Strategic Plan 2013-2016

Download the Strategic Plan 2013-2016


Founded in 1938, the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) is funded by a grant from the Government of Norway, other donations and membership fees. Its Secretariat is located in Oslo, and operates under Norwegian law.

ICDE has been and will continue to be a global force for lifelong, open and flexible learning. To meet the new global challenges presented by the new knowledge economy and information and communication technologies (ICTs), ICDE has developed this Strategic Plan for the period 2013-2016 in a spirit of openness, collaboration and transparency.

This Strategic Plan builds on the achievements of the ICDE Strategic Plan 2009-12, draws on an analysis of key trends, and is further informed by consultations with members and key stakeholders.

Developing the Strategic Plan

This Strategic Plan was developed with the involvement of the ICDE membership.[1] Open online consultations with members in the form of focus groups were held in September and October 2012. Key external stakeholders were subsequently consulted. In November 2012, at the Standing Conference of Presidents (SCOP) meeting in Dubai, leaders of ICDE member organizations discussed the draft strategy and recommended priorities in plenary session and in groups. The ICDE Executive Committee developed the final Strategic Plan taking into consideration input from the entire process.


ICDE’s actions are guided by the following values:

  • ICDE is member-focused – ICDE is a global organization which involves members in decision-making, in cooperative action and in cooperative problem solving.
  • ICDE is transparent – members are able to follow the activities and decisions of ICDE.
  • ICDE believes that education is a universal right and should be available to all.
  • ICDE believes that the needs of the learner must be central.

ICDE is a non-governmental organization (NGO) having consultative partnership status with UNESCO with which it shares its key aim – the attainment of quality education for all – as stated in UNESCO’s Declaration of Learner’s Rights and Responsibilities.[2]


To be the global membership organization for enhancing the quality of open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning.


To advance the interests of its members, ICDE works to:

  • Promote greater educational opportunity for all in the name of personal and national development.
  • Further the acceptance of a wider range of learning modes.
  • Drive best practice and the highest standards of educational provision.
  • Support the development of new methodologies, and use of new technologies.
  • Provide opportunities for professional interaction.
  • Encourage and support linguistic groups and networks at national, regional and global levels.
  • Promote intercultural cooperation and understanding.

Context and trends

One approach when defining open and distance learning (ODL) could suggest that “open” indicates ease of access, with the minimum of barriers, to (higher) education. “Distance learning” in today’s practice includes online learning, e-learning, flexible learning and blended learning. The latter is normally mediated by information and communication technologies, and where such are not accessible, by traditional means (e.g. correspondence, radio and television).

Never before has the world experienced such a great need for barrier-free access to higher education as we can observe today. And the need will continue to increase. UNESCO has observed that in less than 40 years, enrolment in higher education has increased five-fold. Globally, it is estimated that demand will expand from less than 100 million students in 2000 to over 250 million students in 2025.[3]

Learners are gaining more influence and increasingly demanding quality online, resource- based and flexible learning. The future higher learning system will be learner-driven, and knowledge-driven, building on the experience of conventional universities, open universities, and a diverse range of actors, in particular those at the forefront of online and mobile learning.

Globalization has continued to increase, followed by strengthened internationalization, and a greater emphasis on partnerships, in turn giving rise to international collaboration in many formats. Globalization and global megatrends lead to increased demand for a workforce permanently acquiring new competencies. Increased globalization and global competition, in combination with rapid innovation, are increasingly challenging the workforce to adapt to future needs. Tomorrow’s policies must create conditions to facilitate labour mobility through individual lifelong learning. Coordination between the labour market and education policy is crucial for business competitiveness and future welfare. The need for partnership between higher education and the private and public sectors to ensure knowledge supply for the workforce becomes a critical and central issue. This need is further enhanced by the current financial crisis, which creates a requirement for innovative methods to strengthen learning as an employability factor for the future.

The strong drive for high quality lifelong higher education cannot be met by conventional methods alone. Open and Distance Learning (ODL) and Open Educational Resources (OER) will play a crucial role in addressing current and future challenges.

Since 2008 2009, the world of education – as all sections of society – has been affected by the global financial and economic crisis. During 2012 a deepening of the crisis has resulted in increased uncertainty for the global economic outlook. On several continents, youth unemployment reaches numbers that would have been unthinkable some years ago. The immediate consequences of the crisis to date appear to be mixed, in some cases bringing increased investment in education systems, in others a reduction in funding, combined in both cases with increased enrolment.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has documented significant added value from higher education for individuals and society; for individuals in relation to employment and as a return on their own investments; for society the net return from investments in higher education simply represents good business. And higher education is a key factor for economic growth. In Europe – even during the crisis – income growth among tertiary graduates increased in the majority of European Union countries which record this data.[4] (Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators 2012).

At the same time, the World Bank has documented that more than 620 million young people are neither working nor studying. Just to keep employment rates constant, the worldwide number of jobs will have to increase by around 600 million over a 15-year period.

