UT Delegation as Finalists for Best Paper and Best Practice at the 36th AAOU Conference

being officially opened the day before by the Rector of Universitas Terbuka (UT), Prof. Ojat Darojat M.Bus. Ph.D, who also serves as President of AAOU, the 36th AAOU Conference in Istanbul, Turkey, continued into the second day. In 2023, Universitas Terbuka dispatched 40 delegates consisting of 30 UT lecturers who had been strictly and transparently selected, the AAOU secretariat staff, and delegates assigned for comparative study.On the second day, the AAOU Annual Conference featured three keynote speakers.

The first keynote speaker was Torunn Gjelsvik, the Secretary General of the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE), with the topic “The DNA of Open Universities and why it is critically needed in the age of digitalized higher education.” In her presentation, she described the increasing role of open higher education in the era of digitalization in higher education. Many conventional universities in the world have learned good practices from open universities in running online learning modes. After the COVID-19 pandemic, the behavior of the global community has also influenced the central role of open education, which has proven its resilience in carrying out the learning process in challenging and restricted conditions.

The second keynote speaker was Prof. Josep M. Duart from EDEN Digital Learning Europe, who delivered the topic “The Open University Futures: A European Approach.” He outlined the future of open universities using the approach implemented in Europe. Various rapid technological and information innovations will greatly affect the development of open universities in the future in terms of learning management, administration, and organizational management. The adaptation to these changes and developments in the current timeline and in the future will determine the success of an open university.

The third keynote speaker on the second day was Prof. Maha Bali from the Center for Learning and Teaching, The American University in Cairo, who spoke on “A Critical Approach to Artificial Intelligence”. In this session, she conveyed the importance of the human role, including teachers and students, in addressing the existence and advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Mentioned in the discussion session was the attitude that needs to be put forward when facing AI progress in the world of distance higher education: to place AI as an ordinary tool that helps accelerate the process without having to put aside learning goals and achievements. Naturally, this must be accompanied by ethical codes for its use.

In addition, a panel session was held on the topic “The Digital Era – Women Leaders’ Role in Moving Open Universities Forward”, featuring Prof. Melinda Bandalaria (Rector of the University of the Philippines Open University), Prof. Asha Kanwar, (President and CEO of Commonwealth of Learning), and Prof. Tian Belawati, Ph.D. (Chairperson of the UT Board of Professors). The session was moderated by Prof. Lily Chan (Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Wawasan Open University – Malaysia). The three speakers discussed factors influencing the success of women leaders, including family support, good cooperation with staff, and a supportive working environment. On the other hand, there are several challenges faced by women leaders in carrying out their leadership roles, such as time management issues between work and family and stamina.

On the same occasion, UT lecturers who became presenters at this grand event were very enthusiastic about presenting research results to delegates and other presenters from more than 15 countries in Asia, Europe, and Australia. UT delegates had the opportunity to learn from the research results of other presenters and key speakers, which were related to scientific developments and the world of open and distance higher education at the international level. Another positive outcome obtained by UT delegates from the 36th AAOU annual conference was the development of international networks that can lead to collaborative research and international publications across institutions and countries, which will benefit various parties and support UT’s internationalization targets.

Additionally, on the same day, a parallel session took place for presenters who were assessed to determine the finalist for the AAOU awards. There were six finalists for Best Paper, six finalists for Best Practice, and three finalists for Young Innovator. Two teams of presenters from UT were among the six Best Paper finalists, and one UT presenter team became a finalist for Best Practice.

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