Study of UK Online Learning

In December 2009, TALL was commissioned by JISC, on behalf of the HEFCE Online Learning Taskforce (OLTF), to undertake a broad study of the current UK provision of higher education-level online distance learning and to advise the OLTF where further work was required to increase understanding of the sector.

TALL undertook desk research to provide an overview of current online provision from unversities, further education colleges and commercial providers. The key finding of this research was a clear predominance of masters and postgraduate-level professional development courses in medicine , law, business, education, engineering and other science disciplines.

The team also undertook a series of interviews with senior staff at nine institutions across the sector to gain an understanding of the organisational challenges inherent in providing online distance learning. There were found to be a range of successful approaches with differing support strategies and, in some cases, partnerships with complementary providers.

The report made a number of recommendations to the OLTF, including a need to:

  • Improve the collection of data related to online distance learning provision across the sector in order to provide HEFCE and others with accurate information to enable informed decision making.
  • Provide support to institutions to enable them to improve the discoverability of their online courses, both locally and internationally, in order to provide prospective students with the information they require to choose a course that meets their requirements.
  • Share best practice within the sector, in particular regarding institutional culture and successful strategies and processes for embedding online learning.
  • Gather further market intelligence on both the motivations and aspirations of online distance learning students and the position of the UK's current online provision within the international market in order to identify areas for expansion.

Further information is available from the project website.

TALL's Study of UK Online Learning was completed in March 2010 and published by HEFCE in October 2010. The report can be downloaded from the HEFCE website.

The final report of the OLTF, Collaborate to compete: seizing the opportunity of online learning for UK higher education, was published in January 2011 and can be downloaded from the HEFCE website.

The Study of UK Online Learning was carried out by the following members of the TALL team: David White, Nicola Warren, Sean Faughnan and Marion Manton. For further information please contact:

Sean Faughnan, Project Director

David White, Lead Researcher