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TEC to consult soon on the definition of ‘online learning’

TEC to consult soon on the definition of ‘online learning’

Last updated 1 March 2023
Last updated 1 March 2023

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will shortly begin a targeted consultation on a proposed definition of online learning.

If approved, the final confirmed definition will replace the current definition of ‘extramural delivery’ used for the ‘provider-based: extramural’ mode of delivery for implementation in 2025.

TEC will target the approximately 50 education providers who are currently using provider-based: extramural mode of delivery. In mid March, we will email these providers with a link to a survey with questions and additional information.

Other providers are also welcome to provide their feedback.

‘Extramural delivery’ is defined as: "Learners study mainly away from a campus setting but not in the workplace. Learners undertake supported self-directed learning and the provider is responsible for the learners’ health and wellbeing support".

The proposed online learning mode of delivery is defined as: "Provider-based – Asynchronous: Learners undertake supported, mainly asynchronous learning and the provider is responsible for the learners’ health and wellbeing".

Asynchronous is a term used in education contexts to mean teaching and learning that do not take place at a specific time. Students in asynchronous learning can engage with the provided material in their own time and at their own pace. This contrasts with synchronous learning, which requires teachers and learners to be engaging together at the same time (e.g. by attending a class, either online or in person). The definition needs to encompass both digitally mediated and paper-based approaches to extramural learning.

The advantages of the proposed definition are that it:

  • caters for asynchronous learning that may happen on campus
  • caters for learning that doesn’t happen ‘online’ (including the more traditional paper-based form of ‘extramural’ delivery)
  • avoids terms for which there are multiple meanings in the education context.

The TEC’s aim is to clearly differentiate the online mode from the other modes of delivery, and support providers to appropriately assign what they deliver to the correct mode.

The proposed new definition is the outcome of broad engagement led by Ministry of Education and TEC and establishment of a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) made up of representatives from Te Pūkenga, private training establishments, Workforce Development Councils and New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

We welcome feedback from the sector particularly senior staff who are experts in programme development and delivery on the proposed online mode definition.

If you do not receive an email invitation but would like to participate, please contact

Please note, consultation will not cover the rate of funding.