News FY 2023

Survey Visit to Korea National Open University (KNOU)

On December 14, 2023, delegates from the Open University of Japan (OUJ) visited the Korea National Open University (KNOU), one of the overseas universities with which OUJ has made collaborative agreement and with which OUJ has deepened exchange through the OUJ-OUC-KNOU International Seminar and other events. The delegates are Mr. Fuchigami, Director-General; Mr. Yamamoto, Councilor and Division Head, General Affairs Division; Ms. Kawamura, Section Head, Strategic Planning Division; Ms. Kajiwara, Section Chief, International Affairs Section, General Affairs; Ms. Yamamoto, International Affairs Section, General Affairs; and Ms. Edamitsu, General Affairs Section.

OUJ, which is currently considering providing education service to those living abroad, conducted a monitoring survey regarding participation in class lectures from abroad in the first and second semesters of AY 2023. This survey revealed some issues to be tackled to accept students living abroad, including copyright issues related to the overseas distribution of class lectures. As part of efforts to address these issues, OUJ sent the delegates to KNOU to conduct a survey of actual conditions of an open university in South Korea, which shares many similarities with Japan.

On the morning of December 14, the delegates visited the KNOU headquarters in Seoul, in which they were warmly welcomed, including receiving an address of welcome from KNOU President Songhwan KO and displaying a group photo taken at the OUJ-OUC-KNOU International Seminar held recently, together with a welcome message, on the large electronic panel placed at the reception area of KNOU.

The warm welcome was followed by a meeting in which KNOU staff members from different divisions answered OUJ’s questions regarding the acceptance of students living abroad, based on the written inquiry sent in advance. In 2023, KNOU started accepting application for admission in AY2024 from those living abroad. The delegates were able to obtain very useful information on how to deal with copyright issues and how to distribute class lectures online.

After the meeting, they visited a studio of KNOU, where they were impressed by the studio’s equipment, including the utilization of VR technology and other state-of-the-art technologies.

During this visit, warm hospitality was extended to the OUJ delegates. We hope that our friendly relations will be further promoted through exchanges and information sharing, eventually leading to further development of the two open universities.

Participants in the visit to KNOU

The 29th ICDE World Conference in San Jose, Costa Rica

The 29th International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) World Conference took place from November 6th to 9th at the Costa Rica Convention Center in San Jose, Costa Rica. Over 600 delegates from around the globe, including renowned educational experts and scholars, gathered. Representing the Open University of Japan (OUJ), Professor Kumiko Aoki of Informatics, Department of Liberal Arts, participated in the conference.

The previous ICDE World Conference, originally scheduled to be held in Brazil in 2021, was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, the event in Costa Rica marked both the resumption of the conference after a four-year hiatus and the celebration of its 85th anniversary since its inception in 1938.

The conference revolved around the central theme ”Joining Hands in Peace for the Futures of Education.” Over the course of four days, the conference featured eleven keynote speakers who shared insights and fostered thought-provoking discussions, and over 400 presenters, who addressed critical aspects of education under four sub-themes: 1. Global Inclusion and Social Equity through Open, Flexible, and Distance Learning (OFDL), 2. Future Learning Organizations and Structure for Societal Transformation and Sustainability, 3. The Futures of Quality Open, Flexible and Distance Learning Models and Technologies, and 4. Networking and Collaboration in New Educational Ecosystems.

Professor Aoki delivered a presentation titled ”Synchronicity Paradox of Open, Flexible, and Distance Learning: Engagement or Constraint?” She delved into the synchronicity paradox in distance education, highlighting the dual nature of web conferencing systems for live web classes while also exploring the concept of virtual learning commons. Her insights underscored the balance between the benefits of synchronous and asynchronous learning methods.

The momentum of this successful conference sets the stage for the 30th ICDE World Conference, scheduled to take place from November 10th to 13th, 2025, in Wellington, New Zealand. It promises to continue the tradition of excellence in advancing open and distance learning, hosted by ICDE members, Te Pukenga and Massey University.

Visit of JICA Rwanda Trainees

On October 26th, 2023, a delegation consisting of five trainees of JICA’s project on the ”Improvement of Primary Mathematics and Science Education Using ICT in Rwanda ” headed by SENGATI UWASENGA Diane, Director of Digital Content and Instructional Technology Development Unit, and Acting Head of ICT in Education Department, Rwanda Basic Education Board, visited the Makuhari Headquarters of the Open University of Japan.

