Closing the Gap: Opportunities for Distance Education to Benefit Adult Learners in Higher Education

  • February 2016

‘Higher education through distance education has a big potential to make learning and education more accessible, effective and inclusive for adult learners. The final IDEAL report provides a good knowledge base for increased cooperation and dialogue between stakeholders across the European Union,’ Arne Carlsen, UIL Director.

Distance education in higher education is a fast-growing and widespread phenomenon. As many adults are unable to participate in on-campus education, distance education offers flexible learning paths that greatly enhance accessibility to higher education. Exploring distance education’s potential to increase the participation of adult learners in higher education is an important objective of education policy in the European Union.

Against this background, the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (UIL), the International Council for Open and Distance Education (ICDE) and StudyPortals (SP) collaborated on a research project entitled ‘The Impact of Distance Education on Adult Learning’ (IDEAL).

The IDEAL team has recently published the final report of the research project, Closing the Gap: Opportunities for Distance Education to Benefit Adult Learners in Higher Education. The report sets out the findings of this research project, which was carried out between October 2013 and November 2015.

It examines the interrelations of adult learning, higher education and distance education, and comes up with a set of recommendations for the development and implementation of programmes and national policies related to distance education.

The main recommendations to policymakers and distance education providers refer to increasing the openness of higher education to adult learners by removing regulative barriers and developing standard procedures for recognition of prior learning across Europe. Higher education institutions should further facilitate learning for adults by offering more interactive possibilities, practical study guides and offer more, diverse options for financial support. 

  • Author/Editor: Arne Carlsen, Angela Owusu-Boampong, Carl Holmberg, Carmen Neghina
  • Closing the Gap: Opportunities for Distance Education to Benefit Adult Learners in Higher Education
  • UIL, 2016
  • ISBN
    978-92-820-1203-1
  • Available in: English