MET:International Organizations Promoting E-Learning

From UBC Wiki

Created By Lorne Upton ETEC 510 Winter 2010, revised/ edited by Lisa Allen ETEC 510 Spring 2011

As technology becomes more prominent and entrenched in many aspects of the world, many international organizations are using and promoting e-learning as a way to train employees within and beyond their organization.

The United Nations (UN) [1]

Authored by Lisa Allen, February 27, 2011


The United Nations Organization (UN) is an “international organization founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.” [2]

The UN incorporates e-learning initiatives at many levels within it's organization. Being a relatively new phenomenon, e-learning can be found throughout various departments in the United Nations. E-learning is used in specific initiatives to train current UN employees as well as in public engagement and education offered through the UN to communities around the world.

This wiki page will review the use of e-learning in three UN departments: Learning and Development, The United Nations Institute for Training and Research and the United Nations University.

United Nations: Learning and Development

The United Nations: Learning and Development, is dedicated to enhancing the skills of UN employees through training programs.

One resource available to employees is the E-Learning Library, introduced in 2010, is a “comprehensive e-Learning platform to complement the instructor-led curricula” [3]. According to the UN OHRM website, “There are over 3,000 online courses and 30,000 online books available 24x7”. [4].

The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

UNITAR makes “concrete contributions to developing the capacities of tens of thousands of people around the world. [UNITAR responds to] the growing demand from UN Member States for training for capacity development in the fields of Environment; Peace, Security and Diplomacy; and Governance[5]."[6]

UNITAR has partnered with many organizations such as the Instituto de Estudios de las Finanzas Publicas Argentinas (IEFPA) in Buenos Aries, Argentina and the LALIVE in Geneva, Switzerland to offer a variety of online courses for a global audience. There is an extensive offering of finance and trade courses through UNITAR. These courses are comprised of, “finance and trade sector officials from all over the world (developing, emerging and industrialized nations) who have a unique opportunity to study, share, and engage in practical discussions using the discussion board facility.”[7]

United Nations University (UNU)

The United Nations University (UNU), “is a think tank for the UN system and offers postgraduate degree programmes. Established by the UN General Assembly, the UNU’s mission is to undertake research and capacity building on pressing global problems of human survival, development and welfare."[8]

In November 2008, key stakeholders including United Nations University Vice Rectorate in Europe, Vice Rector in charge of e-learning, Professor Govindan Parayil, educational experts from Africa and 33 UNU academic staff held a workshop to explore the role of e-learning at UNU and determined a need for a focus on e-learning in the African region, and how to build a “consolidated approach to e-learning for capacity engagement.”[9] Three key messages emerged from this meeting, they include: a need to broaden their definition of e-learning, using e-learning as a tool for advancing research and teaching in service of UN goals and, examining the results from former UNU e-learning pilot projects. This meeting lead to the launch of the UNlearn network, which is said to “provide targeted training and outreach to help UN country teams implement common programmes for work in over 160 developing countries[10]. The UNlearn network is significant because it is a shift in the structure of professional development and training that is being offered by the United Nations and partner agencies. There are many advantages for the UN to take an online and collaborative approach to training employees. “By agreeing to pool and share their collective training resources and shift towards technology-supported learning, the initiative will help UN agencies eliminate duplicative activities, reduce costs and reach a wider client base”[11].

The UNU website has a section devoted to online learning [12].


Like many large and multi-departmental international organizations, it is difficult for the UN to fully embrace web technologies and multimedia to enhance educational opportunities for those working within the UN and beyond. In addition to online courses offered through different UN departments, the UN can be found on twitter and facebook, suggesting that the organization is fully embracing various streams of social networking sites, aiming to reach a vast online audience. The online opportunities to attract and educate individuals on an international scale are endless for the UN and other international organizations who’s mandate is to better the world. As such, the UN and it's associated departments and agencies are not proportionately or extensively represented on online social media sites. The UN's brief appearance in online social media platforms could be elaborated should the UN wish to fully utilize online platforms for educational and awareness purposes.

