ishan-abeywardenaThe University of Waterloo Centre for Extended Learning (CEL) supports the design, development and delivery of online credit and non-credit courses for the University of Waterloo, offers professional development opportunities to the world, and advocates for adult, part-time and online learners. The CEL has been extending learning and bringing Waterloo education to the world for more than 50 years. Currently, I lead an innovative enterprise software development and support team at the CEL who builds online learning tech for the University of Waterloo.

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. In my capacity as the Adviser on OER at COL, I had successfully completed the “Open Educational Resources for Skills Development” (USD600k) project funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, USA. My mandate was to facilitate the development of OER policy frameworks at national, provincial and institutional levels while building capacity of teachers to develop good-quality OER learning materials. As a part of this three-year project, I developed 29 provincial OER policies and sensitized 649 policy makers in Cameroon, Botswana and Sri Lanka; 53 institutional policies in Kenya and India; 26 OER skills courses and toolkits with over 4 hours of instructional videos; and trained 272 teachers from 89 institutions in OER reuse and course development. Further, I have personally trained over 130 master trainers on Android mobile application development in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

At COL, I was a member of the COL/UNESCO Global Task Team for the OER Regional Consultations leading up to the 2nd World OER Congress in Slovenia and acted as the facilitator/convener of the Latin America and Caribbean Regional Consultation, held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where 31 government officials, policymakers, advocates and researchers from 21 countries participated to identify the current state of play with respect to OER in the region and concrete actions to drive the OER movement. Additionally, I was the co-author of the Open Educational Resources in the Commonwealth 2016 report and editorial team member for the OER: Global Report 2017 and OER: From Commitment to Action Reports published by COL.

Prior to joining COL, I held the positions of Director, International Academic Relations Division and Acting Director, National Online Distance Education Service (NODES) at The Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL). OUSL is the premier Open and Distance learning institution in Sri Lanka where students can pursue their studies through Open and Distance Learning (ODL) methodologies. Currently, there are more than 35,000 students studying at the OUSL, who are being served by eight Regional Centres and eighteen Study Centers located around the country with the main campus located in Colombo. The International Academic Relations Division (IRD) acts as the interface between OUSL and the global academic community. Reporting to the Vice Chancellor, my role as the Director of the IRD was to enrich the academic, economic and cultural aspects of OUSL staff and students by establishing international collaborations with like-minded individuals and institutions while managing all operational aspects of the division. During my tenure, I developed and implemented the institutional OER policy for OUSL; established the OUSL “Distinguished Lecture Series” where scholarly lectures were delivered monthly by eminent international academics to a global audience through live streaming; signed three MoUs with China Yunnan Open University, Open University of Hong Kong and University of Media Arts, Korea; facilitated ten international workshops; organized three staff development attachments to Wawasan Open University, Malaysia and Sukhothai Thammatirat Open University, Thailand; and organized student exchange programs to Shanghai Open University, China.

NODES is an entrepreneurial, self-sustaining, national agency established to coordinate the delivery of online distance education programs in Sri Lanka. As the Acting Director, I migrated the NODES data center to University premises working closely with national and international vendors who were selected through a comprehensive tender process; streamlined the NODES operations including the 26 access centers distributed across the country; developed business plans to achieve self-sustainability for NODES; designed technical plans to revamp the existing technology architecture; generated new business through public private partnerships; and designed action plans to deliver high quality distance education to the masses.

On the academic front, I was a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and IT at the School of Science and Technology, Wawasan Open University (WOU), Malaysia for five years. I served a term as the Deputy Dean of the School from July 2013 to August 2014. WOU was established in 2006 with a unique and socially responsible objective – to provide working Malaysians access to quality higher education via ODL regardless of their educational, ethnic or socio-economic background. As the Deputy Dean, I provided leadership in all administrative and academic functions of the school. I directly managed 17 academic staff including four PhD holders and two administrative staff; designed financial projections and operating budgets for the school; provided leadership in undergraduate and postgraduate affairs, ODL course development and delivery, tutor assessment and examinations; established research clusters in the school; and coordinated a total of 8-10 ODL courses per year at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

During my five years as a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and IT at WOU, I developed five Bachelor of Technology (Hons) degrees in Software Engineering, Information Systems, Multimedia Design, Networks and Data Communication and Database Management. Additionally, I designed the MBA in Manufacturing and Production Management program. Further, I successfully coordinated the program accreditation for BTech (Hons) in Electronic Commerce and BTech (Hons) in Information Systems. My teaching load included Advanced Manufacturing (PG), Enterprise Resource Planning (PG), Visual Programming, Human Computer Interaction, Electronic Commerce, Data Structures and Algorithms, Website Design and Development, Operating Systems, Intelligent Systems for Decision Support, Web Database Applications and Software Project Management. I was also involved in grant-funded research and developed/co-authored course material for UG and PG courses. Further, I was instrumental in developing undergraduate and postgraduate programs for elearning, OER course development, capacity building in educational technology, outcomes based education, outcomes based assessment and continuous quality improvement. 

As the Operations Director of V Designers Ltd., a startup company which offered affordable, high quality web solutions for SMEs based in UK, I managed all operations including technology, project management, sales and marketing. I managed a technical team which included web designers, software developers, graphics designers and content developers who worked remotely from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Mexico. In less than a year of operation, I managed to secure 15 portfolio clients with approximately 80% gross profit. As the IT Manager for the Veenus Group in UK, I developed new IT support strategies for staff development and streamlining operations; managed all software, hardware, networking, security strategy and implementation aspects. Prior to getting promoted to the position of IT Manager, as the IT Coordinator, I designed the system architecture and developed the company business process management solution “Veenus DEBI” in VB.NET and MS SQL Server 2000. This system drives the complete business including operations, administration, HRM, finance, reporting, and MIS for three travel trade companies.