By Javiera Atenas (University College London) & Leo Havemann (Birkbeck, University of London)
Quality in open contexts
In a trajectory that did not simply begin from MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW), via Open Educational Resources (OER), and latterly arrive at a promised land of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), a plethora of institutions, organisations and individuals have attempted through various and numerous interventions to ‘open up’ the education landscape to a wider range of travellers, inhabitants and tourists. And in a way, the question of quality has always dogged open education’s steps. Would open universities attract ‘quality’ students? Would open resources and courses be of good enough quality, and how could we be sure? Open, it seemed, might pose a threat to quality, or at least place a question mark over it. Yet, as openness has gained traction, it has also been suggested that quality might be bolstered and supported through the wisdom of crowds.
One of the problems faced by advocates of open education is a widespread perception of that commercially published materials are quality materials, and that unpublished, open materials may not be. Some may even suspect open resources are simply those which are ‘not good enough to publish’. For an alternative perspective it is worth considering the case of Wikipedia, one of the world’s most used websites, which can indeed be seen as a vast open educational resource. Wikipedia has certainly had its detractors in academia, on the basis that anyone can write and edit Wikipedia articles. This suspicion persists, in the face of academic studies that suggest the overall accuracy of Wikipedia is about as good as that of published encyclopaedias, while at the same time it provides a vastly wider coverage of topics, and in spite of evidence that shows ‘abuse’ (maliciously updating articles with false information) is usually very rapidly corrected[i].
The U.S. Justice Department has reached a settlement with edX, the prominent MOOC provider, to bring it in compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws.
According to the terms of the agreement, edX will make its website and learning management system fully accessible to the disabled within 18 months; ensure that the system used to create online courses is also accessible within 18 months; and create two new positions to oversee accessibility, among other things. As part of the agreement, edX denied it was not in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which created edX in 2012, were sued in February by the National Association of the Deaf, which claimed the colleges’ online materials didn’t provide closed captioning, among other services.
Building the foundations of quality teaching and learning I have now completed and published Chapter 11, ‘Ensuring quality teaching in a digital age‘, for my online open textbook, Teaching in a Digital Age.’ Unlike earlier chapters, I have not...
The aim of this chapter is to provide some practical guidelines for teachers and instructors to ensure quality teaching in a digital age. Before I can do this, however, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by ‘quality’ in education, because I am using ‘quality’ here in a very specific way.
Probably there is no other topic in education which generates so much discussion and controversy as ‘quality’. Many books have been written on the topic, but I will cut to the chase and give my definition of quality up-front. For the purposes of this book, quality is defined as:
teaching methods that successfully help learners develop the knowledge and skills they will require in a digital age.
Submit your Proposals by Wednesday, April 8 for the 7th Annual QM Conference on Quality Assurance in Online Learning being held at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter! Go West, QMers!
If you submit your proposals by Friday, March 6, you'll receive early decision notification AND a discount of $100 on the regular presenter rate. You will receive an e-mail with information about returning to your proposal to make changes once you've submitted it.
About the Continuing and Professional Education Rubric
The Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) Rubric is tailored to assist in the design and evaluation of instructor-led, mentored, or self-managed online and blended courses that have pass/fail, skills-based or other completion or certification criteria, but do not carry academic credit.
Rubric Use Courses this Rubric may be used to design, improve, or evaluate include school- and college-based non-credit courses; massive open online courses (MOOCs); and professional training and personal development courses offered by various sponsors, including businesses, professional and vocational organizations and associations, government agencies and special-interest societies.
Kear, Karen; Rosewell, Jonathan and Williams, Keith (2012). Social networking and open educational resources: updating quality assurance for e-learning excellence. In: EADTU 25th Anniversity Conference: The Role of Open and Flexible Education in European Higher Education Systems for 2020: New Models, New Markets, New Media, 27-28 September, 2012, Paphos, Cyprus.
