Community Media/COL/Focus Areas/Media for Learning

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COL's "Media for Learning" programme aims to make media to be an effective part of the larger Open and Distance Learning (ODL1) process, especially at the community level and particularly in relation to COL's mandate to enable learning for development.

Learning about what? Whatever a community's needs and priorities are. For some this means health issues, like HIV/AIDS, malaria or diabetes. For others, it means supplementing secondary school education in English, math and science.

How do communities learn using media? By engaging with media to design innovative programmes to address specific needs, e.g. improving agricultural practices, and linking to groups, both in the community and externally, to access useful and appropriate knowledge sources.

What does COL focus on in this area? 1) Building the capacities of media and 2) Supporting the establishment and growth of knowledge and learning networks.


Community Media

For COL, community media are any kind of media that is focused on the local community. It includes radio, TV and newspapers as well as new media: telecentres, websites, etc.

Why? Because community media work in areas often under-served by other information media and are therefore vital services. Community radios not only broadcast in local languages but they are firmly rooted in local contexts: they draw on local community membership as 'owners', managers, staff and as 'expert' resources on air. Community radios are trusted by their listeners; they work in culturally appropriate ways. For these and other reasons, community media, especially radio, are important vehicles for learning.

  1. Developing effective learning programmes; Good practice: Community Radio Madanpokhara; Recent activity: Jet FM in Jeffrey Town
  2. Strengthening organisation: community ownership and participation, policies, sustainability planning; Upcoming activity: Radio Mang'elete
  3. Smart technology choices
  4. Open sourcing community media; Good practice: KRUU FM

Knowledge and Learning Networks

Recognising the potential synergy between different sectors, knowledge and learning networks bring together content providers, media and community groups to work together to make knowledge resources and learning content at district, state or national levels.

  1. Linking content providers with distribution channels
  2. Universities in the community
  3. Sharing content

Media Empowerment

COL's Media Empowerment initiative has established over 40 media units in more than 30 Commonwealth countries. Low-cost, appropriate technologies, the units enable institutions and organisations to create and distribute media content.

  1. Media production skills for extension services, educational institutions and civil society groups


We are always interested in new ideas that harness media, mobiles and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) for learning. COL's programme works with the full range of ICTs, from radio to handheld computers to software programmes.

On the technology side, we are particularly interested in the use of mobiles and other handheld devices and open source software; however we recognise that the real innovations usually have as much if not more to do with people and human processes; therefore new approaches and novel ways of collaborating and networking are also of great interest.

Building communities

COL has a special focus on how open and distance learning can contribute to community development. Our focus areas at present are agriculture and environment, local governance, gender and women's empowerment, and health, especially HIV/AIDS.

1 Defining open and distance learning: Open learning describes policies and practices that permit entry to learning with no barriers or minimal barriers of age, gender or time while recognising prior learning. Distance education is the delivery of learning or training to learners who are separated, mostly by time and space, from those who are teaching and training. Conceptually distinct, yet complementary, these two phenomena come together in the term open and distance learning (ODL).