About the Commonwealth of Learning

The Commonwealth of Learning (COL) is an intergovernmental organisation created by Commonwealth Heads of Government in 1987 to promote the development and sharing of open learning and distance education knowledge, resources and technologies.

Hosted by the Government of Canada with headquarters in Burnaby, British Columbia, COL is the world’s only intergovernmental organisation solely concerned with the promotion and development of distance education and open learning. 

The organisation is governed by a distinguished Board of Governors whose membership of up to 17 hail from around the Commonwealth and bring leadership and expertise in a wide range of areas. Led by Professor Asha Kanwar, COL’s fourth president, it remains committed to an enduring vision — to be the foremost global agency that promotes learning for sustainable development.

COL’s greatest impact is in supporting efforts to provide Commonwealth citizens greater access to quality education and training through open, distance and technology-enabled learning, thereby allowing them to benefit from improved livelihoods, greater gender equity and overall economic, social and cultural development leading to sustainable development.

COL is committed to promoting equitable access to quality lifelong learning for all – believing, in effect, that access to learning opportunities will lead to progress in achieving sustainable development.

COL values and maintains an organisational culture that is respectful, ethical and fair. In line with this commitment, COL has in place a policy on Safeguarding to help keep all persons with whom it works and comes into contact  with through its work safe from any form of sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. COL’s Anti-Fraud Policy sets out the commitment to promoting a culture of integrity and transparency throughout the organisation where fraud and corruption will not be tolerated. COL enables individuals to report illegal, dishonest, or fraudulent activity in good faith and will be protected against retaliation or fear of retribution as outlined in COL's Policy on Whistle Blowing.


Download Memorandum of Understanding on the Commonwealth of Learning


Mission and Strategic Plan 2015-2021

COL’s mission is to help governments, institutions and organisations expand the scale, efficiency and quality of learning by using appropriate open, distance and technology-based approaches.

COL recognises that providing access to learning alone will not be enough. COL focusses on quality learning that leads to secure livelihoods and economic opportunities, greater harmony among all members of society as global citizens, and protection of the environment. It is more than formal education, taking place in non-formal and informal settings, and can continue throughout life. 

If the post-2015 development goals are to be achieved, learning must lead to sustainable development, which is the focus of the Strategic Plan 2015-2021.

Download the Commonwealth of Learning's Strategic Plan 2015-2021