Delivery Models for Online, Open, Flexible and Technology-Enhanced Higher Education Foreword to the Report by ICDE Secretary General 


Late 2014, a dialogue started in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I visited universities collaborating in a consortium for online education, and I took note of the fact that by using a collaborative model the universities were able to reach out to a hundred thousand students more than represented in their own campuses. This led to a dialogue with the consortium president: observing the partly disruptive and innovative development in online, open, flexible and technology-enhanced education (OOFAT), would it be possible based on an analysis of a number of institutional cases, to collapse these cases into models? Or as said in the report, to identify emerging models of provision?

The emerging post-2015 education agenda, now formalized through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), gave more impetus to this idea. SDG 4 sets a clear objective for governments and educational providers to: “Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning”. In particular, the Education 2030 Framework for Action (UNESCO, November 2015) emphasizes fully utilizing the opportunities offered by OOFAT: “A well-established, properly-regulated tertiary education system supported by technology, Open Educational Resources (OERs) and distance education modalities can increase access, equity, quality and relevance, and narrow the gap between what is taught at tertiary education institutions and what economies and societies demand.” (Target 3, point 43.)

Several partners of ICDE, international governmental institutions such as UNESCO and COL, governments and universities were consulted and invited to team up for a study. In spring 2016 the first partner meeting took place (see the acknowledgements for the listing of partners) and in August 2016 an open call for proposals was launched. And now, in April 2018, the results are here. This is very timely, as interest in changes to higher education in the digital era is rapidly increasing.  The main insights that can be drawn from the process of comparing and contrasting cases from across the globe can be envisaged as core components in a three-stage rocket launch:

  • First, the planning blueprint. This is the conceptual OOFAT model. Its aim is to distinguish design options.

  • Second, the specific design prototypes. These emphasise different capabilities of the rocket. Here, they are the OOFAT types, and illicit the question: to which does your institution belong, and to which should it belong in the future?

  • Third, the five business strategies as different routes into distant space. They highlight to what extent an institution aims for unchartered territory to achieve its ultimate goals.

In addition to the findings and very interesting analyses related to the findings, the report encompasses 69 comprehensive cases which can be studied in a searchable, open database. 

Who should read the report? This report particularly targets senior management in higher education institutions, but also policy makers in governments and companies engaged in higher education. Higher education institutions can use the report for strategic development, comparison, peer-learning, benchmarking and inspiration. Governments can gain insights on possible future directions for their educational frameworks and companies may detect potential innovative business opportunities for both provision and collaboration in the higher education space. 

The report finds that most higher education providers are just at the beginning of developing comprehensive strategies for harnessing digitalization. That makes this study and its findings well-timed. ICDE will follow up and facilitate further developments. 

Great thanks to all that have contributed!

ICDE Secretary General

The final report will be distributed to ICDE members on 25 April 2018. The report will be made publicly available after two weeks.

NewsRita Chan