The OUSL participated at the 31st Annual Conference of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU 2017) hosted by the Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia Open University) on the 27-29th of September 2017 at the Royal Ambarrukmo Hotel, in the city of Yogyakarta, Indonesia. The conference was themed: “Open University for Inclusive and Equitable Quality Education”.

At this conference six papers were short listed for the award of the Best Practices in Open and Distance Learning and out of these, three were shortlisted from the OUSL. We are proud to note the OUSL won the Gold and Silver medals in the Best Practices Awards category from over 350 research papers presented at the AAOU. The Gold medal was won for the research paper titled, “Development of a Hybrid Learning System to Enhance ODL: Printed Course Material Amelioration via Smart phones by Eng. W.R.de Mel and Mr. M.R. Mohomed Haroon of the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Faculty of Engineering Technology, OUSL. M.R. Mohomed Haroon of BTech-Mechatronics presented the paper at this conference.

This paper develops a Hybrid Learning System (HLS) in the field of ODL. The HLS refers to a method of study where there is an analytically-planned mix of both conventional study notes and online learning resources. In other words, the HLS presents, via QR codes, a video tutorial, an e-book, a website, a lecture note prepared by a course expert or any other relevant material that is stored in the cloud storage by accessing the internet, and fosters learning attitude of students sensing that the - ‘Lecturer is close at hand’.

The Silver medal was won by the paper titled, “Development and Testing of a Mobile Application through Design-based Research,” a joint paper presented by the members of the Centre for Educational Technology and Media (CETME) and the Faculty of Health Sciences, OUSL . The research paper was developed by Dr. Gayathri Jayatilleke, Prof Gaya Ranawaka, Ms. Chamali Wijesekara & Mr. Malinda Kumarasingha. Their paper was based on a design-based action research undertaken to transform the existing printed lesson material into digitized content by incorporating interactive components suitable for a tablet computer. This study was funded by an OUSL research grant, and enabled experimentation with novel mobile learning applications. The paper was presented by Dr. Gayathri Jayatilleke, Head of Academic Research at the CETME.

The AAOU Annual Conference was attended by a ten-member OUSL team who also presented research articles. Prof. S. A. Ariadurai, the OUSL Vice Chancellor, a large community of academics, practitioners, administrators, students, as well as information and communication technology developers and providers also attended the conference. The research-based conference provided a focal point to bring everyone up to date on ideas, issues, and the developments in the field of ODL.

The selection criteria for the shortlisted papers specified an innovative practice to improve the potential of the best practices that can be adopt or replicated creating an impact on the ODL, and the quality of writing in the ODL. The Adjudication Committee appointed by the AAOU President short listed candidates papers based on the following criteria: presentation content, organisation and flow, visual aids and posture or appearance, delivery, and the ability to answer questions. This achievement is indeed a millstone achievement not only in the ODL, but also for advanced scientific research in Sri Lanka .