Last updated: 07.07.12

Investing in distance learning online 'important for global economy'

Investing in tools to enable distance learning online has been said to enable the world to unlock sustainable growth, while simultaneously dealing with an international crisis in education.

A blog in the Guardian, written by the United Nations' Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (Unesco) US ambassador David Killion and its assistant director-general for education Sir John Daniel, suggested that Open Educational Resources (OERs) could have a number of benefits for a huge range of countries.

It defined these as academic materials that can be altered, used and accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world.

If governments could seize on the potential of these online learning tools, they could realise "tremendous" advantages, the authors declared.

E-learning services such as this can reduce the cost of education, as well as help universities and other educational centres cut their marketing outgoings while expanding and reinforcing their international reputation.

The state is "by far" the largest education supplier worldwide, they noted.

This means governments have the most to gain from the movement towards e-learning through OERs, while these online training schemes can also provide them with the most significant benefits in terms of fiscal growth and cost savings.

Distance learning online could provide higher education to the 90 per cent of the global populace that cannot access it, giving people a "fair shot" and creating an international workforce better prepared to deal with the challenges of the 21st century, the authors continued.

Echoing the views of the Unesco World OER Congress, the specialists said governments ought to have a more active role in supporting the growth of these innovations in online learning.

So far, only a "few supportive foundations" have assisted the expansion of this sector, although it could increase the number of people who could contribute to "renewed economic growth", they argued.

"OERs are an important milestone in democratising education," chief executive officer and president of Canada's Commonwealth of Learning Asha Kanwar recently noted.