COL's Policy on Research  

COL 's interest in research

  1. COL is a leader in policy and practice in open learning and distance education (ODL). In addition to enhancing technology-mediated learning, in particular ODL provision across the Commonwealth it develops new ideas and concepts as well as contributing to experiments and innovations and to their dissemination. As a result of COL's work governments have an increasing appreciation of the potential of ODL.
  2. COL must remain a leader now that national governments and international organisations are increasingly supporting, promoting and developing ODL. Its work must be informed by research on both ODL and the application of ODL to development. However, COL is not in a position either to undertake or to fund large-scale research in ODL, although it must foster a culture of research and development among governments, institutions and practitioners.
  3. The objectives of COL's research policy are to:
  4.  sustain the leadership role of COL as a specialist organisation in the application of ODL to development;
  5. maintain its competitive edge as a provider of policy advice and know-how to Governments, intergovernmental bodies and institutions;
  6. strengthen its role by investing proactively in research relevant to the development and growth of ODL;
  7. stay ahead of developments in ODL in order to respond to the needs of member states at various stages of development in their use of ODL;
  8. contribute to the professional development of COL staff; and
  9. sustain a culture of research appropriate to a learning organisation.


Important areas of research

  1. COL will confine its research initiatives to areas related to its corporate mission and programmes. This includes topics such as the following:
  2. ODL in development - education health, governance, food security, business etc.;
  3. Organisation and management of ODL systems;
  4. Perspective planning - methods and practices;
  5. Design and development of instructional systems;
  6. Materials development - organisation, methods and practices;
  7. ICT in open learning and distance education;
  8. Technology choices: factors, forms and functions;
  9. Learner Support systems: organisation and management;
  10. Student evaluation systems and procedures;
  11. Costs, costing systems and financing;
  12. Institutional evaluation and performance assessment;
  13. Quality, relevance and access;
  14. Cross-border provision of ODL;
  15. Potential areas for COL's intervention in different contexts: national, regional and global;
  16. Partnerships and cooperation at regional and international levels.


Getting research done


COL will pursue the following strategies to get research done:

  • Collaborative research that involves project-based or institution-based research programmes and activities jointly implemented in cooperation with partner institutions and organisations;
  • Sponsored research - specific research projects to be undertaken by appropriate institutions with COL support;
  • Needs-based studies and investigations sponsored by COL through consultancies and other forms of outsourcing;
  • Develop regional mechanisms through collaboration or affiliation (e.g. networking Distance Education Associations) to pursue research on an ongoing basis;
  • Active involvement of COL staff in research programmes;
  • Encouragement of research in developing countries.


Disseminating the findings


If research is to inform policy and practice it must be disseminated. Research outcomes are a public good that COL can provide. Means of dissemination will include:

  • Presentation at conferences, meetings, fora and other gatherings;
  • Publications;
  • Website dissemination;
  • Training activities.

August 2004