Paragons of online education; Tian Belawati - fighting for equal opportunities to learn


Full of energy and smiles, always fighting for equal opportunites to learn for everybody – Tian Belawati is our paragon of online learning this month. She was an accomplished and professional president of ICDE for four years from 2012.

Tian Belawati is a professor at the open university in Indonesia, Universitas Terbuka, with 310 000 students. She has also served as a rector at Terbuka for eight years. She has a number of positions of trust, for instance member of the ICDE Board of Trustees, Secretary of Higher Education Council, Indonesia and member of the Supervisory Board of Universitas Riau.

We invited her to respond to our paragon-questions:

- Currently, what is the key project you are working on?

Since I stepped down from Rector’s office back in 2017, I have been focusing on doing research, writing, and giving speeches in seminars and conferences. I just completed writing a book titled ‘online learning’ that is written in Bahasa Indonesia. I just realized that I mostly wrote in English and thus my writing was published mostly in journals and books outside Indonesia. I really wanted to write about online learning, which has gained popularity now in Indonesia, for people who are not comfortable reading English book. I am also now involved in the National Higher Education Council, whose tasks are among others is to give recommendations to the Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education on philosophical as well as practical issues related to higher education.

- How did you become aware of ICDE?

In 1999, I attended the 19th ICDE World Conference for the first time. Impressed by the magnitude of the conference, when I returned home, I asked my Rector at that time for my university to become an ICDE member. He then appointed me to become the person in charge for applying and taking care of the membership fee etc. Since then I always tried to attend the ICDE World Conference.

In 2007 I was invited to join the ICDE’s Election Committee, and in 2009 I was invited to join the Executive Committee. My involvement in ICDE’s governance continued when I was elected as President in 2012 until 2015. And now I serve as Vice Chair of ICDE’s Board of Trustees since 2017.

- Tell us about your fondest memory of ICDE.

Too many to mention, ICDE is a wonderful platform for meeting and working together with people who share the same interests and passions with me. Every time we organize conference, whether it the world conference or the international/regional conference, it always energizes me, inspires me, to learn more and to do more.

But if have to mention one, I think it would be the day when I was elected as President and immediately had to lead the Executive Committee meeting within 5 minutes after being elected, had to mediate a serious ‘debate’ between the Chair of Board of Trustees and the former President about the new constitution, and had to make a presentation to the Ministry of Education for our budget proposal, all in the same day! It was so hectic, but I did not have the time to be nervous, I just did it all. Thank God it all went well.

- What was the most important thing you learned from being an active ICDE member?

We have come a long way in providing better and more equal opportunities to learn for everybody, but we still witness the lack of educational opportunities in some spots of the world. The educational practice is more than ever now influenced by the advancement in technology, but some area is just not being touched by those technologies. From members of ICDE I learned that in some places, it is still an ongoing challenge to promote education for justice.

- What projects/initiatives have you worked on within the ICDE community that had the biggest impact on you?

I was involved in almost all projects during my presidency at ICDE, but personally the project on quality and models of online learning triggered me to enhance our Quality Assurance System and our learning modes.

- What would you say is the most important trend in education today?

I don’t know if it is the most important one, but I think the discussion trend on open curriculum and open pedagogy are very important. Still little to be known, much less to be implemented in a ‘systematic manner’ within open university context with large number of students such as my own university (we have around 310 thousand students).

In terms of technology, I think the use of AI and augmented reality to enhance learning experience are also important.

- What are the challenges of education today?

Keeping up with technology is as challenging as opening access to everybody.

- In your experience, how do you think ICDE can contribute to finding good solutions?

As a catalyst of collaboration so that we can share our experiments and experiences with each other, avoiding re-inventing the wheels all the time.

- Do you have an inspirational quote that you have been inspired by throughout your professional career?

Learn like you will live forever but serve like you will die tomorrow. As a muslim, I believe that all we have to do is doing our best and leave the result to Allah (God).

- If you were going to give a bouquet of roses to someone in the ICDE community, who would it be?

Hmmh this is hard, so many people deserve my bouquet of roses. The founders of ICDE whom I did not have the chance to meet, the people whom I worked closely during my time as President of ICDE – the Executive Committee members and the staff at the Secretariat -, and all the members who have made ICDE a very strong organization. Special roses are for Marta Mena and Vibeke Hoffmann who have made my working time at ICDE so fun.


Name    : Tian Belawati

Age        : 57

Country: Indonesia

Profession: Professor at Universitas Terbuka (Indonesia Open University)

Positions in ICDE (present and former):

  • 2015-now: Board of Trustee, The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)

  • 2012-2015: President, The International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)

  • 2009-2011: Member of the Executive Committee, International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)

  • 2007-2009: Member of the Election Committee, International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE)


Link to LinkedIn profile:

Caroline Seville