Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Lithuania

About Online Degree, Online Courses and Distance Learning in Lithuania

After gaining their independence for the second time, the government of Lithuania, in realizing that the country’s populace lacked the required knowledge and skills to compete in an ever-growing global market, made higher education a major national priority.  In short, the government aimed to make higher education possible and accessible for all students and adults who wanted it, including those who lacked the time or the resources to attend a traditional university or college.  In the late 1990s this lack of accessibility prompted a major national push towards the development of a cohesive distance education program, one using all available technologies, particularly computer technology and the Internet.
Today in Lithuania, distance education is available at the majority of higher education institutions.  This includes universities (academic institutions offering courses of study leading to Bachelor, Master’s and Doctorate Degrees), colleges (higher education institutions that focus primarily on preparing students to enter professional careers), teacher-education institutions and vocational schools.  Because of this, students now have the opportunity to take some or all of their courses through an online format, in almost every academic and professional field of study.
Like all education in Lithuania, distance education falls under the supervision of the Ministry of Education and Science, who, with the help of university administrators and faculty, has developed two systems to aid in the delivery of Internet-based education: the Lithuanian Virtual University and the Lithuanian Distance Education Network.
Lithuanian Virtual University
The goal of the Lithuanian Virtual University, as stated in the country’s mission statement with regard to distance education, is to “create the conditions and support for the program participants [higher education institutions] to implement and develop their activities virtually, acting on the basis of a networking model, using the accumulated experience and already developed infrastructure of information technologies, as well as to deliver higher education and other services to  Lithuanian citizens and to compete in the international market. One of the tasks of this program is to encourage virtual e‐learning processes“.
These “e-learning processes” made possible by the Lithuanian Virtual University include many tools to help students get the most from their distance education experience, including a video conferencing network, virtual learning environment, catalogue of distance education courses and an online library where students can access information from any of the 79 participating universities.
Lithuanian Distance Education Network
The Lithuanian Distance Education Network takes advantages of many of the same tools offered by the Virtual University, and has added many additional modern e-learning conceptions and tools to make distance or online education more appealing to students.  These include social networking, RSS feeds, Wiki, Online Labs and Mobile Learning.  The network also uses an advanced “Course Development Kit (CDK), a computer program that can transform printed documents, including textbooks and word-processing documents, into HTML format.  This allows students to effortlessly send and receive assignments virtually.
As of 2011, the improvements to the distance education system in Lithuania have prompted a significant boost in student enrollment.  Today It is estimated that over 75 percent of all Lithuanian university students now take at least one of their courses in an online format, with many students completing their entire course of study in this fashion, in programs that lead to undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as professional qualifications.

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