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Science, Technology
& Innovation

Online and Virtual Learning Collaboration: The Case of Indonesia Cyber Education Institution


The Indonesia Cyber Education Institute (ICE Institute or ICE-I) was designed to be a marketplace for online courses in Indonesia. It was established as part of a digital transformation of higher education in Indonesia based on Industry 4.0 (MORTHE 2019c) under the auspices of MORTHE. It was officially launched by the Director General of Higher Education, Research and Technology (DGHERT) on 28 July, 2021 and managed by Universitas Terbuka.

Indonesian HEIs had undergone a digital transformation through the adoption of ‘online learning’ only a month after Indonesia enforced limited social movement.

The establishment of the ICE Institute was very timely, since there has been growing interest in online education in public and private HEIs in Indonesia, as well as foreign HEIs coming to Indonesia virtually. This interest was reinforced by the pandemic, which forced higher education institutions globally to close their premises and practice online education in the form of ‘online emergency remote learning’. In April 2020 Belawati and Nizam noted that Indonesian HEIs had undergone a digital transformation through the adoption of ‘online learning’ only a month after Indonesia enforced limited social movement.1 As such, the ICE Institute plays a significant role in providing quality online courses from both top-tier national universities and international education institutes to the higher education community in Indonesia.


The ICE Institute is seen as one of the strategies for the Government of Indonesia to open up access and improve the affordability of quality education through flexible learning, especially under the Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka (MBKM; Freedom Campus, Freedom Learning) policy from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research, and Technology (MOECRT)2which allows undergraduate students to undertake three semesters of independent study to conduct activities for credit transfer, including two semesters off-campus and one semester earning cross-credit from other study programmes and/or faculties within their HEI.


Responding to the rapidly growing demand for tertiary education, the provision of unbundled university-level online courses for anybody, anywhere and in a flexible manner is one of the functions of the ICE Institute. The online courses are made available through the practice of sharing courses from a number of universities and institutes, to be offered to the higher education community in Indonesia. As such, the ICE Institute is part of the DGHERT’s effort to increase access to and the quality, affordability, and relevance of higher education in Indonesia.

At the time of writing, the ICE Institute functions as follows:

  1. Curating, verifying and registering online courses in Indonesia, specifically courses from Indonesian universities as well as online courses from international universities and global MOOC platforms. As online courses enter the education market, quality assurance is mandatory. The ICE Institute carries out a curation process and supervises compliance based on ICE-I standards. In this process, curation involves verifying the validity of course content and reviewing the design of the online learning experience, as well as verifying the interoperability of each course within the ICE Institute’s marketplace system. After curation and verification, each course is assigned a registration number as its unique identifier in the ICE Institute marketplace.

  2. Managing the marketplace of online education is the second function of the ICE Institute. The ICE-I gallery consists of a number of online course providers – higher education institutions, associations and so on. Online courses which are shown in the gallery have been curated and are accessible by users (students, lecturers etc.). It is anticipated that the quality assurance of online courses in the ICE-I marketplace will facilitate the transfer and recognition of the courses across institutions.

  3. Aiming at continuously improving its system and services, the ICE Institute also conducts several collaborative research projects under the umbrella topic of online learning in Indonesia. This research is extended to collaborating partner universities to improve the ICE Institute system, as well as to disseminate research results that are applicable to the wider online learning context in Indonesia.

  4. The operation of the ICE Institute as a marketplace for online courses in Indonesia depends critically on the availability of online courses from providers. The ICE Institute establishes partnerships with various universities and institutions as online course providers; by 15 July, 2020 14 university partners of the ICE Institute were officially established as the Consortium of the ICE Institute (by decree of the DGHERT). The Consortium members are online course providers as well as users. In addition to partnership, the ICE Institute also provides certification for each course contributed as an unbundled course. Thus, students who pass courses will receive a completion certificate from the ICE Institute.

The completion of courses and other student transactions through ICE Institute are recorded as digital credentials using blockchain technology. Blockchain technology allows the ICE Institute to provide a general ledger containing students’ records for each of their individual transactions in the online education mode. This will later be linked to the job market.

To date there are around 350 courses for each semester available in the ICE-I Consortium marketplace, as well as 60 courses from XuetangX and 1,520 EdX courses. The Consortium courses are curated by the ICE Institute, bear a credit load, and are transferrable among HEIs. Some other partner institutions are joining to provide services through ICE-I; the use of ICE-I services to offer free unbundled courses has been recognised by DGHERT within the framework of the Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka programme, particularly in relation to independent study and/or student exchanges.