External Links

Facebook: United Nations

Govindan Parayil

Instituto de Estudios de las Finanzas Publicas Argentinas (IEFPA)


Twitter: United Nations

United Nations

United Nations Institute for Training and Research

United Nations: Learning and Development

United Nations University

United Nations University Vice Rectorate in Europe

Stop Motion Video: Looking at Children's Rights in the Digital Age, The Intersection of Rights and Challenges in the Digital Age


eLearning Africa. (2008). UN Launches elearning Initiative. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from

UNITAR. (2010). About our E-Learning. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from

UNITAR. (2010). The Institute. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from

United Nations. (2011). Home Page. Retrieved February 9, 2011, from

United Nations. (2011). UN at a Glance. Retrieved February 11, 2011, from

United Nations: Learning and Development. (2010). E-Learning Library. Retrieved February 17, 2011, from

United Nations University. (2010). Capacity Development through E-Learning: Workshop Report. Retrieved February 14, 2011, from

United Nations University. (2010). Online Learning. Retrieved February 13, 2011, from

United Nations University. (2010). OurWorld 2.0. Retrieved February 17, 2011, from

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL)[13]

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organization formed in 1987 by the then participating states of the Commonwealth of Nations [14]. Headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, COL is active in developing learning opportunities for citizens throughout the 54 nations of the Commonwealth and is supporting a wide range of distance education initiatives. Central to COL’s vision is the belief that learning is an essential catalyst of change, and disseminating knowledge to areas of the world facing social and economic hardship promotes economic stability and peace. Technology, specifically as it pertains to distance education, is an important area of focus for COl as the agency aggressively seeks creative ways to overcome a myriad of obstacles facing educators and learners throughout the disadvantaged countries of the Commonwealth.

Mission Statement:

"The Commonwealth of Learning helps governments and institutions expand the scope, scale and quality of learning by using new approaches and technologies, especially those subsumed under the general term of open and distance learning (ODL)."[15]


In 1988, a working group was established to create the Commonwealth of Learning. Based on the recommendations contained in a report by [Sir] John Daniel, the COL headquarters were established in Vancouver with ties to the UK Open University. The Board of Governors is appointed and is chaired by Rt. Hon. Lord Brigs of Lewes. January 1st 1989, the Commonwealth of Learning opens in Vancouver and appoints its President and Chief Executive officer: Professor James A. Maraj and Vice President: Professor G. Ram Reddy. COL presents its first report to Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). In 1992, COL developed its Student Record Management System (SRMS) and the COL/Brunei Centre is opened. In 1993, COL’s website is constructed. COL becomes a founding partner in Global Access Television (WETV) in 1994. The Commonwealth Educational Media Centre is developed in India at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, COL participates in a joint project to develop the Commonwealth Electronic Network for Schools and Education (CENSE). COL also hosts a series of “virtual conferences” and provides online access to its Information Resource Centre. In 2002, COL develops an online information retrieval and search service: Knowledge Finder. COL also participates in a professional development programme in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2003, COL completes a feasibility study on the creation of a virtual university to provide access to higher education to the small states. Commonwealth Education Ministers endorse a new Three-year Plan for COL: 2003-2006. In 2006, COL develops WikiEducator intended further open access to e-learning materials.

COL Today:

Today, COL is very active in developing e-learning throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to numerous open distance education initiatives, COL has further developed the Virtual University for the Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) and continues to actively promote the development of its WikiEducator website. In its current Three-Year Plan 2009-2012, COL outlines its objectives and identifies key strategies it intends to implement.Three-Year Plan 2009-2012

Three imperatives in the contemorary agenda for development:

  • a global economic slowdown requires billions of people to learn their way to new livelihoods and demands cost-effectiveness in educational spending;
  • Universal Primary Education is finally on the horizon and a surge towards secondary schooling must now be satisfied; and
  • healthy communities, in which free individuals treat each other with respect and understanding, are best equipped to face contemporary challenges.

