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Quality assurance and accreditation of Online and Distance Higher Education (EADTU-EU Summit 2017)


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Quality assurance and accreditation of Online and Distance Higher Education by George Ubachs (EADTU)

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Quality assurance and accreditation of Online and Distance Higher Education (EADTU-EU Summit 2017)

  1. 1. “Quality assurance and accreditation of Online and Distance Higher Education”. EADTU-EU Summit 2017 George Ubachs EADTU
  2. 2. Survey-approach • Survey on practices of quality assurance and accreditation in 15 countries supplementing the former CPL study. • It deals with national frameworks and regulations, institutional developments in universities, current practices of external quality assurance for online and distance education, aspects of internal quality assurance for blended, online and distance education, and finally practices of accreditation of online and distance education. • 18 universities responded from Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, the Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Israel, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom. • We need in a next step responses/involvement from QA agencies and Ministries. 2
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  5. 5. Legal frameworks (CPL) Legal frameworks are largely permissive of the introduction of digital education in all the eight case study countries, and state that different forms of education (traditional face-to-face, blended and distance) are all valid. 5
  6. 6. Accreditation (CPL) The widespread use across Europe of substantial amounts of technology in predominantly face-to-face university degree education has suggested that recognition and accreditation of such blended education has not posed a major barrier for universities. 6
  7. 7. European diploma supplement (CPL) At European level, the European Diploma Supplement (EDS) has a section (4.1) for teaching formats, including e-learning and distance, so that it too can accommodate, and record, a variety of modes of teaching and learning. 7
  8. 8. No revisions of accreditation processes There is very limited evidence that suggests there have been substantial revisions to university accreditation processes. It is likely that many universities had to think carefully about how they ensured that the quality of their provision would remain at a high level whilst introducing technology, and clearly uncertainty about how to do this still exists for some, perhaps to a degree, all (Ingolfsdottir, 2014; Mapstone et al, 2014). 8
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  12. 12. Internal approval processes require internal understanding of what quality means in new forms of education, and external approval processes require the same of external reviewers. Being able to assess what is to be assessed in innovating education, you need to speak the same language and work with the same criteria and indicators. 12
  13. 13. 24 January 2017 George Ubachs, EADTU 13
  14. 14. “Digital expert centres“ (CPL) Many, if not most, universities in Europe have “digital education expert centers” (their names vary greatly). Seventeen of the 19 case study universities have them, as did 75% of universities in the EUA survey (Gaebel, 2014). The professional staff and academic staff in these centers are usually very active in national and international digital education communities and thus can draw on and share experiences related to quality issues. 14
  15. 15. Virtual universities transferring expertise (CPL) Similarly, where virtual universities have been established (e.g. Bavaria and Ruhr VUs in Germany; Finland, Lithuania, Norway) these have provided a quality assured locus for teacher experience and training. 15
  16. 16. Quality assurance agencies Quality assurance agencies, whose role is to assess quality in the learning and teaching business also need at least some of this expertise, which they might best obtain by also having such staff in-house. This was proposed by the Dutch QA agency, NVAO, at the ENQA conference in Zagreb (Flierman, 2014) 16
  17. 17. Quality assurance agencies (CPL) The 2014 EUA study showed that only a quarter of QA agencies gave special consideration to digital education (Gaebel M, 2014). No clear metrics for evaluating quality increases were offered to our case study universities. 17
  18. 18. Shift to institutional evaluations(CPL) The quality assurance process is operated by the higher education institutions themselves (internal quality assurance) and is evaluated and recognised by the quality assurance agencies (external quality assurance). Increasingly, there is a shift in national quality assurance systems of responsibilities from the agencies towards the higher education institutions, and from individual degrees to institutional evaluations (“quality audit”). 18
  19. 19. 24 January 2017 George Ubachs, EADTU 19
  20. 20. 24 January 2017 George Ubachs, EADTU 20
  22. 22. Recommendations At governmental level: • National governments should review their legislative and regulatory frameworks and practices for quality assurance and accreditation in higher education (including recognition of prior learning) to ensure that they encourage, and do not impede, the provision of more flexible educational formats, including degrees and other ECTS-bearing courses that are fully online. • Policies and processes should support and promote innovation in pedagogies and greater use of technology, and a vision for change should be expressed through national strategies. 22
  23. 23. Recommendations At QA-agency level: • National QA agencies can benefit from developing their own in-house expertise and establish processes that are sufficiently flexible to include recognising and supporting new modes of teaching and learning. As such they can evaluate institutions on their active support of innovation and its impact on the quality of teaching and learning. • ENQA and other relevant European networks are important key players in this field and can support the sharing of good practice by national QA agencies in the development of criteria on the recognition of new modes of teaching and learning. 23
  24. 24. Recommendations QA agencies and universities: • Building on the strong existing base of digital education, a European and national metrics should be established to record the typologies and extent of online, blended, and open education at institutional and national levels. This would enable institutions to compare themselves with others and to monitor their own progress. • Setting up a structure of dialogue between QA agencies, Universities and governments. A Peer Learning Activity. 24
  25. 25. 24 January 2017 George Ubachs, EADTU 25
  26. 26. Thank you! George Ubachs 27