Online education tools for school pupils should be developed with the collaboration of businesses, according to one learning and enterprise expert.
Dylan Jones-Evans, professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Wales, said that there is a significant skills gap in the UK and Welsh workforces, with various studies highlighting the fact that we are falling behind the international competition in terms of employment skill.
In order to remedy this, the Online Digital Learning Working Group - of which he is a member - called on the Welsh government to raise awareness of the potential of online learning to support economic development in its recent report, "Open & online: Wales, higher education and emerging modes of learning".
Writing for Wales Online, Professor Jones-Evans offers the potential to allow people of any age and geographic location to develop new skills by following courses. This is particularly important given that the recent UK Commission for Employment and Skills showed that 28 per cent of Welsh employers report a skills gap in their own workforces.
"Such a change has clear implications not only for personal and professional development, but also for work-based or work-related learning," he said. "This may be especially the case for small firms, where skills development is a resource-intensive activity and needs mechanisms that make it easier for employers to involve their employees in training."
The enterprise expert also noticed that online learning can provide stronger links between higher education and the business community, with a view to improving learning and training within a corporate setting.
This needs to be done in close collaboration with employers, he said, as doing so would ensure a more beneficial curriculum design and greater levels of support for learners due to the shared appreciation of learning outcomes.
"There is little doubt that online learning will become a critical part of the educational experience for both students and businesses," he said.
However, obstacles remain to be overcome, including delays in the rollout of better infrastructure in the form of fibre broadband networks; and a lack of awareness among businesses about the benefits that online learning can bring to them.