The Centre's work was highlighted during the 10th edition of the Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning.
The Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF) is one of the world’s leading international conferences on open, distance and technology-enabled learning. During the 10th edition of the forum, the ITCILO was showcased as an example of best-practice in online learning.
Hosted by the Commonwealth of Learning, the forum is held every three years and designed to explore the applications of open and distance learning, bridge the digital divide and advance the socio-economic development of communities and nations at large.
With more than 400 delegates in attendance (both in person and virtually), the Tenth Pan-Commonwealth Forum on Open Learning (PCF10) convened in Calgary, Canada from 14 to 16 September 2022. The forum, held in partnership with Athabasca University, was an opportunity for forum partners, academics and government representatives to discuss themes of resilience, innovation, equity and inclusion in education.
In his keynote address for the sub-theme Fostering Lifelong Learning, Professor Olaf Zawacki-Richter, a Professor of Educational Technology at the University of Oldenburg mentioned the ITCILO’s achievements to illustrate the Centre’s contribution to global lifelong learning.
In his talk, he highlighted the outreach of the ITCILO’s learning activities as well as the online delivery modes of training courses. In 2019, Online Distance Education (ODE) accounted for only 4% of the Centre’s activities, but by 2021 there was a 48% increase with the Centre now reaching more than 50,000 learners per year through online learning.
He further commented on the ITCILO Director of Training, Andreas Klemmer’s vision to touch one million lives.
If they go further this route of online distance learning, I am convinced that it is not an unrealistic goal to reach a million people.
With a mission to be the leading global provider of learning and training for the world of work, each year, the ITCILO delivers training and learning activities for tens of thousands of people from over 200 countries.
Fully understanding that excellence in training and learning will be promoted through continuous quality improvement measures and external independent evaluations, each year, the Centre commits to an external independent evaluation of a cluster of activities linked to one of its thematic areas of expertise.
In 2021, an evaluation of the global online training activities of the ITCILO was carried out by Prof. Olaf Zawacki-Richter and Dr Kyungmee Lee, Senior Lecturer, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University. The evaluation focused on training activities fully carried out in online modality using one or more of the Centre’s distance learning and online collaboration tools. The evaluation reviewed a sample of twenty training activities offered in 2020, in which the Centre reached more than 9,000 participants.
In the wake of the pandemic in the first half of 2020, the Centre accelerated its service portfolio with a shift of emphasis from face-to-face training to online learning, a stronger focus on institutional-level and system-level capacity development services and heavy investments in learning innovation. It also introduced digital credentials relying on block chain technology, piloted Augmented and Virtual Reality (AVR) applications and launched new training products on future foresight techniques, big data mining, and artificial intelligence.
The evaluation report showed that the Centre has seen a massive shift from face-to-face training towards fully online learning driven by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Within two years, the number of enrolments per year in online training activities increased five-fold.
From the evaluation, it was clear the Centre’s online training activities strengthened the capacity of ILO constituents and other ILO development partners—especially during the pandemic. We also see that the training activities achieved their immediate objectives as many participants found their engagement with the activities beneficial and contributing to their professional practice and development.
The results of this external evaluation was presented as a research paper during the Forum. The paper was co-written by Professor Olaf, Dr. Kyungmee Lee (Senior lecturer and co-director of the Centre for Technology Enhanced Learning), and Ms Eiman Elmasry (Quality Assurance, Data and Analytics Officer in the ITCILO). The paper titled “Evaluation of global online training activities of the International Training Centre of the International Labour Organization (ITCILO) in 2020“ brought a unique UN organization perspective to this area of research.
It was so interesting and informative to be among this big number of prominent academics and government representatives and engage in a rich, multi-dimensional discussion on open learning. I couldn't help but notice the underrepresentation of the UN in such a powerful platform, and I was so proud to bring in this unique perspective and successful experience to the discussion.
In 2022, another evaluation was carried out by the same consultants and was once again focused on the online learning activities of the Centre. There was a need to re-evaluate the Centre’s online training activities after a second year of almost fully online training. This re-evaluation exclusively focused on training activities that were fully delivered in an online format and covered a sample of twenty training activities offered in 2021.
The evaluation showed that the Centre has successfully served its target groups during 2021, and effectively played its role in providing ILO constituents with specialised training on different aspects of the Decent Work Agenda via offering online training activities.
Due to the growth of online and distance learning in the ITCILO's training portfolio, the Centre can reach more than 50,000 learners per year—twice the number achieved before the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast to the previous evaluation, participants mentioned no difficulties in accessing the online courses via mobile devices apart from general connectivity issues that are not related to ITCILO's e-campus services.
As we move further into a future where online learning remains preeminent, distance learning will continue to play a very important role in the service portfolio of the Centre. The ITCILO will continue to deliver training and learning activities whilst ensuring our services meet the outreach and impact performance target set in support of sustainable development and decent work for all.