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Online education


6 Oct 2016

A report published by MarketsandMarkets on the cloud computing in education market estimates that the market will grow from $8.13 billion in 2016 to $25.36 billion, with an annual growth rate of 25.6%. The report notes that cloud computing solutions in the education industry allow efficient management of business processes and effective knowledge delivery to students, thus resulting in higher student engagement, better collaboration, and improved student performance. The major driving forces for the market growth are the growing need for a centralized system for the management of academic processes and competition among academic institutions.

3 Oct 2016

US human rights and prison reform advocates are prioritising Internet access for inmates not only as a human right but also as a significant tool for preparation for a purposeful life after they leave prison. The article Online behind bars: if internet access is a human right, should prisoners have it? explores the current situation and options to support inmates' first amendment rights, and the use of Internet resources as 'essential survival skills'.

23 Aug 2016

NASA, the U.S. space agency, will make its research available on the Internet, free of charge, which is usually hidden behind a paywall. Nasa's Deputy Administrator Dava Newman explain that, 'through open access and innovation we invite the global community to join us in exploring earth, air and space.' The move fits within the Obama administration's approach of making research accessible to increase its popularity and public knowledge. The EU has similar plans and hopes to make its research freely available from 2020.


The Internet has opened new possibilities for education. Many different e-learning, online learning, and distance learning initiatives have been introduced; their main aim is to use the Internet as a medium for the delivery of courses. While it cannot replace traditional education, online learning provides new possibilities for learning, especially when constraints of time and space impede physical attendance in class.

Traditionally, education has been governed by national institutions. The accreditation of educational institutions, the recognition of qualifications, and quality assurance are all governed at national level. However, crossborder education requires the development of new governance regimes. Many international initiatives aim at filling the governance gap, especially in areas such as quality assurance and the recognition of academic degrees.


WTO and education

One controversial issue in the WTO negotiations is the interpretation of Articles I (3)b and (3)c of GATS, which specify exceptions from the free trade regime for government-provided services. According to one view, supported mainly by the USA and the UK, these exceptions should be treated narrowly, de facto enabling free trade in higher education. This view is predominantly governed by interests of the English-speaking educational sector to gain global market coverage in education, and has received considerable opposition from many countries.

Questions that may arise within the context of the WTO and other international organisations will focus on the dilemma of education as a commodity or a public good. If education is considered a commodity, the WTO’s free trade rules will be implemented in this field as well. A public goods approach, on the other hand, would preserve the current model of education in which public universities receive special status as institutions of importance for national culture.

Quality assurance

The availability of online learning delivery systems and easy entry into this market has opened the question of quality assurance. A focus on online delivery can overlook the importance of the quality of materials and didactics. A variety of possible difficulties can endanger the quality of education. One is the easy entry of new, mainly commercially driven, educational institutions, which frequently have few of the necessary academic and didactical capabilities. Another problem of quality assurance is that the simple transfer of existing paper-based materials to an online medium does not take advantage of the didactic potential of the new medium. This aspect prompted education organisations to start to develop standards and guidelines for evaluating the design and the content of lectures delivered online.

The recognition of academic degrees and the transfer of credits

Recognition of degrees has become particularly relevant within the online learning environment. When it comes to online learning, the main challenge is the recognition of degrees beyond the regional context, mainly at global level.

The EU has developed a regulatory framework with the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). The Asia-Pacific region has introduced its own regional model for the exchange of students and a related credit system – the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific (UMAP) programme.

In the evolving implementation of online learning, there is a tendency towards recognition and transfer of credits following traditional strategies for brick and mortar universities.

The innovation of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) is also evolving, as the initial pervasive acceptance and hype cycle have run their course, and resources are being developed to provide the same or better personal interactions that are provided in traditional or blended learning educational systems.

The standardisation of online learning

The early phase of online learning development was characterised by rapid development and high diversity of materials, in the sense of platforms, content, and didactics. However, there is a need to develop common standards in order to facilitate the easier exchange of online courses and introduce a certain standard of quality.

Most standardisation is performed in the USA by private and professional institutions. Other, including international, initiatives are on a smaller scale.





Internet Governance Acronym Glossary (2015)
An Introduction to Internet Governance (2014)


Online Education: A Catalyst for Higher Education Reform (2016)
Internet for All: A Framework for Accelerating Internet Access and Adoption (2016)
Lifelong Learning and Technology (2016)
Online Report Card: Tracking Online Education in the United States (2016)
Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report 2015 (2015)
UNESCO Science Report: Towards 2030 (2015)
The Global Information Technology Report 2015: ICTs for Inclusive Growth (2015)
Paths Forward to a Digital Future for Further Education (2013)

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