Euro portal offers open view of distance options

The first website in Europe dedicated to information about the Continent's open and distance-learning courses has been launched.

October 4, 2012

The Distance Learning Portal, part-funded by the European Commission, is designed to act as a one-stop shop for students wishing to explore alternatives to traditional university study. It is operated by Study Portals, which also runs websites that collate information on doctorates, short courses and master's degrees, among others.

Joran van Aart, director of student value at Study Portals, said the site was conceived after an increasing number of students used the company's existing sites to search for open and distance-learning courses, and out of fear that Europe was lagging behind the US in terms of awareness of online study.

"We looked at how people were using our master's portal, and found a massive increase over the past two years in the numbers searching for online courses," he said. "Also, there are now so many institutions offering online options, it seemed sensible to bring them all together."

Around 180 institutions have already signed up, offering a total of more than 1,200 bachelor's, master's, PhDs and short courses.

Almost half of the universities taking part (88) are in the UK, a fact that Mr van Aart attributes to demand for courses in English and the strong reputation that UK institutions enjoy among European students.

Will Swann, president of the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities (EADTU), an official partner of the site, and director of students at The Open University, said that distance learning had historically been "insufficiently visible".

"It takes a great deal of time for a student to find out what their options are for studying at home, and there is also a lack of information about what open and distance learning actually entails," he added.

The portal was officially launched last week by Androulla Vassiliou, European commissioner for education, culture, multilingualism and youth, at the EADTU annual conference, held this year in Cyprus.

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