Online learning, often combined with Open Educational Resources (OER), carry the potential for great impact on investments in knowledge. This potential has yet to be fully utilized.

The year 2012 witnessed the rapid growth in Massive Open and Online Courses (MOOCs) and their entry onto the education agenda in many parts of the world. MOOCs, originating from the OER movement, became a buzzword in 2012.

Global internet penetration has increased by more than 500% since the year 2000, and many parts of the world now have access to high capacity networks (broadband). The digital network revolution together with increased digital skills in the population has enabled major uptake of new learning applications and methodologies throughout the world. Disruptive innovation in education has become another buzzword. Still, the digital divide persists, hindering access to networks and education. Mobile technologies, however, challenge the traditional digital divide and represent significant opportunities for millions without wired internet access.

Mobile learning is the most, or one of the most, rapidly growing fields in education.

These new factors inform the discussion on the economics of higher education, but also constitute challenges. On the one hand, ODL and OER can bring greater value for money by facilitating the massification of higher education. On the other hand, reducing investments and cutting costs without careful consideration of the necessary investments in human capital, infrastructure, methodologies for ODL and OER, can easily reduce access to and quality of higher education. The situation urgently calls for new policies, strategies and leadership for reaping the benefits of an increasingly open and online world.

As a global actor, ICDE recognizes the complexity of the variety of world contexts – national, regional, professional, economic and technological. To create a solid base for its strategy, an environmental scan which examined the key global trends in higher education and in adult and distance learning was undertaken in 2008-2009.[5] This list of key trends was updated in 2012.[6]

Key trends

1. Access to higher education

  • Worldwide growth and increasing demand for access to higher education
  • Increasing restrictions on open learning to ensure both national standards and controlled growth

2. The learning workforce

  • Demand and need for capacity building to provide society with a more mobile workforce
  • Continued globalization and internationalization
  • Financial crisis and unemployment

3. Access to Information and communications technology (ICT)

  • Rapid worldwide growth of ICT
  • Continuing disparity of access to ICT

4. The use of technology in learning

  • Mobile learning
  • eBooks
  • The rapid growth of e-learning
  • Personalization
  • Social and Virtual Learning
  • Learning Analytics

5. The economics of higher education

  • Changes in cost, affordability, and economic models for higher education, particularly that based on ICT
  • Diversity of education providers

6. Institutional developments and impact

  • Proliferation of traditional educational institutions with open and distance education offerings; notable institutions are piloting MOOCs
  • Growth and impact of open and distance universities
  • Demand for faculty training in Open and Distance Learning (ODL)
  • Increasing competition among higher education institutions to improve their position in rankings

7. Quality

  • Increasing focus on accountability, quality, and performance
  • Demand for benchmarks, standards and accreditation
  • Accreditation, rankings and government regulations are interrelated aspects of quality

8. Open Educational Resources (OER)

  • Development of online repositories
  • Development of OER-based institutions

9. The learner

  • Changing learner demographics and culture, experience, and demands
  • The growth of resource-based learning

10. Policies and strategies

  • The trends identified above, many of which demonstrate rapid and diverse global growth, increase the pressure of demand for relevant, clear policies, strategies and leadership at governmental and institutional level to facilitate the further development of high quality open, distance, flexible, blended and online education, including e-learning.

Key strategic objectives for ICDE 2013-2016

The following strategic objectives have been identified for 2013-2016:

  1. To promote the importance of open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning in educational policy.
  2. To encourage quality in open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning.
  3. To support the development of new methodologies and technologies.
  4. To facilitate cooperation and networking among members.
  5. To strengthen ICDE membership and governance, and engage members in collaborative activity and organizational development.

Strategic objective 1: To promote the importance of open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning in educational policy.

Expected outcome:

Governments, intergovernmental organizations, higher education institutions and other key stakeholders to recognize open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning as key elements in educational policy and to remove legislative, policy and other barriers that might adversely impact their success.  


  • Diversified approaches at the global, regional and national levels.
  • Collaboration among countries and institutions in policy development.
  • Publications (e.g. studies, policy briefs), information, awareness and advocacy activities.

Specific objectives:

1.1. ICDE actively to support members’ and associate members’ participation in promotional activities with the purpose of increasing key stakeholders’ awareness and understanding of the importance of open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning in educational policy by 2014.

1.2. ICDE together with key partners and stakeholders to facilitate policy discussions among a selection of representatives from governments, universities and private and public sector , on the topic of the current and future development of open, distance, flexible and online education, including e-learning by the end of 2015.

See policy process

1.3. Major ranking agencies to begin to focus on non-residential education before the end of 2015.

Strategic objective 2: To encourage quality in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.

Expected outcomes:

  1. To achieve a global understanding of quality within open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.
  2. To articulate a set of standards that defines quality in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.


  • Foster the quality of management and leadership in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.
  • Knowledge exchange and sharing of good practices to achieve excellence in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.
  • Address key stakeholders, e.g. accreditation agencies with criteria and benchmarks for quality, and institutions with methodologies and concepts for quality development.

