The Rector of Universitas Terbuka, Prof. Ojat Darojat M.Bus. Ph.D., who served as President of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) for the 2022-2022 and 2023-2025 terms, officially opened the 36th Asian Conference of Distance Universities (the 36th AAOU 2023) in Türkiye (Istanbul, 28/09/2023). The host of the 2023 conference was Anadolu University. This conference was held from September 28 to 30, 2023, at Istanbul Universitesi, one of Turkey’s oldest universities.
The theme of this year’s conference was “The Future of Open Universities in the Age of Digitalized Higher Education.” Participants who attended the conference were not only representatives from AAOU member universities but also from various countries, including Europe, with diverse backgrounds. According to the person in charge, Dr. Serpil Kocdar, there were 250 participants from 20 countries and 40 different institutions.
In his remarks, Prof. Ojat said that technological advances, particularly digital technology, must be able to improve student success in learning. Technological advances require policy makers and practitioners, including lecturers and education personnel, to adapt and integrate technology into the education curriculum. Therefore, this conference is expected to provide input, enlightenment, and innovation from the participants. In addition, Prof. Ojat also expressed his hope that all AAOU members will jointly advance distance education in Asia by being actively involved in a number of activities carried out by the AAOU Secretariat.
As part of the conference series, an Executive Committee Meeting chaired by Prof. Ojat was scheduled to report on AAOU Presidency activities and outline the plans for 2024. It is worth noting that Prof. Ojat was elected as AAOU President for 2020-2022 by acclamation at the Executive Committee Meeting in Lahore, Pakistan. In 2022, Prof. Ojat was re-elected as AAOU President for the period 2023-2025 at the Executive Committee Meeting in Jeju, South Korea, which coincided with the 35th AAOU Conference.
Meanwhile, the Rector of Anadolu University, in his opening speech, emphasized several important issues in the digitalization of education and the significant role of distance education in opening access to higher education in various regions, including Asia and Turkey. Furthermore, Prof. Dr. Fuat Erdal said that the hosting of the 36th AAOU Conference in Istanbul coincided with the celebration of Anadolu University’s 40th anniversary.
The conference featured a number of leading figures in distance education as keynote speakers, such as Prof. Asha Singh Kanwar (India), Prof. Insung Jun (Japan), Prof. Zia Ul-Qayyum (Pakistan), Dr. Torunn Gjelsvik (ICDE-Norway), Josep M. Duart (Spain), Prof. Maha Bali (Egypt), and Ahmet Nuri Yurdusev (Turkey). A number of distance education lecturers and practitioners also presented their research and thoughts in a number of parallel rooms with different topics. As in previous years, the conference also selected a number of presenters in the categories of Best Paper, Best Practice, and Young Innovator Awards. Additionally, as an acknowledgement of individuals dedicated to advancing distance education in Asia, the committee planned to present Meritorious Awards.