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Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Belgium

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Belgium

Higher education and vocational training is a major priority in Belgium, and is open to everyone who wishes to participate.  The educational system falls under the leadership of the two predominant communities in the country, the Flemish to the North and the Walloons to the South, with instruction taught in the Dutch and French language respectively.  To ensure that furthering one’s education does not place an undue burden on participants, in recent years the school systems in both the Flemish and French communities have adopted a comprehensive system of distance learning, using all available technologies to reach students.  Today, distance education is an integral element of the higher education and adult education system in Belgium, allowing students who are limited by distance, time or ability to take an active part in furthering their education and training.  Below we will take a brief look at some of the distance and online learning opportunities available in Belgium.

Higher Education via Online Learning

Several years ago, in 2000, the Ministry of Education in Belgium developed its own version of the Open University, a program first introduced in the United Kingdom.  The program is designed primarily for post-secondary students wishing to pursue a degree or professional certificate, but lack the time or the means to attend traditional university classes.  Instruction in the Belgian OU is performed using a variety of tools and technologies, including CD-ROMs, virtual classrooms, email correspondence, instant messaging programs and video conferencing.  Students receive weekly assignments from their instructors via email, and complete them at their own pace when it’s most convenient for them.  Questions that arise during the course of that week can be asked through email and/or instant messaging, and tutors are available for those that require further assistance. When assignments are completed they are once again returned as an email attachment. 
Most Belgian universities now have at least some form of online distance education, leading to Bachelor and Master Degrees, along with professional certificates in a wide range of subjects and career fields.  Some of these can be completed entirely online, while other programs require students to attend the school a few times during the academic semester for the purpose of taking exams, attending guest lectures, etc.

Adult Education via Online Learning

In Belgium, adult education aims to create lifelong learners and is now more convenient than ever thanks to a program called Supervised Individual Study, or in Belgian:  BIS.  The BIS program is a flexible distance learning model tailored specifically for adults looking to further their education and/or training in a specific course or field.  It was first implemented in the 1990s, using printed materials and other written educational tools, but since October, 2003 the program is now offered almost exclusively through the Internet.
There are many courses available in the BIS system, spread throughout 7 main disciplines, including law, Dutch, foreign languages, computer sciences, technology, economics and human sciences.  These courses consist of learning packages and homework tasks sent and delivered through email.  The time needed to complete all coursework in the BIS program depends on the discipline, number of learning packages and difficulty level, but the majority take between 2-3 years to complete. 
The BIS program is tuition-free, and while some students may be required to pay a modest enrollment charge, lower income adults are usually exempt from these costs.