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Online learning: eLearning Programme (2004-06)

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Online learning: eLearning Programme (2004-06)

The eLearning programme was aimed at improving the quality and accessibility of European education and training systems through the effective use of information and communication technologies.


Decision No 2318/2003/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 December 2003 adopting a multiannual programme (2004 to 2006) for the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe (eLearning Programme).



The general objective of the programme was to encourage the efficient use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in European education and training. The aim was to promote quality education and to adapt education and training systems to the needs of a knowledge-based society and the European social cohesion model.

The specific objectives of the programme were to:

  • explore and promote ways and means of using e-learning to strengthen social cohesion and personal development, foster intercultural dialogue and counteract the digital divide;
  • promote and develop the use of e-learning in enabling lifelong learning in Europe;
  • exploit the potential of e-learning for enhancing the European dimension in education;
  • encourage better-structured cooperation in the field of e-learning between the various Community programmes and instruments and the activities organised by Member States;
  • provide mechanisms for improving the quality of products and services and for ensuring their effective dissemination and the exchange of good practice.


Actions taken under the eLearning programme covered:

  • Promotion of digital literacy. Actions in this area related to the contribution of ICT to learning, particularly for people who could not benefit from conventional education and training, owing to their geographical location, social situation or special needs. The aim was to identify good examples and build synergies between the many national and European projects for these target groups. A number of studies and a high-level expert group were to produce recommendations in this field.
  • Creation of European virtual campuses. Actions in this area aimed to improve integration of the virtual dimension in higher education. The objective was to encourage the development of new organisational models for European virtual universities (virtual campuses) and for exchanging resources and sharing projects (virtual mobility) by building on existing European cooperation arrangements (Erasmus programme, Bologna process) and adding an e-learning dimension to their operational tools (European Credit Transfer System, European Masters, quality assurance, mobility).
  • Development of e-twinning of primary and secondary schools and promotion of teacher training. Launched on 14 January 2005, action in this area aimed to strengthen and further develop school networking, more specifically through a European school twinning project designed to allow all schools in Europe to set up pedagogical partnerships with counterparts elsewhere in Europe, thus promoting language learning and intercultural dialogue and enhancing awareness of the model of a multilingual and multicultural model of European society.
  • Transversal actions and monitoring of e-learning. Actions in this area were dedicated to the promotion of e-learning in Europe by building on the monitoring of the eLearning action plan. The objectives were to disseminate, promote and adopt good practices and the results of the many projects and programmes financed at European level or by Member States, as well as to reinforce cooperation between the various actors involved, in particular by fostering partnerships between the public and private sectors.

Implementation of the programme also included activities to ensure the dissemination of results (provision of information on the internet, showcasing projects and other events, etc.).

Participating countries

The programme was open to the then 25 Member States of the European Community, the EEA-EFTA countries and the candidate countries for accession to the European Union (EU).

Implementation of the programme

The Commission ensured that the eLearning programme was implemented. It established synergies with other Community programmes and actions and encouraged cooperation with international organisations. The Commission worked together with a committee of representatives of Member States to draw up the annual work plan and budget, as well as all other measures necessary for the implementation of the programme.

The Member States, for their part, had the task of identifying appropriate correspondents to cooperate closely with the Commission as regards relevant information about e-learning use.


The financial framework for the period from 1 January 2004 to 31 December 2006 was EUR 44 million. This budget was allocated as follows:

  • 10 % to e-learning for promoting digital literacy;
  • 30 % to European virtual campuses;
  • around 45 % to e-twinning of schools in Europe and the promotion of teacher training;
  • a maximum of 7.5 % to transversal actions and monitoring of the eLearning action plan;
  • a maximum of 7.5 % to technical and administrative assistance.

Funding was granted following invitations to tender and calls for proposals.

Monitoring and evaluation

The Commission ensured regular monitoring of the programme in cooperation with Member States. In order to assess the general impact of the programme and the relevance and effectiveness of the different actions, the eLearning programme was the subject of an external evaluation.


At the Lisbon European Council of 23 and 24 March 2000, the Heads of State and Government set a new objective for the EU: "to become the world’s most competitive and dynamic knowledge economy by 2010". Since then, Europe has already made substantial progress in introducing ICT, but much remains to be done in order to develop its educational uses. The eLearning programme aimed to plug these gaps by intensifying the efforts already undertaken.



Entry into force - Date of expiry

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Decision No 2318/2003/EC

20.1.2004 – 31.12.2006


OJ L 345 of 31.12.2003


Report from the European Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 6 April 2009 – Final Report on the implementation and impact of the second phase (2000-2006) of the Community action programmes in the field of education (Socrates) and vocational training (Leonardo da Vinci) and the multiannual programme (2004-2006) for the effective integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) in education and training systems in Europe (eLearning) [COM(2009) 159 final – Not published in the Official Journal]. The eLearning programme, together with Socrates and Leonardo da Vinci, was integrated into the new lifelong learning programme 2007-13. Consequently, the final evaluation of the programme for the period 2004-06 was produced jointly with the other two programmes. This report is based on that external evaluation, including an analysis of reports from participating countries.

The positive impact of the eLearning programme was apparent in:

  • short-term results;
  • the transnational cooperation between institutions;
  • the quality of teaching, learning and curricula;
  • the development of digital literacy.

Overall, the programme provided a significant impact on education and training, contributing to the creation of a European education area. The impact was both quantitative and qualitative, influencing the individual, institutional and policy-making levels. In particular, the eLearning programme provided an added value in tackling socio-economic disparities and in establishing a culture of cooperation among European institutions.

Throughout its duration, the programme funded the following activities:

  • eTwinning projects involving 7 813 schools (23 812 schools registered for participation);
  • 21 projects on virtual campuses;
  • 25 projects on digital literacy;
  • 16 projects on transversal actions.

Decision No 1720/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing an action programme in the field of lifelong learning [Official Journal L 327 of 24.11.2006].

The eLearning programme has not been renewed as a sectoral programme, but its objectives have been integrated into the lifelong learning programme (2007-13).

The general aim of this programme is to foster interchange, cooperation and mobility between European education and training systems, so that they become a world quality reference. The development of innovative ICT-based content, services, pedagogies and practices is one of the key elements of the programme.

See also

Last updated: 02.10.2009