So says the report, 'Collaborate to compete: Seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education', published today by the Online Learning Task Force (Note 1).
Those UK higher education institutions (HEIs) that are prepared to make online learning a central focus will be able to develop responsive, engaging and interactive education that is both high quality and cost-effective.
They will also need to take advantage of rapidly developing technology and rich sources of content, and invest in high-quality learning, if they are to remain globally competitive against the challenge from international and private providers.
The report showcases 14 online innovative approaches to course delivery in the UK, including partnerships between HEIs and the private sector.
The report also makes six recommendations to institutions and the wider HE sector. They include: use of online learning to enhance student choice and meet learners' expectations; realignment of training and development to support academics to play a leading role in online provision; and the development and sharing of open educational resources to enhance efficiency and quality.
The chair of the Task Force, Dame Lynne Brindley, said:
'The HE sector has been talking about the potential of online learning for well over 10 years. The moment has come to move online learning more centre stage. Only by doing this will UK higher education remain and grow as a major international force. Our report offers pointers towards achieving this goal.'
Sir Alan Langlands, Chief Executive of HEFCE, said:
'At a time of increasing expectations from students, universities should be using learning technology appropriately and delivering online programmes that are high quality and flexible. Prospective students from the UK and overseas require clear and easily accessible information about online learning.'
Universities and Science Minister, David Willetts, said:
'I thank Lynne and the Task Force for their work and welcome such a helpful report. It contains important recommendations that we will consider carefully in conjunction with HEFCE. We expect to address many of the issues raised in our forthcoming HE White Paper.'