Last updated: 26.09.12

Online education in Europe on the rise

European institutions have experienced a rapid growth in their advancements of online learning tools.

Catching up with schools and universities in the US, developments are underway to improve e-learning in Europe and raise awareness of its benefits through a new web portal.

Europe's Erasmus For All programme - introduced by the European Commission - has made funding available to create more opportunities for distance learners on the continent, StudyPortals reports.

Online education in Europe is now moving away from its previous associations with commercial companies and will become more accessible to higher education institutes and schools.

Over the last ten years, US educational institutions have invested massively in online and distance education, expecting to overtake traditional classroom teaching across the nation by 2015.

Currently, educators at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have provided students with a range of online courses for free and have extended their reach to up to 100,000 people across the globe.

Piet Henderikx, secretary general of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), said online learning "has become an important answer to the current educational challenges and will significantly impact our educational landscape".

Short online courses and distance degree programmes are currently provided by around 500 European institutions and have received continued success, with student enrolment increasing last year by between 15 and 20 per cent.

The promise of enrolment further grew by 40 per cent, implying that online educational methods could become a serious alternative to classroom teaching.

According to Sam S Adkins, chief officer at marketing research company Ambient Insight, academic institutions will outspend corporate buyers in e-learning development by 2016, with "major digitisation efforts going on" in a number of European school systems.

The new EU-funded portal will be launched on September 27th at an EADTU conference in Cyprus, designed to clarify the growing study options and support online learners worldwide as they study at home.