At the time of writing the ICE Institute is serving more than 10,000 students enrolled in ICE-I Consortium courses and more than 6,000 students in EdX Online Campus Collection courses. Students come from the 14 universities/institutions in the ICE-I Consortium, as well as 341 universities outside the Consortium. The institute’s operation has facilitated increased access to and equity in quality education in Indonesia for a massive number of participants.

The services of the ICE Institute have been free of charge for all parties involved during its establishment period of 2021–2023, meaning that the Government and the partner universities are sharing freely in return for their involvement in the ICE Institute. In 2024 it is expected that the ICE Institute will be directed as an independent corporate unit.

Collaboration in the ICE Institute
The operational process of the ICE Institute can only take place if there are vendors offering merchandise and users who will use/buy the merchandise. The vendors are mostly higher education institutions, the merchandise is online courses, and the users are students of higher education institutions. The categories of vendors and users of the ICE Institute are as follows.


  1. The first vendors of the ICE Institute have been 14 higher education institutions and associations in Indonesia, who were the founders of the ICE Institute and who also formed the ICE Institute Consortium by Decree of the DGHERT. These 14 higher education institutions and associations are: Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Katolik Atmajaya, Universitas Negeri Jakarta, Universitas Terbuka, Institut Pertanian Bogor, Universitas Bina Nusantara, Universitas Pelita Harapan, Universitas Pradita, Universitas Telkom, Universitas Diponegoro, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Negeri Sebelas Maret, Institute Teknologi Sepuluh November Surabaya, and the Association of Economic and Business Schools Indonesia. The universities and institutes are top-tier universities in Indonesia, with some even having gained a QS World Class Ranking. These institutions have been working collaboratively to establish the ICE Institute since 2017 under the MORTHE,3 and continued with their efforts, contribution and support when the ICE Institute was moved to and became coordinated by Universitas Terbuka during its launch in 2021.


    The members of the ICE Institute Consortium have the right to direct the policy of the ICE Institute, contribute a minimum of 10 online courses per semester, and enjoy shopping priority for all courses available in the ICE Institute with the highest number of users (students). In addition, they may also enjoy collaborative research opportunities with funding provided by Universitas Terbuka, which may be shared by collaborators. Each member enters into a memorandum of agreement (MOA)with the ICE Institute, signed by the Rector of Universitas Terbuka as the Chairman of the Consortium and by the Rector of the member university. The MOA states the rights and responsibilities of members, and formalises their agreement to recognise each other. Members of the Consortium may also receive services in terms of guidance and training in online course development from the ICE Institute.


    Within the first three years of the ICE Institute’s establishment there have been no financial transactions or rewards for any members of the Consortium. All contributions and the operation of the ICE Institute have been monetised as a record of the contributions from each member; this will become especially important when the ICE Institute is transformed into a corporate unit in 2024.

  2. The second category of vendors is the contributors. These institutions are not members of the Consortium, and thus they do not have the privilege of directing the operations of the ICE Institute. However, they contribute a minimum of 10 online courses per semester, and their students are allowed to shop from all the courses available via the ICE Institute. In addition, they may also enjoy collaborative research opportunities. Each member has entered into a memorandum of agreement with the ICE Institute, signed by the Rector of Universitas Terbuka as the Chairman of the Consortium and the Rector of the contributing university. The MOAs with contributors are required to allow the ICE Institute to curate the contributed online courses based on the ICE-I standard (which was developed based on the Open EdX standard), receive services in terms of guidance and training, and to recognise various member institutions in the ICE Institute.


    The contributors are varied; some institutions provide courses that can be directly certified and transferred by universities, while others contribute training packages, job market information, English testing services and so on, which supplement the core business of the ICE Institute of offering online courses for academic credits, thereby establishing a sound ecosystem of online learning.

  3. The third category is the users, currently limited to higher education students within the framework of Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka. This policy allows students to shop for courses from any course provider up to 20 credit hours per semester. The MBKM programme aims to equip students with new horizons, skills, learning experiences and networks by enabling them to study in online courses that are attended by different types of students, which is expected to prepare them for the job market. At the time of writing 341 HEIs in Indonesia have joined the ICE Institute under the MBKM programme. The number of students as users has reached more than 10,000 over three semesters.