Specific objectives:

2.1. To establish an overview of the global situation with regards to existing relevant standards and guidelines for open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning by the beginning of 2013.

See Global overview of quality models

2.2. To establish quality reviews as a member service by end of 2013.

See Quality Review service

2.3. To launch a best practice database for quality assurance in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning before the end of 2014.

2.4. To obtain international recognition for best practices in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning by 2016.

Strategic objective 3: To support the development of new methodologies and technologies.

Expected outcomes:

  1. Information about emerging technologies to be successfully and periodically communicated to members.
  2. To contribute to increased uptake of and outcome from Open Educational Resources.
  3. Assistance to be given to countries with developing economies in the adoption and implementation of new technologies in higher education.
  4. Increased awareness of the digital divide and steps taken to minimize the divide.
  5. Increased awareness of students with special needs and increased knowledge sharing on good practices in teaching students with special needs.
  6. Facilitation of professional development in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning.


  • Monitor new developments, such as Massive Open and Online Courses (MOOCs)
  • Knowledge sharing about new methodologies and technologies.
  • Broker solutions and partnership agreements in order to attract funding opportunities.

Specific objectives:

3.1. ICDE’s online journal, Open Praxis, to be re-launched and first issue published by the beginning of 2013.

See Open Praxis

3.2. ICDE to take part in one significant Open Educational Resources initiative before the end of 2013.

See the LangOER project website

3.3. Open Praxis to be recognized as a quality scientific journal by 2016.

3.4. The ICDE website to become a hub for information and communication on new methodologies and technologies, and best practice in open, distance, flexible, and online education, including e-learning by the end of 2015.

Strategic objective 4: To facilitate cooperation and networking among members.

Expected outcomes:

  1. Increased collaboration between institutions in the northern and southern hemispheres.
  2. Significant increase in cooperation between ICDE, national and regional organizations.
  3. Opportunities for member-driven collaboration and partnerships, e.g. joint degrees, virtual mobility, project collaboration and others.
  4. Increased collaboration between ICDE members on research and development.
  5. ICDE’s Increased relevance, productivity and effectiveness.


  • Conferences to support fulfilment of the ICDE Strategic Plan.
  • Establish task forces, target groups and working groups, and facilitate networking and other work formats where appropriate.
  • Provide appropriate tools for interaction.

Specific objectives

4.1. Evaluate and consider changes to the model for ICDE events, (can have consequences for 4.2., 4.3. and 4.4.)

4.2 Standing Conference of Presidents (SCOP) meeting, and a Policy Forum to be organized once a year, hosted by a member institution.

4.3. The ICDE World Conference to be organized every second year, hosted by a member institution.

4.4. At least one regional ICDE conference to be held each year, hosted by a member institution.

4.5. Identify and give support to one flagship initiative by the end of 2013 to promote closer collaboration between institutions in the northern and southern hemispheres.

4.6. Increase the participation of members from developing countries, and non-members, in ICDE’s events by 2015.

See the list of past ICDE events including World Conferences, President' Summits, regional conferences and policy forums.

Strategic objective 5: To strengthen ICDE membership and governance, and engage members in collaborative activity and organizational development.

Expected outcome:

  1. Increased trust in ICDE as a professional and well-governed global body.
  2. Increased trust in ICDE among the post secondary and government sectors as a membership-focused global organization.
  3. A more sustainable ICDE with a more diverse revenue base.


  • Involve members in open and transparent processes on key issues for ICDE.
  • The Executive Committee, the Board of Trustees and the Election Committee evaluate their own activities yearly and report on these to the membership.
  • Fundraising.

Specific objectives

5.1. Rules, procedures and practices for governance and election process and procedures in ICDE to be described and published for easy access by stakeholders by the middle of 2013.

5.2. Develop a survey of membership satisfaction and needs by the end 2013.

5.3. Increase the institutional membership of ICDE by 25% before the end of 2013 and by 15% annually from 2014 to 2016.

5.4. Increase the total funding of ICDE by 20% by the end of 2014, and increase revenue from membership and new sources by 50% by 2015.

5.5. Increase membership participation in the new ICDE Executive Committee election for the period 2014-2017 and 2016-2019.

Monitoring and review

The yearly budget allocates available resources to the prioritized objectives and activities defined in the Strategic Plan.

The annual budget is decided through a process, whereby the Executive Committee agrees to a first draft submitted by the Secretariat, and submits this with the corresponding funding request to the Norwegian Government. The annual budget and activity plan should be approved by the Executive Committee no later than 1 month before the end of the current fiscal year.

Performance according to the strategy, the annual budget and the current Activity Plan, is reported twice a year, preferably during the first quarter and the third quarter. On the basis of these reports, the Executive Committee reviews progress and determines possible adjustments.

Last Updated on Tuesday, November 10, 2015 09:42 AM