Firstly, Professor Kumiko Aoki delivered a lecture titled “E-Learning and Contents Development at the Open University of Japan.” The presentation provided an overview of OUJ's educational methods, featuring online courses and live web classes.

Following the lecture, the delegation toured the facilities for online courses, expressing keen interest and raising numerous questions.

Subsequently, a courtesy visit was made to President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga. Vice President Prof. Tomotsugu Kondo, Vice President Prof. Tooru Hayasi, and Head of International Committee Prof. Naruo Nikoh also joined the meeting. During the visit, there was an exchange of views on the education situation in Rwanda and the activities of OUJ, which provided valuable insights for both parties.

The visit by JICA Rwanda trainees provided valuable insights. We hope this visit contributes to the trainees' positive experiences and looks forward to ongoing exchanges between Rwanda and OUJ.

Commemorative photo in the President’s office
Lecture by Professor Aoki

The 36th AAOU Annual Conference in Istanbul, Türkiye

The 36th of the Asian Association of Open Universities (AAOU) Annual Conference was held at the Istanbul University Faut Sezgin Congress Center in Istanbul, Türkiye, from September 28th to 30th, 2023, organized by Anadolu University. The conference brought together representatives and faculty members from institutions from 20 countries, with a total of 250 participants.

From OUJ, President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga and Vice President Prof. Tooru Hayasi attended the AAOU Executive Committee Meeting and Prof. Tsuneo Yamada of Informatics, Prof. Naruo Nikoh of Nature and Environment, Mr. Takashi Fuchigami of Director-General attended as presenters and Ms. Kanako Kajiwara from the Head of International Affairs Office.

The main theme of the conference was “The Future of Open Universities in the Age of Digitalized Higher Education”. Presentations were not limited to this theme but could be selected from eight sub-themes and 15 topics relevant to the conference’s focus. Over the course of three days, the conference featured six keynote speeches, two panel discussions, and approximately 150 oral presentations. Some of these oral presentations were made available as video lectures on YouTube.

Prof. Yamada had the presentation titled “Online Project Learning for e-Volunteering”. COVID-19 Pandemic brought about the interruption of volunteering activities for assistance in real space with its tremendous loss and misfortune. As a countermeasure, e-volunteering activities disseminated rapidly, and innovative cases were reported in both domestic and international contexts. The author has offered a graduate course focusing on the relation between information society and volunteering activities from 2018 as the chief instructor. The course started as “Volunteering Activities in Information Society” and evolved into “Cyber-volunteering” in the midst of the pandemic. The course is provided twice a year, that is, in both First and Second semester and 183 students (includes repeaters) enrolled and 145 of them were awarded credits in 2018-2023.

As the objectives of the course are to acquire not only academic knowledge but skills necessary for the operation and management of volunteering, a project-oriented group learning was adopted. As the course was a full online course in an asynchronous mode, only basic functions of LMS were available for the group learning. While e-bulletin board was prepared, neither video conference nor other groupware were accessible. The task of the group work was to author and present a proposal of an innovative volunteering activity in which utilizes ICTs in advanced fashion in real or virtual environments, that is, e-Volunteering. Each work was evaluated from five viewpoints, that is, technology, needs, resources, publicity and project management by instructor and peers. Jigsaw Method (developed by Elliot Aronson in 1971) was revised and used as project learning strategy and the five areas of the viewpoints were also Experts’ roles allocated to each group member. While the course was not popular because it was neither easy nor flexible, the rating of their satisfaction was not worse. The themes chosen were “supporting elderly persons (8)”, “volunteers at schools and for younger generation (6)”, “Japanese language education in community and supports to overseas tourists (5)”, “supporting refugees in damaged areas (3)”, “international cooperation (2)” or others (5). The longer-term educational effects of the online program are the issues remained and continuous surveys are expected.