Quality assurance approaches in higher education are well-established, but it is important to develop methods which are applicable to the domain of e-learning. The E-xcellence methodology (EADTU, 2009a) was therefore designed to assess the quality of e-learning in distance learning and blended learning contexts. The methodology is based around a set of benchmarks, supported by a practitioner handbook and a web-based ‘QuickScan’ self-evaluation tool. Experience shows that the E-xcellence methodology is particularly valuable for the process of improvement through collaborative internal review.
E-learning has evolved since the E-xcellence methodology was first developed. In particular, there is increasing awareness and use of open education resources (OERs) and social networking. However, these aspects were not explicit in the original E-xcellence resources. The E-xcellence Next project was therefore established to update the resources, incorporating these developments. To begin this process, a consultation was carried out among E-xcellence Next project members, followed by a participatory workshop on the themes of social networking and OERs. The E-xcellence resources were also used in a series of self-evaluation seminars held at European higher education institutions. Experience and feedback from these activities has been used to update the manual, the benchmarks and the QuickScan tool. The result is a set of quality assurance resources which encompass social networking, OERs and other recent developments in e-learning.
A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the 20th Online Learning Consortium International Conference.
One of my presentations focused on how to assure that the QA process you put into place is actually doing its job to assure quality. The idea came from seeing practices in a couple of previous workplaces that were intended to be forms of QA, but weren’t really as informative or useful as other options might have been.
New European guidance on higher education standards is set to be introduced next year.
The revised version of the 'Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in the European Higher Education Area' (opens in new window) sets standards for institutions, external quality assurance and the agencies that carry out this work across Europe.
The revised guidance states that external quality assurance processes should be reliable, useful, pre-defined, implemented consistently and published. Quality assurance agencies should be independent, have an established legal basis, and ensure the involvement of stakeholders in their governance and work.
Institutions themselves should ensure that, for example, programmes are delivered in a way that encourages students to take an active role in creating the learning process, and that the assessment of students reflects this approach.
QAA remains the only agency to be judged fully compliant with current European Standards and Guidelines.
A review of UK transnational education (TNE) delivered by UK universities offering programmes in the Caribbean, has provided an insight into distance learning delivery overseas, says a new report by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA).
Many UK universities offering higher education programmes overseas do so by opening a branch campus and employing local staff. The challenges they face are providing a learning environment and facilities which match those experienced by their students based in the UK.
In contrast, QAA's review of UK TNE in the Caribbean found that most UK transnational higher education is offered through supported distance learning because of the flexibility it offers to part-time working professionals.
UK universities delivering programmes in Trinidad and Tobago do so through distance learning which takes one of two forms: students may learn from home, supported remotely by the UK provider; or local in-country staff, working in partnership with the UK university, may provide additional academic assistance. Both models offer advantages for different types of learners.
Two studies have been published to stimulate thinking and discussion to contribute to the review of future approaches to quality assessment in higher education being undertaken by HEFCE, together with the funding bodies in Wales and Northern Ireland. The Quality Assessment Review discussion document published in January asks important questions of higher education providers, of students, of employers, and of other stakeholders about what quality assessment arrangements should be like in the future.
We hope that these studies will prompt reflection on cross-sector themes and issues, and highlight innovative practices that might, with appropriate redesign, be effective within our own future quality assessment system. We are not seeking formal responses to these two studies but would welcome reflections on the issues raised in responses to our Quality Assessment Review discussion document.
International comparator study to inform the quality assessment review in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
This study provides an account of approaches to assessment of academic standards and quality in three competitor countries. It considers quality assurance approaches in Norway, the United States and Australia, and focuses on issues such as the role of audit and reporting, the burden of different approaches, and the role of outcomes-based approaches.
Approaches to regulation in other UK sectors
This study presents a thematic analysis of regulatory approaches in other UK sectors: advertising, qualifications, financial services, accountancy and audit. Key areas addressed include regulatory approaches, enabling innovation, international and information issues.
