In 2015-16 Paul chaired the review panel for the Vision and Strategy Appraisal of the UK Open University Library, where he interviewed over 70 staff and students and carried out substantial comparative and policy research. He also chaired the E-learning review panel for Uppsala University, with three days of intensive meetings and presentations, and spent four months chairing a task force for the National Forum for Learning and Teaching in Ireland to prepare a scoping document on infrastructure issues related to online learning.
Some of his recent thinking can be found in his UNESCO policy brief on "Alternative Models of Education Delivery" and in a paper for the "Open Education 2030" higher education workshop run by the EU. He remains very interested in "Multiversity" models and competence-based provision, based on his earlier studies on "Time and e-learning", developed from a speech given in Austria, a country with which he has increasing links.
He is a co-founder of MultEversity, a start-up in online/blended post-secondary education which aims in due course to be an accredited university and higher vocational provider. He also has had involvement in other early-stage online providers over the last six years and has done several studies of them.
In the university phase of his career he was a researcher at Oxford University, had many roles over 25 years at the UK Open University, and was for seven years Professor of Telematics at Sheffield Hallam University and then a Director at the UK e-University. He was also Visiting Professor at Middlesex University and Advisor to the Rector of the Arab Open University.
He has knowledge of and/or experience in higher education in many developed countries.
President and CEO of the Commonwealth of Learning, Canada
Professor Asha Singh Kanwar, one of the world’s leading advocates of learning for sustainable development, is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Learning. Throughout a career spanning over 35 years, she has made outstanding contributions in the areas of teaching, research and international development.
Professor Kanwar received her undergraduate, Master's and MPhil degrees from the Panjab University in India and a DPhil from the University of Sussex, UK. Her areas of expertise include open distance and technology-enabled learning, open educational resources, quality assurance, gender and organizational development. Professor Kanwar has written and edited a dozen books, published over 100 papers and articles, and delivered numerous keynotes at prestigious international conferences.
Prior to joining COL, Professor Kanwar was a senior consultant in open and distance learning at UNESCO's Regional Office for Education in Africa (BREDA). She has also served as Director, School of Humanities and as Pro-Vice Chancellor at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) in New Delhi, India. She was a Fulbright Fellow for post-doctoral research at Iowa State University in the US, where she was later invited to teach. Currently, she serves on the boards of several organizations, including the Governing Board of the UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies and Education (IITE).
Professor Kanwar won several international awards, including the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) Prize of Excellence, and the Meritorious Service Award for outstanding contributions in open and distance education from the Asian Association of Open Universities. She has been conferred eight honorary doctorates from Universities in Asia, Africa, Europe and North America.