Prof. Nikoh gave a presentation titled “Cross Disciplinary Courses in Promoting Multiple Perspectives to Lifelong Learners.” In his talk, he showed how students at OUJ utilize the university as a platform for lifelong learning, indicating that some students graduate from one course and subsequently enroll in another. He stated that, in order to inspire students to study in diverse academic fields, it is useful for them to take courses that introduce a single theme from various disciplines. To illustrate this concept, he shared an example of a course designed with this idea.

Mr. Fuchigami (Director-General, OUJ) reported on “OUJ’s Challenge for Global Outreach”, including the history, current plans, and the ongoing overseas student monitoring survey. For the survey, the questionnaires were distributed primarily to Japanese nationals living abroad, and the responses were obtained from over 500 participants. Forty percent of them expressed interests in pursuing a formal degree program. Furthermore, sixty individuals from seventeen countries were selected as monitors, participating in both broadcast and online courses.

During this conference, a meeting was held between the President of Anadolu University, Prof. Fuat Erdal and President Prof. Iwanaga. In addition to both Presidents, the meeting was attended by Vice President Prof. Ali Usul from Anadolu University and OUJ members. They introduced their respected institutions and exchanged opinions about the international expansion of distance education and Internet-Based Testing (IBT).

President Prof. Fuat Erdal and Vice President Prof. Ali Usul and OUJ members
President Prof. Fuat Erdal and President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga

The 37th annual conference will be hosted by Allama Iqbal Open University in Pakistan, scheduled to take place from 15th to 17th October, 2024 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

Memorandum of Understanding Signing Ceremony with the Hellenic Open University (Greece)

The Open University of Japan (OUJ) and the Hellenic Open University (HOU) formalized their exchange agreement through an MOU signing ceremony on September 26, 2023, in Athens, Greece. The OUJ delegation, led by President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga, included Vice President Prof. Tooru Hayasi, Secretary-General Mr. Takashi Fuchigami, Professor Naruo Nikoh, and Chief of International Cooperation Ms. Kanako Kajiwara. They received a warm welcome at HOU’s Athens Campus.

HOU is one of the twenty-four national universities in Greece, established in 1992 and accredited as a distance education university and graduate school in 1997. It is the only university in Greece that offers distance education, with its headquarters located in Patras, serving approximately 40,000 students.

The signing ceremony was attended by President Prof. Ioannis Kalavrouziotis and representatives from HOU. Prior to the ceremony, Vice President Prof. Hayasi and Vice President Prof. Ioannis Sibetheros introduced their respective universities and engaged in a productive exchange of ideas. Following this, the signing ceremony was successfully executed. Subsequently, all participants gathered for a lunch event, fostering further friendship.

After the luncheon, guided by President Prof. Kalavrouziotis, the delegation visited the Acropolis Museum where they received a detailed lecture from the museum’s professional staff about the exhibits, making it a fulfilling experience.

OUJ would like to express its deepest appreciation for the warm hospitality extended during their stay in Athens. Making this visit a start, we look forward to building and strengthening our friendly relations, and to continue fostering exchanges and information sharing in the future

HOU Representatives and OUJ Delegation at President’s Office
President Prof. Ioannis Kalavrouziotis and President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga

The 10th OUJ-OUC-KNOU International Seminar (13th to 14th September, 2023)

The 10th OUJ-OUC-KNOU International Seminar was held at the headquarters of the Open University of Japan (OUJ) from September 13th to 14th, focusing on the main theme “Distance Education in the Post-COVID Era”. Five delegates from the Open University of China (OUC), led by Vice President Ms. Liu Xuanxuan, and six delegates from the Korea National Open University (KNOU), led by President Prof. Songhwan KO, were among the participants of the seminar.

The seminar was initiated in 2009 among OUJ, OUC, and KNOU to share and discuss their experiences regarding issues and challenges faced by universities in order to explore solutions and promote the further development of distance education, and had been held regularly until the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This year the seminar’s 10th annual meeting, originally scheduled in 2020, was eventually realized after a three-year postponement.

On the first day of the seminar (September 13), a welcome reception was hosted by OUJ for the seminar participants at the Hotel Springs in Makuhari. It provided an opportunity for the participants from the three universities to strengthen relationships and enhance collaboration.