At this time the ICE Institute can report a success rate for its students of 45% overall. Digital literacy, readiness to study online independently, and learning experience with the ICE Institute system have been the most commonly reported issues by the students. However, the ICE Institute has achieved a 97% success rate for the Micro-credential Programme for Game Developers (20 credit hours), which was designed to be more controlled by the lecturers and provide clear pathways of learning and a clear end result.

Success factors and constraints
The ICE Institute is an innovative initiative by MOECRT to provide access to affordable and quality education via curated unbundled online courses, in order to facilitate flexible learning for all and link student success to the job market through digital credentials.


The ICE Institute embraces all higher education institutions in Indonesia, public as well as private, as providers of curated quality online courses and as users who can use quality online courses from other campuses. To sustain its operation the ICE Institute is monitoring a number of success factors and constraints, so that improvement can be undertaken. The success factors are as follows.


Success factors


The ICE Institute’s establishment and operation have enjoyed support from the national Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka policy, and also from the Ministry of Education and Culture Regulation No. 7 of 2020 which allows transfer credit for online courses up to 40% of the total number of courses in a study programme.4 Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic online courses were required to constitute up to 70% of study programmes.


The establishment of the ICE Institute has shifted the structure and landscape of higher education in Indonesia, from on-campus learning to online delivery. It is expected that this will enable Indonesia to achieve its strategic focus of improving access to and the quality of higher education, and its relevance to the job market.


The ICE Institute has been offering a new concept of unbundled online courses and flexible learning. This practice is new and innovative. Universities, lecturers and students are interested in joining because they want to enjoy the new experience. Students joining the MBKM programme view the ICE Institute as a place where they can select courses based on their own interests from any university, using the online mode. Higher education institutions are interested in joining because the ICE Institute is seen as the most sophisticated technology-based practice in higher education, thereby providing prestige to their university. Lecturers are interested in joining the ICE Institute mostly because the new nature of online learning, and for personal benefit.


The COVID-10 pandemic caused intense and devastating disruption. However, on the other hand, it has been a blessing in some situations. During the pandemic online learning became a popular means of study and learning, and the Government of Indonesia issued a policy that learning practices must be 70% online and 30% face-to-face. Since then, online learning has become an everyday learning practice for lecturers and students.


The ICE Institute has been developed by the 14 founding institutions under the coordination of MORTHE since 2017. They share a commitment to promoting technology-based higher education which is indigenous to Indonesia, and a common vision of a new landscape of higher education in Indonesia.


Lecturers’ participation in the ICE Institute is closely related to perceived benefit for them, especially in terms of their promotion and tenure. There are currently 472 lecturers (38.7% male, 61.2% female) offering courses through the ICE Institute.


A lecturer’s participation is rewarded by a certificate that indicates the number of .;participants who are taking the course, and the university of origin of the participants in each semester. This information is a valuable indicator of how widely a lecturer is acknowledged in relation to his or her teaching, and is useful when seeking promotion and tenure in Indonesia. It is also applicable to the accreditation of the study programme and the institution. In addition, it is a rewarding experience for many lecturers to teach a fully online and self-paced course for the first time. As such, they receive training from the ICE Institute to develop online courses according to an international quality standard.


For students, their participation in online courses through the ICE Institute which can then be transferred into their curriculum has been beneficial in developing communication and teamwork skills,5 in addition to widening their horizons and equipping them with new skills and knowledge.



Although the fourth industrial revolution (IR 4.0) started long before the COVID-19 pandemic, digital literacy among Indonesian users is still relatively low, especially for learning purposes. To be able to register, enrol, study and do exams independently in an online mode is not easy, especially when individuals are not used to it. Therefore, hotlines, social media, chatbots and other means of communication are made available to assist students at any level of learning. Further, the ICE Institute also provides various guidelines that can be downloaded and used by students.


Once the students get used to the ICE Institute and its learning management system, they enjoy their learning journey with the ICE Institute and consider the system easy to use.


Meanwhile, lecturers sometimes encounter challenges with the new applications and digital technology. They have suggested that although the system is easy to use, they are not familiar with it and with the applications required, and they would like more training to become online lecturers.


