September 23, 2017

Quality assurance in e-learning: two developments

Have you just seen Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and can’t wait to get there? If you can get it organized in a week, The European Association of Distance Teaching Universities is holding a European seminar on quality in e-learning in Paris on June 17:

Although initiatives in quality assurance (QA) in e-learning have been operational for some years now, a challenge remains that many are restricted to specific universities. The QA agencies only recently included QA in e-learning on their agenda and are searching for expertise for setting the specific criteria and indicators.

I am somewhat surprised to hear this, since QA standards for e-learning have been around for some time. For instance, the Ontario Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board, which accredits all postsecondary programs in Ontario, has now published the guidelines it’s been using for some time to accredit institutions offering online distance education: Review Guidelines: Review of Capacity to Deliver Online Degree Programming.

I believe it is important that there are standards that agencies such as PEQAB can use to stop fly-by-night distance education operations that are looking to make a quick buck, or to rein in public institutions that haven’t thought through how they will support off-campus students, but in our study of the institutions for our book, Managing Technology in Higher Education, we found that the institutions that were using e-learning best did NOT use formal QA methods, but relied on a combination of program reviews, ensuring adequate resources were available for e-learning, hiring professional instructional designers, systematic training for faculty, project management and teamwork. Furthermore, over-reliance on formal QA methods can stifle innovation and bog down an institution in stultifying bureaucracy.

For further examples of quality assurance guidelines, go to: E-learning quality assurance standards, organizations and research

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