Sessions commenced on the 14th with opening remarks by President Prof. Iwanaga, followed by Vice President Ms. Liu and President Prof. Ko. There were six presentations in two sessions, as follows:

[Session 1] Sub-Theme: From Perspectives of Learner Support and Educator Support

  • Prof. Gu Xiaohua, OUC
    “ Transformation and Upskilling of Teachers in the Post-Pandemic Distance Education ”
  • Prof. Yeongmin Kwon, KNOU
    “ What we’ve gained and what we’ve lost ”
  • Prof. Tatsumi Takeo, OUJ
    “ Python Coding Education for Adults Through Distance Learning ”

[Session 2] Sub-Theme: Our Experiences during the COVID Pandemic and Future Prospects

  • Prof. Kwang Sik Chung, KNOU
    “ Learning Analytics Sharing Platform for Shared Learning Contents on Learning Cloud ”
  • Mr. Wang Guochuan(Writer) , Dr. Liu Caimei(Presenter), OUC
    “ OUC Experience during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Future Prospects ”
  • Prof. Li Ming, OUJ
    “ My Experiences during the COVID-19 Pandemic and Future Prospects ”

For the details of each presentation, please visit below;

After the second session Vice President of OUJ Prof. Tooru Hayasi concluded the discussion of the seminar, and Ms. Liu Xuanxuan, the Vice President of OUC, presented information about the 11th International Seminar, which will be held in Beijing next year. With this announcement, the two-day seminar came to a successful close.

Vice President Liu Xuanxuan from OUC on the right
President Masaya Iwanaga in the middle
President Songhwan Ko from KNOU on the left
Prof. Tatsumi at his presentation
Prof. Li at her presentation
Seminar participants in front of the headquarters of OUJ

Delegation from National Open University (Taiwan)

On July 12th and 13th, a delegation of six members led by Associate Professor Hong Wenting, Head of the Department of Liberal Arts, from the National Open University (NOU), with which our university has a cooperative agreement for many years, visited our university.

On the morning of the 12th, the delegation visited the Tokyo Bunkyo Study Center. Professor Takeshi Tatsumi provided an overview of OUJ’s courses and program outlines. After his introduction, they were guided by General Manager, Mr. Takashi Anse, around the facilities of the center, such as lecture rooms, laboratories, and etc.

On the 13th, the delegation visited the Makuhari Headquarters, where they received a detailed explanation about the ongoing overseas learning monitor survey from Vice President Prof. Tooru Hayasi, Head of the International Committee Prof. Naruo Nikoh, and Prof. Tatsumi.

Subsequently, a courtesy visit was arranged with President Prof. Iwanaga and Vice President Prof. Hayasi, during which an exchange of commemorative gifts took place. Following this courtesy visit, a luncheon was held, with President Iwanaga also in attendance, providing an opportunity for further discussion.

In the afternoon, the delegation toured the master control room and the studio, as well as the facilities related to online courses.

We hope that both universities will continue to strengthen relationship, leading to substantial exchanges in the future.

Visit of the Delegation from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University

On June 9th, a delegation from Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), with which our university has a collaborative agreement for many years, visited our Makuhari headquarters. The STOU delegation consisted of Acting President Associate Professor Manit Jumpa, Acting Vice President Assistant Professor Gan Chanyawudhiwan, and Mrs. Rattip Phukkeson.

The visit began with an overview presentation by Associate Professor Yasuhiko Tsuji, who provided information on the academic programs, the distance education system, and other aspects of the OUJ. Following the presentation, the delegation toured the master control room and the studio, as well as the facilities related to online courses.

A courtesy visit was then made to President Prof. Masaya Iwanaga and Vice President Prof. Tooru Hayasi, where both universities exchanged commemorative gifts as a symbol of cooperative relationships. Subsequently, a luncheon was held for the delegation by President Prof. Iwanaga. Prof. Hayasi, Assoc. Prof. Tsuji, and the members of the International Affairs Section also attended it. It provided another opportunity for fruitful discussions on the initiatives of both universities.

In the afternoon, the delegation visited the Chiba Study Center, guided by Director Yoko Kataoka and General Manager Toshinori Shikakura to observe the lecture rooms, laboratories, and other facilities.

We hope that this visit will contribute to further enhancing the collaboration and exchange between the OUJ and STOU in the future.

Commemorative Photo with President Iwanaga and Acting President Manit Jumpa
Discussion in the President's Office