Three trends in the technologies available for learning:

  • continuing expansion of connectivity is enabling much greater access to technology-mediated learning;
  • new social software is transforming the Web into a vast space for online collaboration; and
  • open educational resources herald the emergence of a global intellectual commons.

(Retrieved from the Three-Year Plan 2009-2012)

Organizational Structure:

The Commonwealth of Learning has adopted a flat organizational structure. A team of Educational Specialists and their support staff report directly to the President and Vice-President. This organizational structure is designed to allow for greater collaboration and communication between specialists, fostering a creative environment responsive to the diverse set of educational needs.

File:COLStaff2009 web.jpg

Key Personnel:

  • President and CEO: Sir John Daniels
  • Vice-President: Asha Kanwar
  • Learning Manager, International Organizations: Angela Kwan
  • Director of CEMCA Office(New Delhi, India): Dr. R. Sreedher
  • Education Specialist: Agriculture and Livelihoods: K. Balasubramanian
  • Education Specialist: Open Schooling: Frances J. Ferreira
  • Education Specialist: Higher Education: Willie Clarke
  • Education Specialist: Skills Development: Alison Mead Richardson
  • Education Specialist: VUSSC: John Lesperance
  • Education Specialist: E-learning: Trudi van Wyk
  • Education Specialist: Teacher Education: Abdurrahman Umar
  • Education Specialist: Media: Ian Pringle
  • Director of Finance, Administration, and Human Resources: Doris McEachern
  • Director of Knowledge Management and Information Technology: Paul West
  • Communications Manager: Dave Wilson

Contributions to E-learning:

The Commonwealth of Learning has spearheaded a number of educational efforts in attempt to promote open access to teacher training and educational material. Some of these initiatives have been small scale attempts to bridge technological, communications, and cultural barriers for example a study[16] of Hamm radio communications in Tamil Nadu, India. Wikieducator[17] Launched in 2006, WikiEducator is a website/ community of practice promoting free access to educational training and materials. Working in association with educational institutions and teacher communities throughout the Commonwealth, WikiEducator provides a forum for educators of remote locations access and training in wiki construction and content management. WikiEducator

The WikiEducator Strategy:[18]

  • Building the capacity and skills of the community to engage meaningfully in the mass-collaboration required for the design and development of high quality learning resources, for example capacity building workshops.
  • Developing free content and knowledge to support the development of open communities and free content developers so that resources can be reused in multiple contexts, for example the Newbie Tutorials.
  • Ensuring smart connections through appropriate networks, ecosystems and the smart implementation of free software solutions to fill the gaps between existing mainstream technologies and the unique requirements of asynchronous learning thus widening the reach and access of free content in the developing world.

(Retrieved from the WikiEducator website)

Initiated in 2000, the Virtual University for the Small States[19] has been developed in response to provide post-secondary education to citizens of the small states of the Commonwealth--a small states as defined by the Commonwealth of Nations Secretariat are sparsely populated with usually less than two million people, and, in addition, are sometimes affected by other economic and social disadvantages. VUSSC is still in its infancy and early stages of evolution.

External Links


Connor,R.(2008) Looking Ahead: Letters to the Next President From Higher Education's Leaders. Changes, p.19-24.

Lathchem and Lockwood,(2004) Staff Development Needs and Provision in Commonwealth Countries: Findings from a Commonweath of Learning Training Impact Study. Distance Education, Vol.25,No.2, p.160-173.

Macdonald, I.(2000) The Commonwealth of Learning: Its Second Decade and the Three Year Plan 2000-2003. The Round Table, p.459-470.

Lentell,H.(2005. In Focus: Sustainable Learning and Development-The Role of Open and Distance Learning. Connections and Ed-tech News,10,p.113-117.

The Commonwealth of Learning

The Commonwealth Secretariat

The WikiEducator