At the beginning the ICE Institute system was relatively simple and unable to provide answers to users’ needs and requests. Thus, many students and lecturers found that the system lacked user-friendliness. More recently the system has been improved to become much more robust and user-oriented, which will hopefully enable students to enjoy a more rewarding learning experience. Both lecturers and students find the ICE Institute’s system attractive and stimulating to use; they can identify themselves within the ICE Institute’s system, and the information is practical, straightforward, predictable, clearly structured and manageable, although sometimes they report that it is automated and rather complicated.6


At the outset the shared vision of the founding members was the major driving force in the establishment of the ICE Institute. Over time, however, some members have become less committed than others, and some do not fully participate in the various operational activities of the ICE Institute. They were all hoping that the ICE Institute would provide them with full benefits for their individual institutions. Therefore, it takes a lot of effort to convince each member to stay on board, to hold to the shared vision, and to trust in the ICE Institute way. At the moment the benefits are mostly intangible: first, by sending their students to the ICE Institute they fulfil government expectations for student exchanges; and second, by sending their lecturers to participate they earn credit points for national as well as international accreditation. However, sending their students away means reducing their lecturers’ teaching assignments, which may impact lecturers’ incomes. Member institutions are currently working on finding the right way to manage the institutional benefits earned from joining the ICE Institute.


Various factors hinder the mutual recognition of courses taken by students from other universities. Thus, the ICE Institute requires a letter of endorsement from the sending university to the ICE Institute stating that they endorse students’ choices of online courses. As such, they agree to recognise the courses taken by students. Further, the ICE Institute has made efforts to provide verifiable digital credentials using blockchain technology. This technology allows all records be verified digitally at a later stage. This secures the identity of the course and the certificates of completion that students are awarded.


Moving forward
The establishment of the ICE Institute is seen as a strategic initiative, which is changing the landscape of higher education institutions in Indonesia. The operation of the ICE Institute relies heavily on collaboration with partner institutions; there will be no online courses for exchange unless they are provided by the partner institutions. As such, collaboration is critical. To date there are 42 partners of the ICE Institute, consisting of founders, contributors and users, and this number will increase in the future.


There have been success factors in establishing and maintaining these partnerships, including policy and regulatory support for the establishment and operation of the ICE Institute, the novelty effect, the COVID-19 pandemic which has pushed forward online learning, the shared vision of the founders, and the perceived usefulness of the ICE Institute. Meanwhile, the constraints indicate factors which can be improved, such as low digital literacy, system experience, institutional benefits and mutual recognition. It is expected that these insights will provide a pathway for improving the ICE Institute to be a corporate unit in the near future.


Moving forward, online courses will sit alongside regular face-to-face courses, as teaching and learning will be increasingly delivered in blended mode.7 Within that framework, the ICE Institute will widen its network with international partners, to add its collection of courses and micro-credential packages, and to open its services to the public for the purposes of reskilling and upskilling. At present, collaboration has been initiated with to exchange online courses delivered in English. Future collaboration is expected to take place with different institutes such as Thai MOOC, KMOOC, EdX, and also with industry, to better serve users with various needs as they pertain to reskilling and upskilling, capacity building, and edutainment.


Dr Paulina Panned is Head of the Indonesia Cyber Education Institute (ICE) Institute, Universitas Terbuka. BASUKI HARDJOJO is Lecturer at Universitas Terbuka.


Basuki Hardjojo is Lecturer at Universitas Terbuka.


Partnerships in Higher Education

  1. Belawati, T. & Nizam (Eds.) (2020) Potret Pendidikan Tinggi di Masa COVID-19. Jakarta: Ministry of Education and Culture, Directorate General of Higher Education.

  2. Direktorat Jenderal Pendidikan Tinggi (2020) Buku Panduan Merdeka Belajar Kampus Merdeka. Jakarta Kementerian Pendidikan dan Kebudayaan.

  3. MORTHE was dissolved in October 2020 and reintegrated into the Ministry of Education, Culture, Research and Technology

  4. Garcia, M., Perez, L. D., Hayashi, R. (2021) Accreditation of Online Courses in Higher Education — Early Adopters in the European Union, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. ADB Brief No. 196, November 2021.

  5. Nirmala, S.N., et al. (2022). Students’ Soft Skill Ability in Online Tutorial Activities (research in progress).

  6. Riyanti, R.D., et al. (2022). ICE-I Students Socio-Emotional Experience in Online Courses, INTED2022 Proceedings, pp. 5848-5852, 2022.

  7. Agarwal, A. (2021) The New Normal of Education. Presented at the 4th Cyber Education Forum Webinar, ICE Institute, 29 July, 2021.


Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

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Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

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