24th IDEA-IDOL-CEMCA National Conference on Online and Distance Learning (ODL)

A two day 24th IDEA National Conference on Emerging Perspectives of Open and Distance Learning was organised by the Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL), University of Mumbai in association with Indian Distance Education Association (IDEA) & Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) on July 17th – 18th, 2020.

This conference was organised to bring together different institutions and individuals engaged in various activities relating to Online and Distance Learning (ODL) within the country to share their ideas, information and experience on Quality Assurance in open and distance education.

Indian Distance Education Association (popularly known as IDEA) is the leading and only national professional body of academicians, policy makers, administrators in the field of ODL and all other stakeholders of distance and open learning institutions.

Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA), which is established by Commonwealth of Learning, Vancouver, Canada in response to the needs expressed by the Commonwealth countries of the Asian region for more effective utilisation of educational media resources for Distance Education. Together, in collaboration with both these organisations, it was an honour for University of Mumbai, Institute of Distance and Open Learning (IDOL) to host the 24th IDEA National Conference on the theme Emerging Perspectives of Open and Distance Learning to celebrate the 50th year of IDOL.

During the two days conference, it was an opportunity to listen to eminent speakers deliberating in the areas of emerging perspectives of Open and Distance Learning. There was in-depth discussions and communications on 15 major topics related to Emerging Perspectives of Open and Distance Learning. It was really a historical moment to almost 1000 officially registered participants; to receive over 90 papers from different stakeholders expressing their ideas and viewpoints on ODL and 64 paper presenters participating in this online conference. All the valuable insights gave us a new perspective that one should adopt while discussing the issues related to Open and Distance Learning.

The conference was inaugurated with the august presence of Professor. Nageshwar Rao, the Vice Chancellor of Indira Gandhi National Open University and Dr. Avichal Kapur: Joint Secretary UGC DEB who in their address discussed the role of ODL in the post-pandemic era and the work of Distance Education Bureau in policy formulation for the country respectively. Dr Madhu Parhar, Director, CEMCA spoke about the activities of its organisation. The presidential remarks were given by Professor Suhas Pednekar, the Vice Chancellor, University of Mumbai who explained the role of ODL teachers in these trying times and the correct approach that needs to be implemented in the present situation. An edited volume with 31 papers presented in a national conference in celebration of 50th year of ODL in India in 2012 entitled “Understanding of ODL in Dual Mode Universities of India” was also released. The IDEA Annual Conference has the practice of organising two Memorial Lectures in the name of Prof G Ram Reddy and Prof Bakhshish Singh. This year’s Prof G Ram Reddy memorial lecture was delivered by Dr Satish Rastogi formerly with YCMOU on Quality assurances in ODL while Prof Bakshish Singh Memorial lecture was delivered by Dr Ravi Mahajan of USOL, Panjab University on SWAYAM as a Revolution with co-chair Prof Sadashiv Chougule, Vice President of IDEA.

The technical sessions, panel discussion and memorial lectures were chaired and conducted by the eminent personalities of the field of ODL like Prof. Seetharam Rao, former Vice Chancellor, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar Open University, Dr. E Vayunandan, Vice Chancellor, Yashwantrao Chavan Maharashtra Open University, Nashik, Dr. Madhulika Kaushik, Pro Vice Chancellor, Usha Martin University, Ranchi, Prof V N Rajasekharan Pillai, Vice Chancellor, Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Dr G Laxma Reddy, Registrar, Dr.B.R. Ambedkar Open University, Hyderabad, Dr S Jeelani, Director, Center for Digital and Virtual Learning, University of Hyderabad, Dr. R Satyanarayan, Director STRIDE, IGNOU, Dr Mushtaq Patel, Registrar, Central University of Karnataka, Kalaburagi. Each of these sessions were enriching, eye opening and motivating.

In the valedictory session, we were honoured to have with us Prof. Dr. Ebba Ossiannilsson, Member, EC of ICDE, Chair ICDE OERAC and Swedish Association for Distance Education, as our Chief Guest who not only expressed her passion for ODL but also shared her priceless knowledge that added a special beauty to the sensation. She spoke about the International Council for Open and Distance Education and Open Educational Resources. She also greeted the University of Mumbai on its 164th Foundation Day on 18th July and IDOL on its march towards 50th anniversary. Dr. Pankaj Mittal, Secretary General, Association of Indian Universities, New Delhi graced the occasion as the Guest of Honour for the Valedictory ceremony. Dr. Pankaj Mittal shared her profound knowledge about the emergence of e-PG Pathshala project of UGC and subsequently the Massive Open Online Courses through SWAYAM portal and her speech was full of zeal and valuable information for the teachers as she spoke about the techniques of facing the camera while recording video lectures.

The special merit awards were presented to the academicians who, during their lifetimes, have made contributions of outstanding significance to the field of Open and Distance Learning. The Lifetime Achievement Award in the field of ODL was awarded to Dr. Dhaneswar Harichandan of IDOL and the conference organising secretary.The Award for Achievements as Open and Distance Learning Administrator was awarded to Dr. Ami Upadhyay. The Ideal Distance Education Adult Learner (IDEAL) award by IDEAwas awarded to a senior distance learner Shri Binay Kumar,aPhD scholar of STRIDE, IGNOU who has crossed the age of 80 years and yet continues to motivate all of us through the dictum “learning continues throughout the life”. The Best Paper Presentation Award was awarded to three selected paper presenters: Shri Prakash Ignatius Almeida, for his paper on “The Imperative of Cognitive Shift for making Students effective Autonomous Self Learners for DE”,Mrs Pooja Kulkarni on “A study conducted on Awareness of the term Spiritual Intelligence and Usage of AI”, and Dr V V Kanak Durga on “A Survey of Counsellors Attitudes on Motivating Open and Distance Learners”.

The Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Mumbai Professor Ravindra Kulkarni shared his valuable insights while delivering the presidential remarks. We also had the pleasure of releasing the conference proceedings entitled “Emerging Perspectives of ODL” Volume 1 based on the outstanding response received with regards to the manuscripts submitted for this conference, we shortlisted 50 articles (out of 84 articles) that we received on ODL as a part of celebrating Golden Jubilee Year of IDOL from 1971 to 2020-2021.

The deliberations focused on analysing the general situation and existing problems of Open and Distance Learning but also introduced advanced experiences from home and abroad, exchanged ideas on cutting-edge theories and major practices of ODL, and proposed many constructive ideas and suggestions on more efficient, more balanced and more sustainable development in the field of e-learning. These discussions made this high-level conference on Emerging Perspectives of Open and Distance Learning a brilliant dialogue, a clash of wisdom and a feast of thoughts. The vote of thanks was given by the Secretary General of IDEA Dr Romesh Verma and Dr K Murali Manohar the President of India appreciated the efforts of University of Mumbai IDOL in organising this first ever online conference of IDEA.