Monday 9 March 2015 at Jozef Stefan Institute, Slovenia
The event is part of a series of ‘SEQUENT Consultation Sessions’ being held around Europe, with the aim of informing educational organisations, particularly QA Agencies and Higher Education Institutions about the latest developments in Quality Assurance of online, distance and open learning, as well as more general innovations in education which may affect quality.
In particular, the events will cover:
Quality Assurance of Open, Flexible and Distance EducationQuality Assurance of Open Education and in particular Open Educational Resources and MOOCs within the main OFDL paradigmPolicy Support for Open and Distance Education Initiatives in the Western Balkans
The 4th annual international conference on “Learning Innovations and Quality” (LINQ 2015) has announced its first keynotes and invited speakers for its event from 11-13 May 2015 in Brussels. Officer-in-Charge for the UNESCO Institute for IT in Education (IITE) Dr. Alexander Khoroshilov, Deputy Head of the European Commission's Unit on Innovation in Education Mr. Bodo Richter, and Senior Researcher at the European Commission Institute for Prospective Technological Studies Dr. Yves Punie will address this year's conference theme "The Need for Change in Education: Openness as Default?"
Dr. Alexander Khoroshilov brings his experience as inventor of the ICT Competence Framework for Teachers (ICT CFT), implemented internationally. His experiences gained as both Officer-in-Charge for UNESCO IITE and as the UNESCO IITE National Programme Officer provide him with unique insight into processes of certification and the transfer of competences across national borders.
Mr. Bodo Richter has gathered over a decade of experience working for the European Commission, including the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. Before becoming the Deputy Head of Unit there, Richter was responsible for international education and training policy development with industrialised countries, in particular the EU-US and EU-Canada cooperation agreements as well as the cooperation programmes with Australia and New Zealand.
Dr. Yves Punie leads research and policy activities on “ICT for Learning, Skills and Open Education" at the European Commission Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (JRC IPTS). His research covers four main interrelated research strands across all educational sectors: Open Education and OER, Innovating Learning and Teaching, Key Competences and 21st century skills, and the Future of Learning.
Their contributions to LINQ 2015 will ensure a strong basis for discussion regarding the developing global role of open educational resources and practices as well as the management of their quality. To join them, authors or project representatives still have the opportunity to submit papers, project descriptions, or workshop proposals to the three LINQ Calls until 4 March 2015 and to register until 31 March 2015 to take advantage of the early-bird registration rate.
More information on the keynote and invited speakers of LINQ 2015 are available here:
For the latest information on the conference, please visit and like the LINQ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LINQConference and follow LINQ on Twitter @LINQ_Conference.
Direct enquiries and full papers can be sent to the LINQ Conference Manager Mrs Tatiana Shamarina-Heidenreich at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany (Tatiana.Shamarina-Heidenreich@icb.uni-due.de).
Online distance education continues to grow at a fast pace, even outpacing the overall growth of U.S. higher education. Demands for quality are coming from all shareholders involved. As if caught by surprise, a patchwork response to quality is often the typical organizational response. The result can be inconsistent and uncoordinated levels of value to those invested in online learning. This often promotes negative images of the educational experience and institution.
Comprised of highly regarded experts in the field, this edited volume provides a comprehensive overview of quality assurance, a snapshot of current practices and proven recommendations for raising standards of quality in online education.
Topics discussed include:
* Improving practices for teaching online * Using educational analytics for quality assurance and improvement * Accessibility: An important dimension of quality assurance * Assuring quality in online course design * Assuring quality in learner support, academic resources, advising and counseling * The role and realities of accreditation
This text clearly answers the call for addressing quality from a broad, deep and coordinated understanding. It addresses the complexities of quality assurance in higher education and offers professionals top-shelf advice and support.
An Ako Aotearoa-funded project led by New Zealand Tertiary College developed as a guide to designing, implementing and enhancing eLearning for the tertiary sector.
The eLearning guidelines have been developed to assist the tertiary sector in its engagement with eLearning. The eLearning guidelines are intended for teachers, managers, organisational leaders and quality assurance bodies and offer thoughtful prompts for good practice to consider when engaging with technology supported teaching and learning.
