The excellent Re.Vica project’s latest newsletter provides a link to a preliminary report from a high-level task force on online learning created by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The Online Learning Task Force has been asked to make recommendations in a number of areas, including:

• how UK higher education can take advantage of new and expanding markets
• ways to encourage new students and new types of students into higher education, including through flexible pathways such as workplace and informal learning
• opportunities for collaboration between private and public organisations
• identifying opportunities for targeted investment to support both excellence and provision at significant scale.

It will also consider how institutions can support and enable staff to develop their expertise in this area, and appropriate organisational models to deliver online and blended offerings.

It has been working only for a few months, but has produced a preliminary report. Here are some of its findings:

a. More should be done to provide a simple taxonomy of the wide range of student experiences that currently fall under the broad title of ‘online distance learning’.
b. The vast majority of online distance learning offered by HEIs is focused on postgraduate-level provision.
c. Most online distance learning can be identified as professional development, or as having a strong vocational focus.
d. It can be challenging for potential students to find out about online distance learning courses, with information often hidden in complex institutional web-sites. Where details are available, they frequently fail to provide the full range of information that a potential student needs to make a decision about studying online.
e. We need to improve the market intelligence available to give a clearer picture of the position of UK online distance learning in an international context.


I hope someone from Industry Canada is following this development and working out a Canadian high tariff strategy based on the dairy produce industry to keep out unwanted imports to protect our fragile e-learning market (there must be some votes in this and we do have a minority government).

Even better, could Industry Canada be working out a strategy to encourage and strengthen Canada’s export of e-learning now we are trying to get a free trade deal with the EU? (I’m not holding my breath on either of these).

And lastly, does the world need these market-driven e-learning exports? At least the U.K. Task Force has a lot of experience to be learned from (anyone remember the e-University or the U.S. Open University?).


  1. Hi, Tony. Interesting findings, or more like, mild frustrations by DL lovers put into a report.

    I quite like how they suggest that we categorize distance learners more as opposed to seeing them as one type. With informal, open, and mobile learning expanding, I think the majority of distance learners is moving away from the middle-aged woman living in North America, raising kids, and working full-time.

    And if HEI realize this they would advertise more (point d), versus treating distance/open learning as a nice side dish. Or is it an embarrassment to them? Not sure.

    Thanks for sharing!


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