Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A global perspective on online learning

globe by Judy **, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic License by Judy **

The sheer volume of writing in the field of educational technology and online learning is almost overwhelming; theses, articles, blogs, magazines, e-books, films, lectures. However one missing element so far has been reliable and regular global statistics. There are plenty of national surveys but nothing that takes a global perspective and provides a statistical base for researchers and educators. With the current media focus on open education and MOOCs and the resultant risk for hype and optimistic estimates it is essential to establish a sound statistical baseline.

That's why this week's announcement from ICDE (International Council for Open and Distance Learning), launching a Global Online Higher Education Report was welcomed by many. The aim is to produce a survey of online learning featuring statistics, strategies, attitudes and trends. The report is to be compiled by ICDE in partnership with UNESCO, the European Commission, the International Association of Universities, the Sloan Consortium, StudyPortals and Babson Survey Research Group.

Although there is clear evidence of the growth of online learning, the global data remains anecdotal or limited in scope. There has been no formal effort or process to define online learning in the global context, to document levels of participation, the importance of online learning in institutional strategies or the policy implications for online learning. The Global Online Higher Education Report, (GlobalOHER) initiative is designed to address this deficiency by conducting a global survey and issuing a report that will provide:
  • Information on enrolments and programmes offered online 
  • Information on the role of MOOCs around the world 
  • Information on the adoption of Open Education Resources, OER 
  • Perspectives on the importance of online learning in institutional strategies 
  • The challenges institutions face in delivering high quality programmes and services 
  • A framework of the policy issues that institutions believe need to be addressed
They hope to include information from the world's higher education institutions or at least the majority of them, a formidable task but with such a strong partnership, not unrealistic. The first report is due later this year and will be published openly with a Creative Commons license in a number of formats to ensure the widest dissemination. The report will then be updated twice a year providing researchers with invaluable information and trend indicators.

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