Open and distance learning is of recognised importance for the educational development and industrial competitiveness of Europe. Private distance learning institutes play a crucial role in the concept of life-long learning, especially on different levels of vocational training.
The economic and social function of private open and distance learning in the fields of improving job skills and providing training for those who are regularly disadvantaged by more traditional methods tends to be underestimated. Open and distance learning can deliver education and training to workers in small/medium sized companies, where training is often not given priority, and to drop-outs, women re-entering the job market, people from other countries, the poorly qualified or the unemployed. Moreover, as compared to traditional methods of education, distance learning is highly cost-effective for both private students and companies or organisations.
Private providers of distance learning courses need to meet the ever changing requirements of the labour market, trade and industry in order to continue to operate successfully. For that reason they are obliged to constantly adapt, revise and renew their courses. The demand for training is translated into innovative methodological approaches and course programmes.
The expertise of the private providers of distance learning and their capacity to develop courses has often proved beneficial not only to the institutes
themselves and their students, but also to the state-run or state-sponsored educational institutions which do not always have the resources required to develop course materials for new fields of training. To put it more strongly: in many countries private distance learning institutes lay the foundation for courses which, at a later stage, become part of the regular education and training system.
It is these aspects, the economic and social function, the quick translation of labour market demands for education and training into courses, the cost-effectiveness of distance learning and its role in triggering off new developments in ‘regular’ institutes, which EADL wants to draw to the attention of national governments and the European Commission.
As a non-profit organisation EADL represents over 500 Distance Learning Institutes through 65 members, associated national and international organisations and individuals in about 20 European countries. EADL aims to be a partner in national and European Union discussions concerning the relation between education and training and the labour market, and between education and information technology. As the only European body for private and non-governmental open and distance learning EADL assumes responsibility for this specific task within the field of education in Europe.