ICDE and partners launch Global Online Higher Education Report initiative

Have you ever looked for good research data on the global impact of distance or online learning and discovered that this just doesn't exist?

ICDE has partnered with UNESCO, the European Commission, the International Association of Universities, the Sloan Consortium, StudyPortals and Babson Survey Research Group to begin work on this formidable task.



The global landscape of post-secondary education is in a period of dramatic change. A significant driver for this has been a dramatic rise in the use of technology and the extension of the traditional campus to more learners.

Although there is clear evidence of the growth of online learning, the global data remains anecdotal or limited in scope. There has been no formal effort or process to define online learning in the global context.

An international outlook on distance education

The Global Online Higher Education Report (GlobalOHER) initiative is designed to address this deficiency by conducting a global survey and issuing a report that will provide:

  • Information on enrolments and programmes offered online
  • Information on the role of MOOCs around the world
  • Information on the adoption of Open Education Resources, OER
  • Perspectives on the importance of online learning in institutional strategies
  • The challenges institutions face in delivering high quality programs and services
  • A framework of the policy issues that institutions believe need to be addressed


Such a study can only be conducted through the combined efforts of multiple partners. Leading international organizations have joined forces to develop and support the GlobalOHER effort. These include:

  • The European Commission, DG Education and Culture
  • International Association of Universities, IAU
  • International Council for Open and Distance Education - ICDE
  • The Sloan Consortium
  • StudyPortals
  • Babson Survey Research Group

In addition, many regional associations and stakeholders around the world have already agreed to support the initiative.

Timescale and products

The initial global survey of institutions will be conducted in 2014. The GlobalOHER will then be issued semi-annually. The report will be designed for general readership, offered free of charge under a creative commons licence, and available in a variety of formats, supported by a website.

The project has already completed a feasibility study, where the partners’ data sets were examined.

The global study will be created in two steps: the first will be to survey the full set of members of the partner institutions. This will provide global coverage and allow for all aspects of the full global outreach to be tested. The coverage for this first stage will exceed any existing study of global online learning to date. The follow-up study will include all global higher education institutions.


The report will replicate, as far as appropriate, the methodology, approach and report scope of the U.S. Higher Education reports produced by the Babson Survey Research Group for the past ten years.

These reports have become the benchmark for tracking distance education and the most quoted metrics on the growth in online enrolments in the United States. The approach used in the US will be modified to suit the global audience for the project.

A more detailed description of the initiative is to be found below:

Sponsorship and particpation

The GlobalOHER partners seek interest from prospective sponsors for this initiative. As a sponsor, you will have the opportunity to suggest questions and/ or topics for consideration by the GlobalOHER steering committee. Gold Sponsors will be invited to take part in the High Level Advisory Board. Contributors will be recognized in the published report and on the GlobalOHER website.

Further information on opportunities for sponsorship and other forms of contribution to the initiative can be downloaded below, and enquiries directed to the ICDE Secretariat: icde@icde.org

18 December 2013


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