A day with a knight

I spent some time chatting with Sir John Daniel yesterday at the UNESCO sponsored workshop on Open Educational resources. Sir John was hosting the event, organised by the Commonwealth of Learning, of which he is the President and CEO. Sir John was formerly the Vice Chancellor of the UK Open University, and was knighted for his services to higher education by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. His career in HE has spanned almost 50 years, and he holds over 30 honourary doctorates, professorships and fellowships from universities around the globe. To many in education his name is widely regarded to be synonymous with lifelong learning. I had several conversations with him yesterday, and we also debated the notion of user generated content during the panel session at the workshop.

I'm grateful to Sir John for a number of reasons. Firstly, whilst he was VC at the UK Open University, I graduated with a first class honours degree in Psychology, so you could say he was instrumental in launching my academic career. Later, when I was studying for another academic award, I read his book, Mega-Universities and Knowledge Media, which inspired me to learn more about distance education and technology supported learning. I'm grateful to Sir John also for encouraging me to into a research career - when I was invited to chair some sessions at the 2nd Turkish Distance Education Symposium in Ankara, Turkey, in 1998, I met Sir John for the first time. He asked me what I did, and I told him that I was working on a distance education project called RATIO - to set up learning centres in remote rural areas. He told me he worked for the Open University. We got into a conversation about distance education, and then I discovered who he was and what he did. I was impressed. Meeting him inspired me to pursue my studies in distance education, and he was thus instrumental in launching me into my research career in e-learning. The Turkish symposium was quite an event, because that was where I also first made acquaintance with a number of other distance education luminaries, including Michael Moore, David Jonassen, Tony Bates, Liz Stacey, Charlie Schlosser and Mike Simonson. I joined the Faculty of Education as a lecturer shortly after returning from Turkey, and thus began my academic career. So it was a wonderful experience to once again stand talking with this very unassuming man over a cup of tea, and to remember that first encounter (which of course he did).

Later that evening, I was invited along with other delegates from the conference to attend a Gala Dinner in celebration of the launch of a new Commonwealth of Learning initiative - the Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth Transnational Qualifications Framework (VUSSC). We all stood for the Namibian national anthem. Then the Namibian Minister for Education stood and gave a speech. The television cameras from a premier African TV network captured the proceedings. And finally, Sir John Daniel walked to the podium and outlined the details of VUSSC.

The history of VUSSC goes back to a meeting in 2000 of the Commonwealth Education Ministers who agreed to address the issues of inconsistency of academic awards and standards across the small states of the Commonwealth. The plan for the newly launched VUSSC is to regulate, communicate, transform or reform, establish consistent standards and promote quality of academic programmes and awards across 32 small Commonwealth nations. It's a tall order, but a much needed initiative to bring all academic awards up to the same standard and comparison. I'm very pleased to have been there to see the birth of this excellent new network of professionals and academics. I wish Sir John and his team great success and thank him for his continued inspiration.

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Learning with 'e's by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at steve-wheeler.blogspot.com.


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