University of South Africa: Prepare for a deep dive into the intriguing world of ODeL research

One of the most exciting aspects of research on open, distance and e-learning (ODeL) is that there is still so much to be discovered. Despite an exponential increase in research on ODeL worldwide and in South Africa over the past decade, researchers are still not only scratching the surface of the possibilities that beckon in this vital field, but are also grappling with the complexities of ensuring effective teaching and supporting student success and retention. There is vast scope for inquiring minds to set a research agenda in ODeL and generate findings that can help shape people’s futures for the better.

Unisa’s 2022 ODeL Virtual Conference will, on one hand, serve as a platform for some of the ground-breaking research being conducted by leading ODeL researchers in South Africa, other African countries and beyond. On the other, it will be sure to inspire researchers who understand the importance of ODeL for the future of higher education but who do not yet have a sense of what research possibilities or collaborations there may be.

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa

“The 2022 Unisa ODeL Virtual Conference is an opportune occasion to broaden our view of ODeL research – to see the bigger picture and the smaller details,” says Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Unisa Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation. “The theme of the conference is, after all, ‘All Things Research in ODeL’ – a theme that invites us to open our minds, learn as much as we can, and be inspired. Whether you attend as a delegate or a speaker, you will undoubtedly find the conference stimulating and thought-provoking, and it will leave you excited and invigorated about the myriad possibilities in the fast-growing field of ODeL research.”

Prof Moeketsi Letseka

Says Prof Moeketsi Letseka, incumbent of the UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning (ODL) at Unisa and Project Leader of the 2022 Open Distance and eLearning Virtual Conference: “Mindful of the calamitous situation wrought by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2022 Unisa ODeL e-Conference seeks to harness creative ideas regarding a nuanced understanding of how to conduct quality and impactful research in the midst of a deadly global pandemic. What obstacles did researchers encounter? What solutions

did their research highlight? What opportunities might the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic have sparked or elicited?”

Speakers and delegates from all over the world will be attending, making the conference an excellent vehicle for networking in the ODeL field. Last year, participants from 49 countries, including 21 African countries, attended the inaugural conference.

The 2022 conference is being jointly hosted by Unisa’s Portfolio: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation and the UNESCO Chair on Open Distance Learning and is intended to encourage discourse about research in a globally connected era.

The format comprises pre-conference workshops on 2 August. From 3 to 5 August there will be plenary sessions and panel discussions, an ODeL Postgraduate Student Consortium and paper presentations.