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Open Polytechnic Of New Zealand And ICDE Partner To Deliver Virtual Summit On Flexible Education

Educational thought leaders and innovators from across the world will be discussing the importance of resilience and flexibility for education providers, in the context of COVID-19, at a two-day virtual event taking place over 8-9th April, 2021.

The Leadership Summit will be hosted by the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, in partnership with the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE). It will be run virtually across three time zones, allowing experts to collaborate and develop a global response to current issues facing education.

The theme for the summit is ‘Leadership for responsiveness: Are we flexible enough?’ The event will consider three elements of flexibility to address three key questions: How are learner expectations changing? What limitations do our organisational structures place on flexibility? How flexible are our teaching and learning approaches?

Dr Mark Nichols, Executive Director of Learning Design & Development at the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand, says the theme is topical given recent events.

“If there was one key learning that educational providers have taken away from 2020, it is the importance of being resilient. Almost overnight education had to become more flexible. What we’ll be exploring in this event is how we might improve flexible learning opportunities for everyone, not just when we have to.”

The summit will have input from 10 presenters who are international leaders in their field of open and distance education. This includes Dr Paul J. LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University who was described by Forbes Magazine as one of the ‘most influential people in higher education.’ Other keynote speakers include Shai Reshef, President of University of the People - the first non-profit, tuition-free, American, accredited online university, and Professor Laura Czerniewicz whose work has focused on equity and digital inequality.

Open Polytechnic Chief Executive Dr Caroline Seelig, who will be co-presenting with Executive Director of Learning Delivery, Alan Cadwallader, on ‘What limitations do our organisational structures place on flexibility?’ says the summit will help the continual development of new ways of working to ensure a world-class education experience for online and distance learners.

“We are proud to be hosting this virtual summit alongside ICDE. As an industry leader in online and flexible learning, we look forward to not only sharing our insights, but hearing from other experts in the field of open, distance and flexible learning. Our goal, as always, is to be on the cutting-edge of developments in this space to help deliver a world-class education experience for our learners,” says Dr Seelig.

Each presenter will prepare a pre-recorded presentation of up to 20 minutes related to a specific question they receive. Learners will also be represented and talk about their experience with distance learning and how flexibility has enabled their studies. Key themes and insights will be compiled into a final report.

ICDE President Dr Neil Fassina say “ICDE is pleased to partner with the Open Polytechnic of New Zealand to present the 2021 Leadership Summit. The fully-virtual summit will enable educational thought leaders, researchers, and innovators to connect across multiple time zones in their efforts to continue transforming the lives of leaders across the globe.”

For more information on the Leadership Summit, including presenter bios, the full schedule and to register visit

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