What is it about?
Open and flexible learning is about fully exploring the potential of ICT to improve education and training systems, aligning them with the current digital world.
ICT tools, Open Educational Resources, and open practices allow for an increase in the effectiveness of education, allowing for more personalised learning, a better learning experience, and an improved use of resources. Such measures also promote equity by increasing the availability of knowledge.
Ultimately, opening up education may lead to a situation where all individuals may learn anytime, anywhere, with the support of anyone, using any device.
Why is it needed?
Europe and the world face an increased demand for education, and the EU2020 target of 40% of attainment in tertiary education requires an increase in supply. With an estimated 414 million students expected to be in higher education in the world by 2030, rigidity in education and training systems would make satisfying these needs impossible.
Europe is also facing a skills deficit and, during a time of economic crisis, highly-skilled individuals have a better chance of finding a job. With an estimated 90% of jobs requiring digital skills in the near future, it is thus essential that education and training systems provide individuals with the required skills.
At the same time, new education providers are emerging, providing both solutions and challenges to learners and education institutions. Through the Opening up Education initiative, education institutions are provided an opportunity to analyse their organisational models and see whether changes are needed to transform the challenges into opportunities.
Lastly, there is a clear cost pressure in education and training systems. With several EU countries reducing their public investment in education, solutions for a more effective use of resources are needed, as well as measures to alleviate the costs for families.
What has been done so far?
The European Commission launched the Opening up Education initiative in September 2013, presenting the actions that the Commission will implement, including policy orientation for operations funded under Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020.
The initiative has also launched the OpenEducationEuropa.eu portal, aimed at supporting users (teachers or learners) in finding relevant Open Educational Resources and enhancing the visibility of the many high quality resources being produced in Europe
What are the next steps?
The Commission will provide funding for institutions working in this field through Erasmus+ and Horizon 2020. Projects funded through Erasmus+ will have an Open Access Requirement to their educational materials, meaning they must be made openly and freely accessible through open licences.
The Commission is preparing a European summit on Education through IT with the future Italian presidency of the Council.