The quality assurance body perspective offers reflective prompts from the point of view of accrediting bodies, where you examine your practice and provision through an external lens. They are designed to be considered contextually within a tertiary organisation. This document is one component and may be used in partnership with the eLearning guidelines – Quality Assurance Body Perspective Workbook and eLearning guidelines resources
Students need independent advice on online program quality The first two posts, plus, ‘Can you teach real engineering online?’, and ‘A student guide to studying online’, reflect the fact that many learners/students use the site. (The world’s largest supplier of online learning is Alison.com). From the many comments they post to these sites, these readers are looking for some kind of quality assurance about potential online programs. It’s sad that they come to my site, because I can’t and don’t want to act as some kind of rating agency for online programs. However, the comments on these posts do eventually form some kind of crowdsourced quality assessment. There’s obviously need for a good app for collecting together student reviews of online learning programs, so long as the site is independent of commercial pressure.
New technologies have made massive changes in our way of life, including in education. Within the education field, the effects of technology touch almost every area of practice, including curricula, pedagogy, and assessment. What's more, it is changing the needs and expectations of learners. The traditional modes of teaching are not adequate to meet the needs of today's students in terms of the competencies and skills that they will need for the future.
The new normal of education is based on lifelong learning, open learning, and the use of open educational resources. Courses are expected to be participatory, collaborative, and supportive of distributed intelligences. In this new state of normal, new education providers are emerging that can provide new solutions for the needs of learners in the digital era.
Questions of Quality
In the framework of new modes of teaching and learning from new providers, one of the big questions is that of quality. Some of the questions that we wish to address at the conference and in the pre-conference dialogue include:
· How can we identify and assess high-quality new content when it is developing and changing so rapidly?
· Which tools and which online learning environments best support quality of learning?
· How can we be sure about the quality of the teaching approach or about the teacher's qualification and assessment?
· How can we develop a quality assurance mechanism that could ensure quality at all levels in formal, informal and non formal education?
· Does EU need to provide some specific quality standards/guidelines in order to have a common understanding of what is good quality in Education?
· What is the current state of Quality in Education in Europe?
· Is there a European policy regarding Quality in Education?
Quality Assurance in Europe
In the current European quality assurance landscape, the European Parliament and Council has adopted a resolution promoting the uses of the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG). The ESG is implemented in member states through independent quality assurance agencies that are registered with the European Quality Assurance Register (EQAR) for higher education.
The European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) is an umbrella organisation which represents quality assurance organisations from the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) member states. ENQA promotes European co-operation in the field of quality assurance in higher education and disseminates information and expertise among its members and towards stakeholders in order to develop and share good practice and to foster the European dimension of quality assurance.
EQAVET is a community of practice bringing together Member States, Social Partners and the European Commission to promote quality assurance in vocational education and training. Two more important initiatives connected to quality in e-Learning and to Open Education are The European Foundation for Quality in e-Learning (EFQUEL) and Open Educational Quality (OPAL).
Join the discussion
There are numerous ways to join the debate. Your thoughts, opinions, and questions are welcome:
· On this website, visit the conference page
· On Facebook, join the group
· On Twitter, use the hashtags #EdDigEra_quality, #EdDigEra or #OpenEdu
In my last blog I gave my reasons for launching a survey into e-learning quality. My blogs tend to be rather long(!) and so I restricted the content to the reasoning rather than the purpose of the survey or the logic of the questions.I admit to limited experience of developing surveys and so decided to start with what I would like to analyse in order to develop the questions and format of the survey. Also I have the time but not the money and so I needed to find a free survey. Most free surveys restrict the replies and as I could not predict the response, I had to find a free and unlimited response survey. Kwiksurveys (https://kwiksurveys.com/) answered this need and had a template for the design of multiple answer questions that I wished to use. In addition they allow question logic (branching) and this also suited my purpose. .....
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