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Presidents of 150 international universities gather at HBMeU for first-ever meeting in Arab world.

International Council for Open and Distance Education Standing Conference of Presidents to discuss challenges, opportunities, strategies

Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and President of Hamdan Bin Mohammed e-University (HBMeU), H.H. Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, inaugurated today (Tuesday, November 13, 2012) the International Council for Open and Distance Education Standing Conference of Presidents 2012 (ICDE SCOP 2012), a first-of-its-kind gathering in the Arab region that is being attended by 150 presidents of open and distance learning universities from around the world.

This year’s conference also marks the 74th anniversary of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE). To mark this occasion, Prof. Tian Belawati, President of ICDE and Rector of the Indonesian Open University has announced a global campaign, starting from Dubai, to further promote e-learning. ICDE is a network of 100 educational institutions worldwide working to promote open and distance learning, and provide opportunities for exchange of educational best practices.

The ICDE SCOP 2012 kicked off at the HBMeU headquarters in Dubai Academic City with an opening address by H.E. Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, Dubai Police Chief and Chairman of HBMeU's Board of Governors. The Conference is being held under the theme ‘Open and Distance Education (ODE): Barriers, Opportunities & Strategies Forward’ to discuss major challenges and obstacles regarding the implementation of open and distance learning from both an international and regional perspective. It will also explore opportunities ODE provides in helping countries overcome socio-economical challenges and will provide insights into successful strategies for advocacy of ODE. The meeting places particular focus on the latest trends and developments in ODE, including Open Educational Resources, quality and regulatory framework, among others.
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The opening day featured speeches by Dr. Laurence F. Johnson, Chief Executive Office of the New Media Consortium and Dr. Badr Aboul-Ela, Director of the Commission for Academic Accreditation, Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, U.A.E Vice-President of the Arab Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (ANQAAHE). The first day also featured an extensive discussion on the topic "Does ODE offer a viable alternative to residential education?" moderated by UAE-based media professional Omar Obaid Bin Butti, who highlighted the differences between open and distance learning, and residential learning. Dr. Meg Benke, Acting President, Office of the President, Empire State College, State University of New York, USA, also participated in the session, along with Prof. Mandla Makhanya, Vice Chancellor, University of South Africa, Prof. Anja Oskamp, Rector, Open University Netherlands, and Prof. Tolly Mbwette, Vice Chancellor, Open University of Tanzania.

H.E. Lieutenant General Dhahi Khalfan Tamim noted that ICDE SCOP 2012, the 19th edition of the global event that is being held for the first time in the Arab world, serves as a fitting event to commemorate the 10th anniversary of HBMeU and underline the level of success that the University has achieved. One of the key objectives of ICDE SCOP 2012 is to approve its strategic plan for 2013-2016. The conference also serves as an ideal platform to conduct extensive discussions on the opportunities and challenges related to open and distance learning in the Middle East, and developing effective strategies to deploy the e-learning concept on a global scale.

"As a leading institution in the field of e-learning, HBMeU is committed to promote academic excellence by building effective channels for communication, and exchange of ideas and experiences with different open and distance learning academic institutions worldwide. This will enable us to establish new standards that will further enhance the quality of e-learning and strengthen its role as a pillar for overall development in the Middle East and around the world. Over the last 10 years, HBMeU has been able to complement the vision of UAE’s leaders, to achieve sustainable development and join the global race by adopting innovative learning practices,” he added.  

Prof. Tian Belawati, President of ICDE and Rector of the Indonesian Open University, expressed her pleasure that SCOP 2012 is being held in the Middle East, which is an important step in strengthening the role of open and distance learning as one of the solid foundations of academic excellence in the Arab world and the world in general. Belawati also recognized the efforts of HBMeU in ensuring the success of this first-of-its-kind event in the Arab world, and highlighted the commitment of all stakeholders to implement the recommendations developed during the Conference, which continues to serve as an ideal venue for exchanging experiences in open and distance learning.

The International Council for Open and Distance Education Standing Conference of Presidents 2012 has been a source of recommendations and initiatives that strengthen the channels of communication between major academic institutions specialized in electronic, open and distance learning worldwide. It also facilitates a healthy exchange of information and discussions concerning strategies, while also covering political trends in its continuing pursuit of a solid framework that cultivates a culture of lifelong learning.
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