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A study highlights the need for universities and colleges to improve information available to students about online courses.

The report, 'Study of UK Online Learning' , was carried out by the technology-assisted lifelong learning team at the University of Oxford. It provides an up-to-date overview of UK provision of online distance learning that is at higher education (HE) level.

The main findings of the study were:

  • most HE online courses (apart from the Open University) are postgraduate level, and most could be described as professional development or with a strong vocational focus
  • it is hard to find information about online courses on university and college web-sites
  • the terminology used to describe online programmes is often unclear.

The report recommended ways to improve the situation for both students and institutions. Institutions could do a better job at showing students the breadth of online courses available, and accessibility could be improved by structuring the information to mirror the searching methods of potential students.

The report was commissioned by the Online Learning Task Force (OLTF), which was set up by HEFCE to help the UK HE sector maintain and extend its position as a leader in online learning.

Shortly after its inception last year the OLTF identified that there was a lack of information about HE-level online learning being offered in the UK. This study has helped to shape the work of the task force, and points to a number of possible areas of development for institutions.

The OLTF is chaired by Dame Lynne Brindley (Chief Executive, British Library), and includes members from universities, the NUS and private sector representatives. The OLTF is considering the findings and is due to publish its final report by the end of the year, in which it will make recommendations to HEFCE, the Government and the HE sector.

  • 'Study of UK Online Learning'