Commonwealth of Learning

Commonwealth of Learning
Formation1988; 31 years ago (1988)
TypeIntergovernmental organisation
PurposeTo help member states and institutions to use distance learning and technologies for expanding access to education and training
HeadquartersMetro 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.[1] Working collaboratively with governmental and nongovernmental organizations and other institutions in the Commonwealth, as well as with international development agencies, COL has the mandate to promote the use of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.[2][3] The Board of Governors is chaired by Linda Sissons, a former Chief Executive Officer of New Zealand's Wellington Institute of Technology.


COL was founded at the 1987 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and inaugurated in 1988.[4] Its title is a phrase used by philosopher John Locke to describe the body of knowledge developed over time by scientists and other thinkers, for the benefit of all people.[5] At the time of its founding, COL focused on promoting economic development by providing education and teaching skills.

In 2012, Professor Asha Kanwar was appointed the President and Chief Executive Officer of COL.[6]

In 2015, COL created a fifteen-year strategic plan to align itself with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDG4, which work to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030. That year Canada contributed $5 million to support the activities of the COL.[7] Since then COL has continued to use its expertise and infrastructure for distance education to promote lifelong learning for economic empowerment, social inclusion and environmental conservation.

COL also conducts research into effective methods of delivering distance education.[8][9]

COL hosts a triennial Pan-Commonwealth Forum (PCF) on Open Learning where its Excellence in Distance Education Awards (EDEA) are presented. The 2016 PCF was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and was attended by about 500 participants from 60 countries, including several Commonwealth ministers of education. The forum resulted in the 2016 Kuala Lumpur Declaration,[10] which explains how distance and technology-based learning can lead to sustainable development.


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 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. ^ "Commonwealth of Learning". The Canadian Encyclopedia.
  2. ^ Human Rights Advocacy in the Commonweatlh -- A User’s Handbook (2005). CHRI. p. 8. ISBN 978-81-88205-19-6.
  3. ^ "COL is Enhancing Education in Nigeria, Africa through ODL". This Day Live, January 2018.
  4. ^ Commonwealth Currents. Commonwealth Secretariat. 1983.
  5. ^ Peter Walmsley (2003). Locke's Essay and the Rhetoric of Science. Bucknell University Press. pp. 17, 159. ISBN 978-0-8387-5543-3.
  6. ^ "Why it makes sense for India to leverage relationship with Commonwealth nations". The Economic Times, By Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Apr 05, 2018
  7. ^ "Justin Trudeau could be a fresh face for a Commonwealth in need of renewal". Chris Cobb, Ottawa Citizen, November 23, 2015
  8. ^ "Why all Class One pupils were never going to get free laptops". Standard Digital, By Wachira Kigotho | June 3rd 2017
  9. ^ "Reality check for open, distance learning institutions". University World News, Nicola Jenvey, 15 April 2016 Issue No:409.
  10. ^ "Kuala Lumpur Declaration" (PDF). OAsis.col.org. Commonwealth of Learning. Retrieved 13 April 2018.

External links

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