Negotiating growth of online education in higher education

Neil P. Morris, Mariya Ivancheva, Taryn Coop, Rada Mogliacci, Bronwen Swinnerton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)
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Universities are facing growing internal and external pressures to generate income, educate a widening continuum of learners, and make effective use of digital technologies. One response has been growth of online education, catalysed by Massive Open Online Courses, availability of digital devices and technologies, and notions of borderless global education. In growing online education, learning and teaching provision has become increasingly disaggregated, and universities are partnering with a range of private companies to reach new learners, and commercialise educational provision. In this paper, we explore the competing drivers which impact decision making within English universities and their strategies to grow online education provision, through interviews with senior managers, and interrogation of their views through the lens of a range of internal, external and organisational drivers. We show that pressures facing universities may be alleviated by growth of online education provision, but that negotiating an appropriate route to realise this ambition involves attempts to resolve these underlying tensions deriving from competing drivers. We use a modified form of the PEST model to demonstrate the complexities, inter-dependencies and processes associated with these drivers when negotiating delivery of unbundled online education through use of private company services, or in partnership with private companies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number48
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education
Publication statusPublished - 9 Nov 2020


  • higher education
  • digital technology
  • marketisation
  • unbundling
  • online programme management companies


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