On 1st December, 2016, the 15th China International Distance Education Conference was inaugurated at Beijing Kuntai hotel, with the theme of “Lifelong Learning: The Value Chain and the Ecological Circle”.

The conference, sponsored by the magazine of Distance Education in China under the guidance of the Chinese Society of Education, the China Association of Higher Education (CAHE), the Research Centre for Online Education of the Ministry of Education (MOE), Modern Distance Education Cooperation Group (MDECG) of National Colleges and Universities, focused on development trends in modern distance education and continuing education. Deputy director general of the MOE’s Department of Vocational Education and Adult education, Ge Weiwei, president of CAHE, Qu Zhenyuan, and president of the Open University of China (OUC), Yang Zhijian, delivered keynote speeches at the opening ceremony, which was presided over by the president of Distance Education in China magazine, Zhao Wei.

The conference attracted more than 1,000 participants from within the industry. CPPCC Standing Committee member and vice chairman of the Central Committee of China Association for Promoting Democracy (CAPD), Zhu Yongxin; deputy director of the MOE’s Education Development Research Centre and Chairman of the Specialised Committee on Lifelong Learning under the Chinese Society of Educational Development Strategy, Han min; executive vice president of the China Adult Education Association, Zhang Zhaowen; CAHE Secretary General, Kang Kai; executive deputy secretary general of MDECG of National Colleges and Universities, Li Defang; deputy secretary general of MDECG of National Colleges and Universities Chen Geng; and OUC Vice President Liu Chen, attended the opening ceremony. Alexander Khoroshilov, director of the Educational Information Technology Centre of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, gave a speech entitled "The Future of Higher Education in a Digital Age” via video.

President of the OUC Yang Zhijian said in his speech that the macro environment for open distance education has changed dramatically and, for this reason, we must construct a coexisting, sharing, co-built ecological circle. Social and economic development has made improving national quality, promoting lifelong learning, and building a learning society common goals. Problems such as the demand for quality, flexible and diversified higher education and education opportunities that benefit rural minorities in remote areas, special populations, and vulnerable groups are becoming increasingly prominent. At the same time, the development of technology has meant that many different kinds of education have entered the era of lifelong education and various educational institutions must share common responsibilities and values. In order to promote diversified and personalised lifelong learning, we must focus on using the Internet, which requires us to gather consensus and collaborate in the process of development.

OUC deputy party secretary Yang Xiaotang gave a keynote speech entitled "Value Orientation and Ecological Optimisation: Interpretation of the Report on the Development of Distance Higher Education in China.” He proposed that discussions of distance higher education should start from the perspective of ecology and ecological optimization, that is to say that it should "look for a fertile soil for the sustainable development of distance higher education, provide sufficient sunshine, rain or dew for its growth, and create a new realm of mutual symbiosis and flourishing development".

President of the Global Chinese Educational Technology Association and vice president of Beijing Normal University, Chen Li; president of the Korean National Institute for Lifelong Education Revitalisation, Young Whakee; general manager of Hong kong Qualifications Framework Secretariat, Peng Binghong; professor Zhang Weiyuan from Beijing Normal University; deputy director of Beijing Open Distance Education Centre, Zhao Min; ChinaEdu Group Chairman and member of the board of Renmin University of China, Huang Bo; vice president of Netdragon and chairman of the board of directors of Huayu Education (China) Corporation, Yu Biao; general manager of Qingyingfeifan company, Song Fan; and general manager of Ali cloud education and the business incubator division, Wang Xiaowen all gave keynote speeches at the main forum in the conference.

A special contribution award for Lifelong Education in Modern Distance Education in China (1998-2016) was also granted at the conference.

By He Jing, OUC