UK universities should take online lead for revival of e-learning to secure future of higher education

UK universities should push to become world leaders in online higher education, ministers will say tomorrow, despite the failure of the UK e-University four years ago. The universities secretary, John Denham, is likely to call not for a revival of the UKeU, which collapsed in 2004, but to develop a 'global Open University in the UK.' A report for the government on the future of British higher education online suggests the UK is seen as world-class, and often world-leading, in networking, content and digital libraries, as well as access management and many areas of e-learning.

But it lags behind in generating and making available high-quality modern online learning and teaching resources. The report by Ron Cooke, chairman of the UK universities' Joint Information Systems Committee, suggests creating centres of expertise in educational technology and e-teaching through clusters of institutions, with comprehensive staff and student training. Learning resources should be grouped together, coordinated nationally and provided freely, he will say. Institutions should be encouraged to use virtual education technologies for their students and share them with similar universities, the report suggests. Effective and competitive online learning at both undergraduate and postgraduate level would help meet students' changing needs and stimulate growth in both higher education and the skills sector, and save staff time.

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