M. Steinmann, J. van Aart

StudyPortals B.V. (NETHERLANDS)
Funded by the European Commission, StudyPortals and EADTU recently launched a brand-new study choice platform dedicated entirely to the field of open and distance learning. This platform does not only aim at raising the public awareness on ODL, but also allows ODL providers to promote their offers free of charge to a massive audience.

When orienting students think of their future (higher) education, open and distance learning (ODL) is typically not (yet) top-of-mind. On the contrary, there still exists comparable little public awareness and many misconceptions on ODL, its types and how these could fit to and benefit the individual. At the same time, the ODL offer is expanding in both, in volume as in type: Online, Open, Blended learning; degree or credit programmes; offered by specialist institutes but also increasingly by (consortia of) traditional HEIs. This growth and complexity combined with the current lack of awareness on the available offers, stresses the need for and potential of a central information source where orienting students will be familiarized with the idea of ODL and may concretely find and compare individual ODL opportunities.

To answer this need, StudyPortals, Europe’s leading online study choice platform, partnered with EADTU, the European Association of Distance Teaching Universities, to create a major European information portal on open and distance education. At its core, this portal consists of a comprehensive database listing available ODL study offers in Europe (the ODL database) and a central information resource on open and distance learning (the ODL centre). As such, the ODL portal does not only publish explanatory videos, articles and real-life experiences to explain and concretise the broad field of ODL to a massive audience – it also presents already several hundreds of institutions and thousands of offers only shortly after its launch. This makes it the number one information source on ODL in Europe – and the ideal one stop shop for orienting students.

The portal has been recently launched (June 2012) and is projected to reach out to half a million visitors on a monthly basis until end of the year. In line with the expressed needs of students and institutions, the user interface of the ODL Portal is available in the major 4 European languages, whereas programmes can be presented and promoted in any European language. It allows for the promotion of entire degree programmes as well as individual modules, and is explicitly designed to meet the needs of ODL providers.

To multiply its impacts, the ODL Portal is leveraged by and integrated into the leading European Study Choice Platform StudyPortals – currently presenting 1,100 universities with more than 25,000 programmes and reaching 1.7 million visits each month. This does not only boost the visibility of ODL offers; in addition it ensures the maximum exposure also towards those orienting students who initially have not been thinking about enrolling in an ODL programme. Ultimately resulting in better informed students, the ODL portal has a lasting and significant impact on both quantity and quality of future ODL students.

Providing orientation to millions, the ODL Portal allows all ODL providers to easily reach and convert interested visitors into their future students.

During the EDUlearn2012, we will be presenting our portal and inviting the present institutions to boost their promotional effectiveness free of charge.