Uncategorized Equity and inclusion At the heart of open and distance learning practice is the different interactions between teachers and students of various types that are significantly mediated through the design and implementation of the educational resources that students must engage with. However, each of these three factors has an inward and outward focus that makes up the whole educational experience. Thus, educational resources can be readily available and accessible (‘open’) or not (‘closed’). Students have their experiences of studying influenced by their personal circumstances. Teachers’ practices are influenced by the support staff and structures within their institutions. In addition, there are another set of external influences such as quality assurance policies, innovations in educational technologies and institutions and cultural norms and practices in relation to life-long learning. Finally, we have an overarching influence of the Sustainable Development Goals. All these factors and their relationships are represented in the influence diagram below and will be discussed during the forum. Employability Unemployment is a major problem affecting people around the world. ILO estimates that more than 61 million jobs have been lost globally since the start of the global economic crisis in 2008, leaving more than 200 million people unemployed. Over the next decade nearly 500 million jobs need to be created to absorb those currently unemployed and the 40 million new annual entrants to the labour market. Close to 90% of this job creation needs to take place in the developing world, primarily Africa and Asia. Rising youth unemployment, especially for young women, is one of the most significant problems facing economies and societies today, in developed and developing countries. The youth unemployment rate is nearly three times that of the rest of the population. Opening up education Opening up education is a broad concept that became popular with the establishment of the UK Open University. The ‘open education’ movement now encompasses open educational resources (OER), open science, open educational practice (OEP), Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC), open pedagogy, open textbooks as well as ‘traditional’ open entry, flexible learning. This sub-theme will focus on how all these approaches can be used to improve access to education at all levels, and particularly with a focus on lifelong learners. Ways of improving access can encompass the use of any of the forms of open education, and institutional models to flexible learning, such as public-private partnership, accrediting informal learning and the use of technology to support online, flexible learning. The aim is to explore new models of learning and evaluate the implementation of existing approaches to foster open education. Perspectives can include student learning, designing open education, delivering learning opportunities, and managing learning organisations. Technology Advances in emerging technologies continue to drive innovation in education institutions and the workplace. The knowledge and use of these technologies as well as the ability for technology-enabled learning and upskilling are becoming imperative for self-improvement and advancement in the workplace. Developments in artificial intelligence and robotics have particularly seen a demand on employees to add breadth or depth to their current capacities. Only a few years ago, a college degree guaranteed a stable job and to some extent, long-term career success. It is, however, increasingly the case that individuals need to embrace lifelong learning to remain relevant in their workplace, as a college degree now only helps new graduates enter the workforce. It is because of this that many institutions are not only focused on providing high quality learning resources but also equipping learners with the knowledge and skills needed to blend appropriate technologies and online resources, including OER, to attain lifelong learning. The question we might ask is whether the evolution of new technologies and learning platforms like MOOCs, augmented and virtual reality learning environments and microlearning have been successful in realizing flexible, personalized, work-based learning. Are there ways to train a learner to prepare them to become lifelong learners? Is the use of technology in education all that it takes? Are there successes or has this debate over-emphasised the potential of technology for lifelong learning? This forum will attempt to answer these questions and address ways in which education institutions and international development organizations might harness emerging technologies to prepare a workforce that is ready for lifelong learning.