Development Centre Studies

OECD Development Centre

1990-0295 (online)
1563-4302 (print)
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This series of monographs from the OECD Development Centre covers development issues generally and in some cases issues in specific countries. It  includes Angus Maddison’s books containing long-term historical estimates of GDP for various areas of the world.

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E-Learning in Higher Education in Latin America

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OECD Development Centre

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28 May 2015
9789264209992 (PDF) ;9789264209961(print)

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This report analyses the incorporation of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in higher education in Latin America, focusing mainly on what is commonly referred to as “e-learning”. Access to and quality of higher education, financial constraints and relevance to the needs of the labour market are all crucial challenges facing the higher education system in the region. The study attempts to understand how ICTs and new learning and teaching practices can help to meet these challenges. The report also provides the results of a questionnaire showing the degree of implementation and the impact of e-learning on a group of higher education institutions in Latin America and includes a set of policy recommendations in this area.

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  • Foreword and acknowledgements

    Higher education plays a central role in development and is an important issue for the ongoing work of the OECD Development Centre in Latin America and the Caribbean.

  • Preface

    The relevance of higher education for economic and social progress is unquestionable, particularly in a globalised, knowledge-based economy. Skills are a major driver of labour productivity and of an economy’s ability to sustain its competitiveness and escape development traps. Developing the right sets of cognitive and non-cognitive skills has emerged as a major determining factor for people and economies to participate meaningfully in the global economy. As stressed in the OECD Skills Strategy, "skills have become the global currency of the 21st century".

  • Executive summary

    Higher education is one of the main drivers of economic development and social progress, and a key dimension for a sustainable and inclusive development path in Latin America and the Caribbean. Higher education in the region has experienced important developments in recent decades. One of the most remarkable events has been the expansion of access, which almost doubled in the period 2000-10. Higher education institutions (HEIs) have proliferated in response to a larger demand for higher education due to economic growth, an expanding middle class and a larger component of knowledge-based activities in the economy. This has been accompanied by a more prominent role of private provision of higher education and an increase in female participation.

  • Higher education in Latin America: Challenges and opportunities

    Higher education is one of the main drivers of economic and social development and therefore is crucial for a sustainable and inclusive development path in Latin America. However, the region performs badly in many higher education dimensions and various challenges remain. Access is low and still very unequal across socio-economic groups. The quality of the higher education system is low when compared with that of OECD countries and other emerging regions. The link with the labour market is not very strong and there are important skill mismatches that lock the potential for growth. Finally, the higher education system is subject to increasing financial pressures and competition from abroad. The incorporation of ICTs in higher education presents an opportunity to overcome these deficiencies.

  • E-learning in higher education in Latin America

    The increasing use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in higher education has led to important changes resulting in greater weight being placed on the virtual component of emerging methods of teaching and learning. E-learning is expanding globally, with new forms of delivery of higher education and relevant developments – such as MOOCs – that are transforming some of the main foundations of the traditional university and may be the prelude to a new higher education paradigm. These developments represent an opportunity for Latin America, as e-learning has the potential to increase access to higher education, improve its quality and strengthen links with the productive sectors. However, the relatively low incorporation of ICTs in the region as well as the risks associated with these emerging trends need to be borne in mind.

  • A survey of Latin American universities and expert insights on e-learning in higher education

    The results from a survey of 34 Latin American universities and a series of interviews with experts in higher education shed light on recent trends in e-learning in the region. While e-learning has increased and is expected to grow, the face-to-face model is still predominant and different challenges remain. Access has expanded for certain groups, but the digital gap is still large. Efforts need to be made in areas such as accreditation, evaluation and teachers’ training to improve and maintain quality in emerging modalities of e-learning. The focus of e-learning programmes is still not well linked with labour market demands and the costs of setting up, developing and maintaining e-learning platforms are high. Policies are needed to tap the potential of e-learning. More flexible and enabling regulations, larger public involvement and public-private partnerships for financing, and better teacher training are essential according to the results from the interviews.

  • Country snapshots of distance education and e-learning in Latin America

    Although the situation of e-learning in Latin America varies greatly across countries, all of them have seen an increase in the availability of e-learning in higher education. One of the few aspects that are common to all the countries’ experiences is that new policies and programmes involving e-learning have been strongly influenced by the objective of increasing access to higher education among the population. The concept of e-learning in Latin America is therefore intrinsically linked to distance education. This is hardly surprising, given the expanding supply of higher education in the region. Increasing the supply of higher education has been made the main objective, in some cases to the detriment of other equally important aspects such as the quality of programmes offered, especially for those with fewer resources, and the adaptation of programmes to meet the specific training needs of traditionally excluded sectors of the population.

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