Sunday, January 30, 2011

Online learning needs a strategy, says new report

Universities and colleges need to make online learning a central part of their strategies if they are to stay competitive globally, says a new report.

The report argues that those UK higher education (HE) institutions that are prepared to make online learning a central focus will be able to develop responsive, engaging and interactive education that is both high quality and cost-effective.

They will also need to take advantage of rapidly developing technology and rich sources of content, and invest in high quality learning, if they are to remain globally competitive against the challenge from international and private providers.

The report is published by the online learning taskforce, which includes JISC's chair Professor Tim O'Shea, and showcases 14 innovative approaches to online course delivery in the UK.

Dr Malcolm Read, JISC's executive secretary, said: "Online learning is an increasingly important element of teaching particularly to support learners at a distance in both space and time. We look forward to working with the Higher Education Academy and others to support higher and further education exploit the opportunities to improve the learner experience offer by on line learning."

The report makes six recommendations to institutions and the wider HE sector. They include use of online learning to enhance student choice and meet learners’ expectations; realignment of training and development to support academics to play a leading role in online provision; and the development and sharing of open educational resources to enhance efficiency and quality.

The chair of the task force, British Library chief executive Dame Lynne Brindley, said: "The HE sector has been talking about the potential of online learning for well over 10 years. The moment has come to move online learning more centre stage. Only by doing this will UK higher education remain and grow as a major international force. Our report offers pointers towards achieving this goal."

Sir Alan Langlands, chief executive of Higher Education Funding Council for England, said: "At a time of increasing expectations from students, universities should be using learning technology appropriately and delivering online programmes that are high quality and flexible. Prospective students from the UK and overseas require clear and easily accessible information about online learning."

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