Digital higher education

Higher education has undergone a major transformation in recent years which includes increasing internationalization and student mobility; the increasing supply of online and blended learning; and a rise in internet services in all countries. All of these issues bring with them the need to improve and guarantee quality and recognition and call for innovative measures by governments and institutions which also address equity and access.

The wealth of digital educational resources has made new demands on higher education systems and institutions which include developing innovative curricula, study programmes and alternative learning pathways, and routes to higher learning, all facilitated by online, distance, open education, blended learning delivery models and short skills-based courses such as Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) and Open Education Resources (OERs)  The potential of online learning in general, and in particular in the form of MOOCs, is enormous and builds new paths to higher education as well as expanding lifelong learning opportunities. It also helps to reduce individual and institutional educational costs by offering flexible alternatives.

This represents a key opportunity for content generators to improve quality and inclusion in higher education provision. Digital environments offer countries a strategic opportunity to contribute to meeting local needs and developing capacities related to them. The Framework for Action recommends that governments develop policies and programmes for the provision of quality, well-funded, technology-based, distance tertiary education, in particular through massive open online courses, that meet quality standards to improve access.

UNESCO provides technical support and advice on innovative approaches to widening access to higher education, courses and study programmes with an emphasis on developing new types of learning opportunities both on-campus and online. Support to faculty and teachers to adapt and develop traditional tertiary provision for online, distance and blended-learning modalities is provided. The focus of the UNESCO 3rd World Conference on Higher Education (2020) will be on universities as communities of lifelong learning.